Grand Island sandstone cliffs

Sandstone cliffs on a gray day; Miners Castle in distance to left

Lake Superior‘s Grand Island is nearly 14,000 acres of mixed coniferous-deciduous forest.  Once I have strong Internet service, I will have much to share of my learnings and photographs during a three-hour tour today. I left my rig and Henry in the campground and took a county Altran bus to the ferry dock. The bus cost three dollars each way, an amazing bargain.  The ferry ride to Grand Island takes four minutes and is managed by the Grand Island Ferry Service.  The cost for ferry and three-hour bus tour is $22 with $2 discount with the National Parks and Recreational Lands Pass.

The vast majority of the island is in public ownership and is managed by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service as the Grand Island National Recreation Area. The island was in private ownership until 1990 so there are pockets of inholdings. Buildings from the 1800s still dot the landscape.

There are two lakes on the island and sandstone cliffs up to 300′ tall.  Echo Lake is the larger of the two lakes.  The shoreline is mostly the steep cliffs, but there are also some protected stretches of gorgeous sandy beaches. The trees are second or third growth having been stripped by Cleveland Cliffs in the 20th century and before that those along the shoreline by private landowners.

The island was settled by aboriginal and Euroamericans before the mainland. The island allowed easy viewing of ships, offered several more weeks of farming due to heat-sink effect of the surrounding waters, and other factors. There are fantastic backpacking opportunities for those willing to protect themselves from black bears, mosquitoes, black flies (my nemesis), and other biting flies.

I loved being on the island and spent nearly four hours there. And I’ll be back. It is becoming clear that this circle tour is really a scoping exercise and future visits are inevitable. I also know that I’ll be doing telephone interviews over the fall and winter. For this trip, I need to concentrate on learning as much as I can, getting the names of people I want to interview, taking photographs (over 500 this far!), and getting to as many islands as possible.

Tomorrow I head to Marquette and Big Bay then will stay in Ishpeming. After that my first visit to Copper Harbor and Fort Wilkins State Park. Much fun!

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