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The U. P. or P. U.!?

Okay, so it wasn't really that bad, but everybody had talked with such glowing reverence for the Upper Peninsula, otherwise known as the "U - P", that I expected so much more..

The Upper Peninsula is the northernmost part of the the state of Michigan.

By Phizzy (talk). - 'self-made by Phizzy (talk)., CC BY-SA 3.0,

It borders three Great Lakes and is richly populated with an abundance of natural beauty..

..But what surprised us most was the number of vacant buildings, houses and cars that mar such a beautiful landscape.

Anybody in the market for a used RV?

Umm.. A Michigan car seat?

We came to call it the "Mississippi of the North". Beautiful, but not at all what we expected.


Where we stayed:

We stayed at the Big Cedar Campground. It was an average campground and we'd give it 2/5 stars. Not that this is a total rejection, it did have full hook ups but the lots were grass, which usually means mud and bugs, and it was very run down. Good location but not a place I'd like to stay long-term.


Where we visited during our stay:

We spent five days in the U. P. I put together a map of the sights we saw while here:

Au Sable Light Station

There are lots of places to hike in this portion of Michigan so Lorraine and I decided to do a four mile hike to the Au Sable Light Station. Mentioned in an earlier post of mine, the still-active lighthouse was built in 1873-1874 and is 87 feet high. The scenic trail, a dirt service road, leads you along the banks of Lake Superior. They say there are shipwrecks along the shoreline but we weren't fortunate enough to see any. Aside from the occasional swarm of flies, it was a enjoyable hike.


Soo Locks

We took a boat tour of Michigan's 5th most visited attractions.

The tour boat took us up bound and down bound "lockage" through both the giant U.S. Locks and historic Canadian Lock.

The locks span the 21 foot drop between the height of the Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

In about 15 minutes, and only using valves and gravity, ships are "stepped" down and up the canal.

Before the locks were built, the height differential between these two bodies of water created a treacherous set of rapids that prevented early french traders from traveling easily between the two bodies of water.

It wasn't until the late 1850's that the U.S. government allocated money to building a more permanent structure.

By U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, photographer not specified or unknown - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual LibraryImage pageImage description pageDigital Visual Library home page, Public Domain,

Today, approximately 7,000 vessels pass through the Locks yearly hauling nearly 86 million tons of cargo.

Here are some fun facts about the Locks (found on the Soo-Locks website)

  • 90% of the world’s iron ore moves through the Soo Locks

  • Duluth Minnesota to the Atlantic Ocean (St Lawrence Seaway) is 2342 miles or 7 days

  • Soo Locks have no pumps they are 100% gravity fed

  • Poe Lock requires 22 million gallons of water to lift or lower a boat

  • The Soo Locks close from January 15-March 25 each year for repairs per federal orders

  • It would take 584 train cars to move 70,000 tons of cargo or just one 1000 foot freighter

  • The Paul R. Tregurtha is the largest freighter on the Great Lakes at 1013.5 feet

  • The bedrock at the Soo locks is 1,000 feet thick and the type of rock is Reddish Sandstone


Tahquamenon Falls

We hiked to some breathtaking waterfalls in Tahquamenon Park.

The upper falls, fed by the Tahquamenon River, drop 50 feet and eventually flows into Lake Superior. It is also know as Root-Beer Falls because of its golden-brown color, caused by tannins leaching into the water from nearby cedar swamps.

And here are the lower falls. It's a very popular place for people to swim.

Monarch Butterflies Migration - Peninsula Point

In a quiet, out-of-the-way corner of the Upper Peninsula lies a unique spot. It's a place we weren't able to visit, but I thought I'd mention it because of it significance.

Not only is it home to the Peninsula Point lighthouse, built in 1863, it is also along the flight path of thousands of migrating Monarch Butterflies. In early fall, thousands of stately Monarch butterflies use the area’s unique geography to rest before their flight south to Mexico City.

They say the best time to see the beautiful creatures is late August to early September.

If you're in the area during this time of the year, we were told it is well worth the drive out.

Painted Rocks

We saved the best for last, just off the coast of Munising, Michigan, is an area called Pictured Rocks. It can only be accessed by kayak or boat. We opted for a boat tour.

We were treated to an afternoon of spectacular views of dramatic multicolored sandstone cliffs.

Minerals leaching from rock-face create the contrasting colors

The waters of Lake Superior are this aqua blue color, and you can see down 30 or 40 feet. It was like being in the Caribbean (except about fifty degrees colder).


Would we recommend visiting the Upper Peninsula?

I'm not so sure I would answer in the affirmative. While sparsely populated, the scenery was not that much different from what we saw in the lower peninsula. Seeing Pictured Rocks was epic but the rest of the region was just "meh" (emphasized with a shoulder shrug).

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