Why a Wonder: The Pictured Rocks area of Lake Superior contains some of the most stunning scenery in the Midwest U.S. Towering cliffs, colorfully stained by water seeping through mineral deposits, plunge down to the water's edge, while wind and waves carve small caves into the soft sandstone common to this area.
Where: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is found in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan along the southern shore of Lake Superior. Munising is the gateway town for Pictured Rocks.
When: Spring, summer, and fall are the best times to visit and photograph the amazing colorful rock formations. Spring green and flowers start to appear by late May. During summer, the lake temperature is at its most comfortable, but biting insects can at times be ferocious. Autumn foliage typically peaks sometime in the first two weeks of October. Sunset is the best time to get colorful light on the cliffs.
Photography: You can photograph the colorful cliffs of Pictured Rocks two ways. The first way involves hiking along the top of the cliffs using the North Country National Scenic Trail, which passes through the park and follows the lake shoreline. Use extreme caution when standing on or near cliff edges, as the rock is very soft and is known to spontaneously collapse. Some of the best views from above can be found along the section of trail between Mosquito Beach and Chapel Beach. There are several access trails that allow you to more easily reach specific parts of the North Country Trail.
The second way to photograph the cliffs is by boat. You can take a boat tour originating in Munising if you don't have your own boat, but the tour moves fast and won't stop where you want it to, so your photography options might be limited. Boat rentals are also available in town, although Lake Superior can be challenging even for experienced boaters, especially if winds are from the north pushing waves onto the cliffs. A sea kayak is a great way to explore beneath the cliffs, allowing you to easily get into position exactly where you want for your photos, but you might have to paddle long distances to get to the best spots. Lake Superior is for experienced kayakers only; if you don't think you have the skills, consider taking a tour with a local kayaking guide. Exploring by boat also allows you to access some of the small sandstone "sea caves" found along the cliffs. Just be careful: as noted above, sections of cliffs sometimes collapse, so use caution and avoid be under the cliffs especially during bad weather.
Learn more: For more information, check out the National Park Service's website for Pictured Rocks: https://www.nps.gov/piro/index.htm
© Ian Plant
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