Michigan-based photographer John McCormick shares some tips for exploring Michigan's Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a very special place in Upper Michigan. We have been camping and hiking there for many years. I've decided to write a few blogs, share a few photos, and talk a little about our favorite spots.
The area encompassing the park is long and narrow, with an impressive 42 miles of Lake Superior Shoreline to explore. This first blog, part 1, will focus on the east end of the park; the area between Grand Sable Dunes and Twelvemile-Beach Campground. The sunrise shot of the "Log Slide", was taken along the Grand Sable Banks. These banks, rise to heights of up to 300ft above the shore of Lake Superior. The Grand Sable Dunes, on top of these banks, are a desolate landscape with some jack pine forests near the edges.
"Grand Sable Dawn" (Log Slide) Grand Sable Dunes - Pictured Rocks National lakeshore"Grand Sable Dawn" (Log Slide) Grand Sable Dunes - Pictured Rocks National lakeshore.
Heading East, H58 closely follows the shoreline and in a few miles you will come to the Hurricane River Campground. This fast moving little river flows out of the forest and empties into Lake Superior near the picnic area. This is an excellent place to photograph a sunset. The shipwreck image below, taken a few years ago, is titled; "Graveyard Coast". The image won second place in the Lake Superior Magazine photo contest that was held the same year. :) Anyhow, this steam ship "Mary Jarecki", at 200 feet in length, hit bottom on Au Sable Reef and went down on July 4, 1883. The ship lost its way in one of the heavy fogs that frequent the area. These shipwrecks are a reminder of the incredible power of Lake Superior.
"Graveyard Coast II " - (Mary Jarecki shipwreck) , Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreThe Mary Jarecki was a wooden bulk freight steam Ship of 645 tons, 200 feet in length. It grounded on Au Sable Reef and went down on July 4, 1883. She lost her way in one of the heavy fogs that frequent the area. These shipwrecks are a sobering reminder of the incredible power of Lake Superior.
One of the great things about camping at Hurricane River, is the fact that the Au Sable Point Lighthouse trail begins here. It's been one of our family's favorite hikes for many years. You can walk the shoreline on your way there and then on your way back, there's a beautiful trail through the woods that follows close to the shore. You can see the remains of another shipwreck along the way too. The first image shown of the lighthouse was taken in early May when the wildflowers were blooming. The second image of the lighthouse was taken in May of this year; my wife and I hiked the 1.5 miles at night to capture the Camelopardalid meteor shower and the Milky Way Galaxy. While we were shooting this, the winds picked up off the lake and you could hear this loud howling sound, that is best described as sounding like what you hear when you blow across the top of a pop bottle, only louder. I bet the light-keepers back in the day heard that quite often. The sound was coming from the curved window openings near the top of the lighthouse tower.
"Wildflowers" Au Sable Lighthouse Pictured Rocks National LakdshoreSunrise at Michigan's Au Sable Point Lighthouse
Milky Way Meteor Shower - Au Sable Point Lighthouse Pictured Rocks National lakeshoreMilky Way Galaxy at Au Sable Point Lighthouse ~ Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. My wife and I hiked out to Au Sable Point over the weekend to try for a night shot of our favorite lighthouse. We were lucky in that there was just a couple of spots where the spring melt water was rushing over the trail , and we were lucky to capture three meteors (one is very small) and the Spring arc of the Milky Way towering above the lighthouse.
Au Sable Point Lighthouse - Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreFor many years sailors dreaded the eighty miles of dark shoreline that stretched east from Grand Island Lighthouse to the light at Whitefish Point. Unmarked by any navigational light, these dangerous shores claimed dozens of ships , including the one posted below ,the ( Mary Jarecki) . To fill the gap, a lighthouse was placed on Au Sable Point in 1874
Au Sable Point Lighthouse is one of the least accessible mainland light stations in the United States. Just as its keepers once did, visitors today must walk to it, but only 1.5 miles.
The last area of the park that I will mention in part 1 of this series, is Twelvemile-Beach & Campground. The images below were taken at different times but they were shot from almost the same spot. One is a summertime sunset, and the other a beautiful early spring day. This campground is one of our all-time favorite places to camp. The sites are large and many of them are right along the bluff above the beach. In the last image, there are thousands of footprints in the sand and only one person besides me, watching the sun go down. At this place, you will have 12 miles of "Michigan's Caribbean", to play in, If you're brave enough to go in the water!
Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you have any questions about visiting Pictured Rocks, or would like to leave a comment, please do that below. You can select public, or private. Also, I highly reccomend checking out our Pictured Rocks gallery if are interested in researching more areas of the park, or if you would like to buy a print. I have over 100 of my favorite shots in there taken over the coarse of many years, Spring, Summer, Winter and fall.
If you have a moment, please feel free to share this post via the social media share buttons provided.
Thank you very much!
John McCormick is a lifelong Michigan resident and has been interested in Michigan Nature Photography for over 30 years. Michigan is a beautiful place to live and photographing that beauty is his absolute passion. To follow his recent work be sure to "like" his facebook page. To see all of his Michigan photo galleries, purchase prints, or to license an image, use the links at the top of this page.