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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

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Munising, Michigan


Living with Lake and Land

The bounty of the lake and land has attracted people to this area since the glaciers retreated northward. Archaic and Woodland Indians made summer camps along the coast between what is now Munising and Grand Marais. Later, Ojibwa Indians hunted and fished here, as their descendants still do, while en route to their summer fishing grounds at the Sault rapids of the Saint Marys River between Lakes Superior and Huron.

Schoolcraft and Other Adventurers

In the 1600's and 1700's French and English explorers and voyageurs came searching for furs and minerals. They left little behind except place names, such as Grand Marais and Miners River. In the 1800's American and European settlers arrived to make fortunes in mining and logging. One adventurer was Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Indian agent and wilderness scholar. In 1820 he said, "We had been told of the variety in the colour and form of these rocks, but were wholly unprepared to encounter the surprising groups of overhanging precipices, towering walls, caverns, waterfalls...mingled in the most wonderful disorder."

JPG -- Picture of Au Sable Light Station The demand for timber attracted lumber barons who bought vast forests of white pine, beech, and maple. By the 1890's boomtowns supported sawmills. Grand Marais, bustling with a population of 2,000, produced millions of board feet of lumber annually. Business on the lake flourished, too. Wooded-hulled freighters and sidewheelers transported lumber and pig iron to distant markets. To help ships navigate the dangerous reefs, the U.S. Life Saving Service (later to become the U.S. Coast Guard) built light stations along the lakeshore. By the early 1900's most of the forests were gone, and the fortune-seekers moved on. Only a few small towns and lonely lighthouse keepers remained.


Life of the Lake

Measured by surface area, Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world. It is 350 miles long, 160 miles across at its widest spot, and more than 1300 feet at its deepest spot, which is about 35 miles north of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This natural vessel holds so much liquid that, if drained, the water would fill a swimming pool the size of the continental United States to a depth of nearly five feet.

JPG -- Picture of hikers near Mosquito Beach Campground Like all things on Earth, Lake Superior is part of an interdependent ecosystem. Picture a giant web with energy flowing from point to point. The spark igniting the web comes from sunshine. Solar energy flows into phytoplankton--microscopic plants--that turn it into food eaten by zooplankton--tiny animals, such as water fleas and fairy shrimp. These are eaten by forage fish, sculpins and lake herrings, which are eaten by predator fish, such as lake trout. These, in turn, are eaten by bald eagles and other birds, by small mammals, such as otter and mink, and by humans. Humans are an important link in this energy flow because of the "residence time" of Lake Superior's water. It takes 191 years to completely replace the lake's volume of water with an equal amount of "new" water. What humans consume, produce, and throw away will affect the Lake Superior food web for a long time.


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