Capturing the Great Lakes
From a map’s-eye view, the Great Lakes are one of the most striking features of the United States. Taken together, they hold a full 20% of all the surface freshwater in the world, stretching like fingers along the border of the U.S. and Canada. They also create thousands of miles of coastline within U.S. territory, the majority of which is claimed by the state of Michigan. As we learned on a recent trip, traveling this coast leads to the discovery of adventures you might not be expecting.
Case in point, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. While the preserve abuts a picturesque crescent of forested coastline on the western shore of Lake Huron, the real attraction here is beneath the water, in what’s frequently referred to as Shipwreck Alley. Over 100 sunken vessels dot the lake bed within the marine sanctuary, some dating back hundreds of years. Many of these relics are located in shallow enough waters that you can access them by means of a kayak and snorkel. Others are farther out and require motorized transport and scuba gear. There are few restrictions on visiting the wrecks and plentiful area operators that will you get out there, making for one of the most unique experiences in the entire country.
A beautiful drive to the north is Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a strip of land that’s larger than several U.S. states, but is one of the most remote and least populated areas of the contiguous 48. You’ll quickly discover it’s worth the trip, with pristine wilderness and opportunities for adventure on both its south and north shores. The latter is where you’ll find Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a 42-mile stretch of coast of 200-foot cliffs and other impressive rock formations carved by the elements into the vibrantly hued sandstone. Hop in a kayak to paddle under natural archways, or lace up your boots to hike to waterfalls and headland vistas. On the Upper Peninsula, there’s a good chance you’ll have it all to yourself.
Many thanks to the National Park Service and to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration for making this trip possible. To learn more about these and other spectacular U.S. national parks, visit www.nps.gov and www.noaa.gov
– Filmmaker and Outdoor Enthusiast Shawn Parkin