Exploring a Shipwreck on a Drummond Island Off-Roading Adventure

Today, guest blogger Christian Anschuetz from Modern Explorers tells the story of how his group of thrill-seeking adventurers came across a shipwreck while on an off-roading adventure on Drummond Island.

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

With everything that progress has brought to our modern world, it’s refreshing to know that there are still places on the planet that remain pristine.  Perhaps surprisingly, Michigan brims with more places like this than many expect, and our group of would-be adventurers, true modern explorers, seek and discover these hidden gems.

Our crew of ten men and women has made it their mission to find these often wild and remote places in the hopes of inspiring others to do the same.  From the northern shores of the Upper Peninsula’s Keweenaw, to the great National Huron and Manistee Forests, they have visited ancient copper mines, followed in the footsteps of Au Sable lumbermen, camped in the ruins of abandoned ghost towns, and most recently, visited the historic Drummond Island.

Here’s the story of how we discovered a well-known, but rarely visited shipwreck, on our latest adventure.

A piece of the Agnes W. Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

A piece of the Agnes W. Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

A summer squall rages across Lake Huron.  Strong winds whip the air and the surf into a frenzy, punishing all in its path.  Today’s victim would be a sturdy steamer that was once the largest vessel to travel the Great Lakes.  But neither her size nor her steadfast crew could protect her from the wrath of Mother Nature, which forced the Agnes W aground.  It was July 3rd, 1918 when the Agnes W crashed into the rocky shoreline and sank.  Nearly a century later, my team and I find ourselves staring at her well-preserved wreckage as we look to the south from Traverse Point on Drummond Island.

Locating the Agnes W on a map was a simple task, but making our way to the wreckage was another matter altogether.  Drummond Island is a beautiful, rugged place, and the path to the sunken ship was long, narrow, and harrowing.  While the off-road vehicles we took down the trail were up to the task, the drivers were tested after just a mile of navigating the sand, mud and stone.  We shared a deep sense of accomplishment as we exited our vehicles at the shoreline and began the hike toward where the Agnes W broke upon the rocks.

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

As we walked the last quarter mile to Traverse Point, our curiosity grew with every step: What would we find?  Two hundred yards from our destination our group made its first discovery: a massive beam pierced with wrought iron stakes lay upon the shore.  This large piece of debris had to belong to the Agnes W, so with sharpened eyes we moved forward, finding more and more of the wrecked ship along the way.  By the time we arrived at the tip of Traverse Point, we were surrounded by artifacts.  Less than 40 yards away we could see the well-preserved hulk of the steamer peeking through the surface of the water.  Despite the warm air and bright sun, a cool and eerie feeling descended on our group.

Individually and collectively, we wondered about the fate of the crew that night.  What was their experience of the violent collision between ship and land?  How many perished, how many survived?  Some answers to our questions reside in the history books.  Many others have been lost to time.  What the wreckage made clear, however, was that even this great ship was no match for the giant rocks that are the foundation of Drummond Island.  After discussing the little-known history of the Agnes W, we took our last photos and began the hike back to our vehicles.

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

As with most things on Drummond Island the adventure isn’t complete until you are safely back to your starting point.  This time we tackled the trail off the beach knowing that the surviving crew of the Agnes W likely forged a similar path as they left that shore cold, wet and scared.  Our team departed under far better circumstances, and with a sense of satisfaction that we had found what we were looking for.

During the following days we navigated even rougher terrain as our team explored and discovered towering cliffs, amazing rock formations, old ruins and intriguing Chippewa sites the locals call “places of power”.  For Drummond is a big island with an even larger history.  A land that calls out to would-be adventurers to rediscover her secrets.  A worthy destination for all, and one that deserves the title Pure Michigan.

Have you had the opportunity to explore Drummond Island? Tell us about your experience! 

Check out the Modern Explorers in action and see the wreck of the Agnes W for yourself in the video below.

Christian ModExpChristian Anschuetz embraces the duality of modern life, and freely moves from being a technologist at work, and an avid outdoorsman and adventurer for play.  As an IT executive and entrepreneur, he happily takes the lead of the Modern Explorers crew.  As a former Marine, the path he leads the team is often fraught with obstacles, dirt, and adventure. You can reach Christian at christian@modern-explorers.com. To learn more about the Modern Explorers follow them on Facebook or check out their YouTube Channel.


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.

Nine Things You Might Not Have Known About The Soo Locks

Engineer’s Weekend in Sault Ste. Marie is June 27 – 28, 2014. This last weekend in June has something for everyone, including boat races, spectacular vistas and the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the great Soo Locks.

Photo courtesy of Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitor's Bureau

Photo courtesy of Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitor’s Bureau

Check out these nine interesting facts about the Soo Locks to inspire your visit from Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. A man-made marvel and the busiest lock system in the world, by cargo tonnage, yes the Soo Locks! On average, between seven and ten thousand ships come through the locks during the shipping season each year.  Built in 1855, these locks connect Lake Superior to Lake Huron and beyond.  We have repeat visitors every season; they call themselves Boat Nerds, that watch ships from all over the world use this free lock system.  Now here are some facts about the locking system and the St. Mary’s River. $500.4 Billion value attributed to the iron ore shipped through the Soo Locks each year. An average of 80 million tons of cargo moves through them each year. 7,000 passages each year – Crews at the Soo Locks complete these lockages during the 42- week- long navigations season. They are open 24 hours a day.  Can you take your personal boat through the locks? Yes, as long as you have permission from the lockmaster. 2,342 miles- ships from all over the world visit this port as the locks are a part of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which connects Duluth, Minnesota to the Atlantic! 22 Million gallons of water to lift a boat. The locks are powered by gravity itself!  Water moves in and out of the lock chambers by just opening and closing valves. 1000 foot boats- There are 13-1000 footers on the Great Lakes, and the largest boat that comes through the Soo Locks is the Paul R. Tregurtha, coming in at 1013 feet which is larger than three football fields! The first vessels on the great lakes were 40 foot-long canoes.

Mikel B Classen

Photo courtesy of Mikel B Classen via Sault Ste. Marie CVB

9 hours between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, it takes a freighter about nine hours to pass through the St. Mary’s River system 21 foot drop- A thick layer of bedrock holds back the waters of Lake Superior where it joins the St. Mary’s River. This drop prevented boats from passing through. This reddish sandstone lines most of Lake Superior southern shores and is about 1000 feet-thick.   The Fairbanks Scale Company, which is still in business today, built the first permanent lock, State Lock. 3-4 cents per ton- From 1855 to 1881, this was the toll, but today it is free. The propeller in Soo Locks Park is from a steamer named the Independence, which exploded just northwest of today’s locks.  One crewman is said to have survived a trip down the rapids on a hay bale from the ship. Now that you know more about the Soo Locks, come and visit us during Engineer’s Weekend, when you can go into the locks and get up close and personal with this engineering marvel!  Engineer’s Day is always the last Friday in June, which is June 27th this year. See what Engineer’s Weekend is all about in the video below.  Have you been to the Soo Locks? Tell us about your experience!