On our grand journey of 2008 we went way out of our way and visited Sault Ste Marie, MI. This town sits on the border of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Canada. We a night at the Ramada right downtown in view of the locks. We ended up having drinks and later dinner right in the hotel, but the next day we took time to visit the locks and wander around downtown before heading south to East Lansing, MI.
The Saint Mary's River connects Lake Superior to the other Great Lakes at Sault Ste Marie. This stretch of river had a natural set of 21 foot rapids preventing boat traffic, and forcing cargo to be unloaded in town, hauled down Portage Street, then reloaded on ships on the other side. The first locks at this location were constructed on the Canadian side of the river in 1797, but they were destroyed in the War of 1812. The first locks on the US side were completed in 1855, and as compensation, the construction company received 750,000 acres of land in Michigan! The original construction consisted of two 350 foot locks which were operated by the state of Michigan. In 1881 the US Army Corps of Engineers took over the site, and they built the four present day locks: Davis Lock (1914), Sabin Lock (1919-now decommissioned), MacArthur Lock (1943), and Poe Lock (re-built in 1968). 10,000 ships pass through the Soo Locks during the nine months of the year they are open. The locks close in winter when the lakes freeze over.
Sault Ste Marie, founded in 1668, is the oldest city in Michigan and the third oldest city west of the Appalachian Mountains in the US (behind Santa Fe NM founded in 1609, and Green Bay in 1634?). The city, and its bigger sister in Canada, were founded by French missionaries, but they moved their separate ways in 1797. Today, the US city has just 14,000 people, but it is key to one of the most important transportation routes in the entire US. In fact, the Soo Locks Canal is considered the World's busiest canal in term of raw tonnage.
I caught my first-ever glimpse of Lake Huron while driving over the Mackinac Bridge. This lake is the third largest freshwater lake in the world, and it lies between Michigan and Ontario.
Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake entirely in the US. It meets the other Great Lakes at the Straits of Mackinac, and it is partly in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. 12 million people live along the edge of Lake Michigan, primarily in large cities such as Chicago, Green Bay, Gary, and Milwaukee. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore both border Lake Michigan.
Technically Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are a single lake, as there is no river between the lakes, such as the St. Marys River that connects Lake Superior to Lake Huron, the St. Clair River that connects Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River connects Lake St. Clair to Lake Erie, and the Niagara River, including Niagara Falls, that connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.
Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake in terms of surface area, and third largest in total volume. This lake borders Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. During our drive across the country, we spent one night in Duluth, MN, then spent the entire next day driving along the southern shore of the lake across northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Sault Ste Marie.
The Mackinac Bridge is the only direct driving route between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas, and it is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere. It has some 7,400 feet of roadway suspended over the straits and a total length of nearly five miles. The Straits of Mackinac separate Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
Michigan has 19 million acres of woods, and when fall arrives the state is beautiful. The leaves in the Upper Peninsula change earlier than in the rest of the state. In the western part of the UP, the leaves peak in mid-September to early October. As you head east toward Sault Ste Marie, the peak is later, perhaps as late as mid-October.
Once a college salesman selling t-shirts from the trunk of his rusted car, Bob Sutherland has created an empire based on cherry products. While not fortunate enough to know him growing up, we have observed the past 13 years.
The Republic is grounded in humor and fun. Bob has laughed all the way to the bank. Both of our children and many of their friends worked summer months at the store or warehous.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is an area of about 15 miles of colorful sandstone cliffs along the southern shore of Lake Superior. The park actually extends to cover some 42 miles of shoreline, and it includes water falls, dunes, arches, caves, and trails. Some of the cliffs of Pictured Rocks tower an amazing 200 feet above the surface of the lake.
Pictured Rocks was the first of four National Lakeshores managed by the National Park Service. The others are all nearby on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Indiana, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan. This park was established in 1966 and it attracts about 500,000 visitors annually.
During my visit I only had time to make the six mile drive from Munising to Miners Castle. This is probably the most famous formation of the Pictured Rocks shoreline, but part of the castle naturally crumbled off in 2006.
So I first heard of Pictured Rocks on Dateline NBC when they had the story of the Juanita Richardson death/murder at the cliffs of the park. She either fell or her husband kicked her off the edge of one of the cliffs because he was having an affair. The jury said guilty.
I have attended two or three Winston Cup (Now Nextel Cup... oops, now Sprint Cup) races at Michigan over the past 15-20 years. This is a great track with superb visibility over the majority of the racing surface. From our seats about 25 rows up from the front stretch, the only area difficult to see is the backstretch low, near the apron. Michigan is out in the middle of nowhere (the track, not the state...OK, both are in the middle of nowhere), with just a few roads in and out so traffic is very heavy a few hours before the start and a few hours after the end of the race. We always tried to get to the parking lot by about 6am so we could grab breakfast and visit the souvenir trailers before the race.
A State park where you can go hang gliding!!!
Warren Dunes State Park is located on the southeastern shores of Lake Michigan, near Sawyer Michigan. The park is about an hour northwest of South Bend Indiana and 30/40 minutes south of Muskegon Michigan.
This park is made up of primary sand dunes that have been created by the generally easternly movements of both the water and wind coming off Lake Michigan. These dunes are continuing to grow and move towards the Red Arrow Highway which runs in a north –south direction on the east side of the park.
This park has camping, hiking trails and swimming for those brave (or numb) enough to get in into the cold great lakes waters.
On a clear day, Chicago’s skyscrapers can be seen across the lake from atop Tower Hill, the tallest dune in the park.
And yes, hang gliding is allowed in the park!!!!!!!!! Many people come from several mid-western states to hang glide here. A permit is required.
Day passes cost $6 for Michigan residents and $8 for out of state visitors. This cost is per car, not per person.
Please follow link for more detailed information about the park, trails, cost and location.
The Pine River is a clean swift moving river with some white water. Its located about an hour north of Grand Rapids and about 30 minutes west of Cadillac. The river flows in a northwestern direction and for the most part goes thru the Manistee National Park.
Played Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course with the wife in the summer of 2006. Easily in the top 5 public courses in the state. Here's a tip: Wednesday's is ladies day, and they get half off the normal greens fees!
My wife and I recently returned from our vacation. We enjoyed the whole trip, but I have to say that the day that I remember most was the day that we spent as Habitat For Humanity volunteers. Our trip happened to be to Ireland, but it could have been any one of 187 countries where Habitat is working.
You get to get off the beaten path, out of the tourist traps, and meet local people at their best. On top of that, at the end of the workday you can honestly say that you did something positive and constructive on your vacation.
I work for Habitat here in West Michigan, so it was a natural choice for me. Maybe you have another cause that's near and dear to your heart. They could probably use a little help too.
If you think you'd like to spend a little vacation time on a Habitat project drop me a line. In Grand Rapids, where I work, we're building 22 houses this year, but there are HFH affilliates all over the state, the country and around the world.
This state park on Lake Michigan is different from Van Buren St. Pk. For one thing, the parking area is very wooded with picnic tables and several unmarked trails leading off in different directions. These are old dunes that are forested. We had no idea which trail led to the lake or how far the lake was. The first trail we took turned out to be very good for birds because there is a swampy area near the trail. Along here we saw Baltimore Oriole, Veery, Great-crested Flycatcher, Ovenbird, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker, Palm Warblers, Lincoln Sparrows, and Northern Waterthrush. After hiking quite a way down this trail, we saw no sign of the lake and had passed another couple who also didn't know if the lake was down this trail so we turned back and took another trail. It was on this second trail that I took the photo shown in my photo here of the tree down across the trail. You can see how old the trees are in these dunes because we were able to walk under the fallen tree. We went about a mile down this trail and saw a beautiful black Fox Squirrel and a Red-breasted Nuthatch but never got to the lake. So we headed back to our car and headed on to Holland.
Before attending the Tulip Festival in Holland, we went to Van Buren St. Pk. This was our first view of Lake Michigan. It's very easy to visit the lake from this state park. There is a large parking lot and a short trail leads down to the beach. There are huge sand dunes on the edge of the lake here and a sand beach along the water. We walked along the shore and were amazed how much it looks like the ocean except that there were very few waves. I took a picture of my friend standing in front of one of the sand dunes. We learned that it's the prevaling winds that concentrate the dunes on this south and eastern shore. There were some large Fox Squirrels here in the park as well as Bewick Wrens, Goldfinch, Downy Woodpeckers and Chipping Sparrows.
Tallest building in the State of Michigan, the Renaissance Center complex is a symbol of the switch in Detroit's condition after the social unrest occurred in the late 60s. In those years the city was in desperate need for renovation and change envsioned by members of the Detroit Renaissance organization. The building project started in the early 70s and recent development brought the addition of more structures on the riverside and the relevant waterfront walk.
The re-birth landmark is owned by General Motors and it's almost entirely office space except for a hotel and a few eateries and stores, making of it one of the largest office buildings in the world.
84 E. Ferry St., Detroit, Michigan, 48202, United States
Good for: Families
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