Exploring Lake Superior: Ontario to the north, the upper Michigan Peninsula to the south…
The ‘Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’, waterfalls and wild country!
We are exploring the north and south shores of mighty Lake Superior, the largest fresh water lake in the world, while joining a classic Scotty travel-trailer caravan for a tour of the upper Michigan peninsula.
We entered Ontario, Canada from the west, and spent a rainy night in Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, west of Thunder Bay, OT. The next morning we explore Kakabeka Falls, nicknamed “the Niagara Falls of the North”. At 200+’ across and more than 130′ tall, it’s an impressive sight as the river thunders into the deeply-cut gorge below.
We then follow Canada Hwy. 17 along the north coast of Lake Superior to Sault Ste. Marie, OT. The rain followed us for more than 400 miles through a string of mountains and foothills dropping rapidly into Lake Superior.
It’s a beautiful drive, passing scores of large lakes with names like Desolation, Loon, Henry, Salter, Rabbit Blanket, Mom and Orphan Lakes – with nary a boat or cottage on any! Here, too, are other intriguing features: Old Woman Bay and River, Bald Head River, Rainbow Falls Provincial Park and Pukaskwa National Park. The road travels high above the huge lake, occasionally dropping down to follow its rocky shores and infrequent sandy beaches.
We make Sault Ste. Marie, OT and spend the night at a dumpy Howard Johnson Motor Inn to dry off. The next day, after an hour long bridge and border crossing into Michigan, the dividing line between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, we are into Sault Ste. Marie, MI, established in 1668. Gas, at $2.37/gallon, is about 60% of Canadian prices, and a Walmart provides relatively cheap groceries to restock our travel pantry.
We move onto picturesque Tahquemenon Falls State Park, MI to meet up with our Scotty trailer group and an eight day tour of the upper Michigan peninsula. Our Scotty travel-trailer tour group includes three classic Scotties from the 60s and 70s, our 58 reproduction Scotty teardrop, a classic Boler, a Little Man teardrop, an R-pod and a couple with a “62 Scotty, not quite ready for the road” (so they are tent camping with us).
Next day activities include a drive due north to Whitefish Bay and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The museum is housed in a complex including a grand lighthouse and former Coast Guard facility. Here, over 300 shipwrecks lie offshore, taking 320 lives. One of the more recent, the 730’ freighter Edmund Fitzgerald, went down with 26,000 tons of iron ore in a ferocious 1975 November storm, killing all 29 crewmembers, made more infamous by the Gordon Lightfoot ballad.
We moved on to both lower and upper Tahquamenon Falls, a state park offering miles of hiking trails, three campgrounds and the two lovely falls. The lower falls is a series of cascading torrents and several falls about 6 to 9 feet tall – perfect for families wading in the shoals.
The upper falls, 200 feet across and 50 feet tall, is quite striking. The two falls are separated by a 4 mile hike, a shuttle ride or, you can drive your vehicle to the two different destinations. Well worth the trip, heralding six coming days of Michigan waterfalls!
Our caravan of classic trailers moved on to Pictured Rocks National Seashore, and our tour group took the evening cruise along 14 miles of the stunning seashore. Later, it was onto Seney National Wildlife Refuge and its lovely 7 mile “outback” drive through the refuge where we saw Trumpeter Swan’s, Canadian geese, an eagle and a variety of other wildlife.
Then, it’s on to Munising where we spend two days at a municipal park right on Lake Superior; the weather remains sunny and temperatures around 80 – we took a bracing swim in Lake Superior and then a short drive to Munising falls. Its falls cascade about 90 feet into a picturesque, moss covered gorge. We realized that our short hike was on a small portion of the North Country National Scenic Trail, a 4,600 mile, almost-completed trail across the northern boundary of the United States.
On our fifth day, it’s on to Porcupine Mountain State Park, via a circuitous, picturesque and very wild 200 mile drive through northern Michigan’s pine forest. We’re camped on the far north shore of Lake Superior, with a rough, slate beach just below our campsite.
We visited Presque Isle River on a day where a steady drizzle tracks us. This consistent rainfall results in green, lush and dark forests, leading down to where the river runs into the great lake. On the lakeshore, we watch as a three-year-old in her blue windbreaker pokes a long pine bough at the small waves pushed in by the offshore breeze.
On day six of our tour we depart Porcupine Mountain on a wet, rainy morning, and log almost 300 miles across Michigan to the east, through thunderstorms and constant rain, to Mackinaw City. We cross the majestic Mackinac Bridge in light rain, take the first exit off I 75 to tour the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse – with the giant bridge barely visible through the rain and fog.
Once we arrive our campsite (nice, private Mackinac Mill Creek Campground), we hear the thunder storms to the south may breed tornadoes – overnight, winds whip Lake Huron just off our campsite into a frenzy and our trailer awning is flattened by high winds at 5 AM!
Fortunately, the next day dawns cloudy, but clears by late morning, and several of our group take the ferry over to Mackinac Island, home to grand Victorian summer homes, carriage rides (no autos on the island) and the stately Grand Hotel (with the temerity to charge $10/person to tour through).
Mackinaw City offers several other tour-worthy destinations: the historic Michilimackinac Fort, the Mill Creek Historic Discovery Park, the old Mackinac Point Light and views of Lake Huron on one side, Lake Michigan on the other. From here, we are soon to enter back into Canada, bound for Nova Scotia. See my Record blog for more insight on Friday, regards historic Michilimackinac Fort, the Mill Creek Historic Discovery Park.
For more information: Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, Ontario, ontarioparks.com; Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan, michigandnr.com; Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, Michigan, shipwreckmuseum.com; Pictured Rocks National Seashore, Michigan, nps.gov/piro; Porcupine Mountain State Park, Michigan, michigandnr.com; Mackinaw City, Michigan, mackinawcity.com.
For more insight into acquiring or restoring a vintage Serro Scotty travel trailer, see the National Serro Scotty Organization web site, nationalserroscotty.org.