Fascinating Facts about Five Michigan Islands

Michigan’s islands are stunningly beautiful and rich with history – from functioning as a lush habitat for endangered wildlife to serving as the former stomping grounds of an American king – each island offers unique qualities and attractions. Here are some interesting facts about the islands that you may not be aware of. 

Curious for more information on Michigan islands? Be sure to check out our pages on Belle Isle and Isle Royale, just to name a few!

Les Cheneaux Islands

  1. “Les Cheneaux” is French for “the channels.”
  2. There are 36 islands that make up the Les Cheneaux Islands.
  3. The Les Chenaux Islands Antique Boat Show and Festival is the world’s largest antique wooden boat show. The next boat show takes place on Saturday, August 8 2015.
  4. You can learn how to build boats at the Great Lakes Boat Building School.
  5. Nicknamed Michigan’s Land of Water.
Les Cheneaux Island

Les Cheneaux Islands – Photo courtesy of Chris Arace

Mackinac Island

  1. Since 1898, motorized vehicles have been prohibited on Mackinac Island- there are more than 500 horses on the island for transportation.
  2. Fort Mackinac is home to the oldest surviving building in Michigan – Officers’ Stone Quarters.
  3. Doud’s Market, America’s oldest family-owned grocery store, has resided on the island for 131 years.
  4. The island’s Grand Hotel has the world’s largest front porch at 660 feet long!
  5. Five U.S. presidents have visited the Grand Hotel including Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Grand Hotel at Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island – Photo Courtesy of Grand Hotel

Beaver Island

  1. This island has a population of 600 people, mostly of Irish descent.
  2. Totaling 56 square miles, it is the largest island in Lake Michigan.
  3. The island is home to the Michigan monkey-flower, a federally-classified endangered species.
  4. Protar’s House, the Marine Museum and the Old Mormon Print Shop museum are major tourist attractions.
  5. The island was the only American territory ruled by a king.
Beaver Island

Beaver Island – Photo courtesy of Chris Arace

Drummond Island

  1. Drummond island is the largest freshwater island in the United States.
  2. The island boasts a population of 1,058 people.
  3. A main attraction is the DeTour Reef Light, an 83-foot tall lighthouse that marks a dangerous reef to help guide ship traffic from and to Lake Huron and Lake Superior through the St. Marys River.
  4. There are more than 13 ecosystems on the island including six forest types, five swamp-marsh types, inland lakes and rivers, and sand dunes.
  5. The island is ideal for bird watching as it is home to a host of avian species including loons, grebes, waterfowls and owls.
Drummond Island

Drummond Island – Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

Manitou Islands

  1. The Manitou islands are surrounded by over 50 known shipwreck sites, dating back to 1835.
  2. North Manitou Island is nearly eight miles long and over four miles wide.
  3. South Manitou Island is three miles wide and three miles long.
  4. North Manitou Island is powered by solar electricity.
  5. The South Manitou Island Light is a popular attraction among tourists. Between 1871 and 1958, ships took refuge here during severe thunderstorms.
Manitou Island Light

South Manitou Island Light, Manitou Islands – Photo courtesy of Michigan Nut Photography

Are you planning any trips to see Michigan islands this summer? Tell us below!

An Unforgettable Paddling Experience at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Earlier this year, we shared Courtney Kotewa’s spectacular photo of a kayaking tour at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Her prize-winning photo will be featured on the 2015 National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass! Today, Courtney shares the unforgettable experience at Pictured Rocks that inspired her creative capture. 

Photo by Courtney Kotewa

Photo by Courtney Kotewa

Last year, my mom Beth came across a deal for a kayaking trip at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore with Uncle Ducky Outdoors in Munising, MI. Though she has been a lifelong resident of Michigan, she’d never made it up to the spectacular shoreline. She couldn’t pass it up, and she made plans to bring my younger brother Matt and me along, too. We’d never been to that part of the state either, and were excited for the getaway. We had no way of knowing what a fateful trip it would turn out to be!

The kayaking tour itself was everything we hoped it would be. It was a six-hour guided paddle starting at Miner’s Beach. We set out in tandem sea kayaks, up close and personal with the multi-colored sandstone cliffs that make the area so special. Along the way, the guides informed us about the area’s geology and history, telling us some fun facts about Lake Superior and pointing out a shipwreck. We stopped for the lunch we’d packed on a beach partway through the trip. We continued on to the turn-around point – Lover’s Leap. I had been taking pictures along the way whenever I managed to get my phone out of my life jacket. Seeing Lover’s Leap, I grabbed my phone again and took one shot before we paddled through and started the journey back.

Photo by Courtney Kotewa

Photo by Courtney Kotewa

I contemplated not bringing my phone along, because I knew there was the possibility of some big waves along the way. On the return trip we encountered those waves! The guides called it a “wind event” and it made for a fun and challenging paddle back. I was thankful for my kayak skirt! My upper half got pretty soaked but my phone, luckily, remained safely tucked away. Later, when I went to look through the photos I took, I remember being pleasantly surprised with how they came out. But mostly, I was just happy to have had such a great day with my family in what has to be one of the most beautiful parts of the country.

A few months later, I got an e-mail about a photo contest called Share the Experience, put on by the US Department of the Interior. To make a long story short, the contest was open to any amateur photographer who had taken a recent picture on federal land. My thoughts immediately went to my photos from our vacation, and I entered the shot of Lover’s Leap on a whim. A few months later I would learn, to my disbelief, that I was the grand prize winner. I was absolutely shocked, not only because over 16,000 people had entered the contest, but also because my picture was taken quite casually on my cell phone.

Photo by Courtney Kotewa

Photo by Courtney Kotewa

I was, of course, ecstatic to win the cash prize, but what struck me more was how happy I felt to have the winning photo come from Michigan. Working as a travel nurse, my patients often ask about where I’m from and usually know little about Michigan outside from what they hear on the news. I always tell them about what a beautiful and diverse state Michigan is, and now they can see for themselves.

I loved growing up in Michigan. I grew up enjoying summers at Higgins Lake, boating with my family in Holland, running on cross country courses with my best friends, camping, skiing, kayaking, paddle boarding. I could go on and on. Our state provides an enormous variety of ways to get out and appreciate your surroundings. And while I’m currently exploring other parts of the country, I’ve found my appreciation for the mitten state growing when I’m away. When I return, I’m always more aware of how nice people here really are, how the slightly slower pace allows people to relax and enjoy themselves. How much space there is for everyone to roam around in. How easy it is to find a nice place to watch the sunset. How many different parts of the state are truly worth some exploration. I love coming back to Pure Michigan because it’s home.

IMG_1278Courtney Kotewa is a travel nurse from Essexville, Michigan. Travel assignments have taken her all over California and to New York City, but she happily returns home to Michigan often. Courtney loves any opportunity to explore a new place, and likes to stay active in the great outdoors whenever possible.

Eight Reasons to Get Out and Explore Michigan’s Waterfalls this Summer

Today, Michigan-based photographer John McCormick shares some visually compelling reasons to get out and explore Michigan’s many rushing waterfalls this summer.

If you’re looking for things to do in Michigan this summer, try exploring some beautiful waterfalls. This will be a great year for it! The heavy snow and below average temperatures this past winter have resulted in fast flowing rivers and raging waterfalls all across Upper Michigan this spring. My wife and I and our three boys have been exploring and photographing these gems for over 30 years and the ones mentioned here are a few of our favorites.

Some of the waterfalls are easy to find and easy to access, while others require a little more effort.  The most popular waterfall to see is Tahquamenon, and it is also one of the easiest to access. There are two drops – the upper and lower. The upper falls are more than 200 feet across and plunge approximately 48 feet. Both of these waterfalls are within the Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and this area has some of the best camping in Michigan.

Tahquamenon Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Tahquamenon Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

One of the more remote waterfalls to see is Spray Falls in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This one is about a three mile round trip hike, starting from the trail-head at Little Beaver Lake campground. It is rated a moderate hike. Spray Falls plunges 70ft over the Pictured Rocks cliff edge directly into Lake Superior. This stretch of hiking trail is one of the most spectacular hikes in Michigan. See our Pictured Rocks gallery.

Spray Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Spray Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

Another easy to access waterfall ‘and fun to photograph’, is Wagner Falls, just South of Munising, Michigan. It’s a beautiful scenic spot, and just a short walk through the woods. If you visit this one in the springtime, you will see Marsh Marigolds blooming along the edges of the creek just below the falls. It makes for a pretty picture! As a side trip while in the area, head over to Miners Beach just West of Munising and see the little but very picturesque, Elliot Falls, aka Miners Beach Falls.

Wagner Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Wagner Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

Elliot Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Elliot Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

Moving on from Wagner falls on M94 heading South and West you will find the little town of Chatham, MI,  which is about 25 miles from Munising. Near Chatham, is Rock River Falls. This waterfall is hidden in the Rock River Wilderness Area. Getting to it involves driving on some old logging roads and then hiking a mile or so through the forest on some ‘not so well marked’ trails, but if you are looking for a back-country waterfall adventure, this one is for you. Also, Just a few miles West of Chatham, is Laughing Whitefish Falls. It’s another easily accessible waterfall and a beautiful area of the Rock River Wilderness.

Rock River Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Rock River Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

Laughing Whitefish Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Laughing Whitefish Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

Farther West in Upper Michigan near Paulding, Michigan, is Bond Falls. This one has it all. Easy to access, wheelchair accessible, and one of the most spectacular to see. Don’t forget to get some ice cream at the Paulding General Store, or maybe look for the “Paulding Lights”. People have reported seeing these mysterious lights for 40 years.

Bond Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Bond Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

One more waterfall I will mention, that gets little attention, is Ocqueoc Falls near Onaway, Michigan. This is the only recognized waterfall in Michigan’s lower peninsula. You can hike the Ocqueoc Falls Pathway that starts here and runs along the river. Also at the falls area there is a picnic area with tables and grills. This area is also wheelchair accessible.

Oqeuoc Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Oqeuoc Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

I could go on and list many, many more waterfalls to see. I do highly recommend visiting my Michigan waterfalls gallery to see over a hundred photos my favorite shots taken over many years of travels.

John McCormickJohn 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. Check out more from John on his Michigan Nut Photography Facebook page or on his website.