May 2005: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore


Michigan's Upper Peninsula

The "pictured rocks" on the south shore of Lake Superior were painted by mineral stains on exposed cliffs scoured by glaciers. The colorful streaks on the cliffs - as high as 200 feet above the water - result from groundwater that seeps out of cracks in the rock. The oozing water contains iron, limonite, copper, and other minerals that brush the cliff face with colors as they trickle down. The pictured rocks were the inspiration for William Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Song of Hiawatha." In 1966, the Pictured Rocks were preserved as America's first national lakeshore. The park stretches along Lake Superior, the world's largest freshwater lake, for 40 miles.

Dogs are not allowed to trot everywhere in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore's 72,000 acres (a detailed pet area map is available) but there is plenty of superb canine hiking on tap here. Day hikes lead to clifftops and cobble beaches through hardwood forests and windswept dunes. Some of the best walks are around kettle lakes where massive blocks of ice melted down - such as the Chapel Falls Loop. One short trail that should be on any canine hiker's menu is the Grand Sable Dunes Trail at the Sable Falls Parking Area. These dunes once fronted an ancient predecessor of Lake Superior. Dogs are also permitted on most of the park's 21 miles of ski trails during the snow-free season.

When hiking in Pictured Rocks during the summer, if the winds blow warm from the southwest, they can blow in hordes of stable flies. These biting pests are impervious to insect repellent and prefer to hover close to the ground - and your dog. In times of invasion, the inland, forested trails are your best bet.

Less than one mile off shore, is Grand Island, the largest island in the southern waters of Lake Superior. The 22-square mile island has been a National Recreation Area since 1968 and is reached by regular ferry passenger service in season. Leashed dogs ride free. On the island
you'll find deep woods, lakes, sandy beaches and dramatic rocky shorelines. A spiderweb of old, unmaintained logging roads penetrate the island and a 23-mile perimeter route circles it.

Route 28 across the Upper Peninsula will take you to the Munising entrance to the park on the western end. To reach the eastern access point at Grand Marais, take Route 77 North from Route 28 in Seney.