Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cruising Lake Superior

Superior Cruise

After 4 days of delightful rest at Imp Lake, I was eager to be a vacation tourist for a couple of days.  One of my favorite U.P. towns is Munising, home of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior.  I had visited Munising as recently as 2 years ago, but one thing I had never done is take the boat cruise to actually see the pictured rocks. 

After reading Technomadia’s rather sour post of their recent visit, though, I wasn’t sure if the cruise and re-visit to Munising would be worth the effort.   Fortunately, I knew enough to only reserve a spot at the excellent Munising Tourist Park (where I had stayed before right on the shores of Lake Superior), so that got my visit kicked off on a positive note.  Our site wasn’t directly on the waterfront, but we could see and walk to it quite easily.


I then was able to easily make my boat tour reservation online with Pictured Rocks Cruises, and rather than do the sunset cruise, decided on the one just before it that went a bit further up the coast to Spray Falls.


This was our tour boat, the Grand Portal.  I lucked out with a seat on the back bench of the upper deck on the right hand side (absolutely perfect for photo-taking).  Unlike Cherie’s experience, I must have had a different narrator because he was delightful, informative, and never too chatty.  One of the fascinating stories he told was how they got this 65-foot ship from Biloxi, MS (where it was built) all the way up to Munising.  Answer? Via various rivers up through Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois up to Chicago.  From there, it cruised up Lake Michigan, past Mackinac Island into Lake Huron, around the bend to the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie and finally into Lake Superior.  Wow!

The cruise lasted 3 hours, and while some of the shoreline seemed as I expected it to look— sandstone cliffs:

Rock arches:


and interesting trees growing from the rocks:


I really was surprised with the “colored” rocks formed by iron and mineral deposits over millions of years.  Simply beautiful!


I also was fascinated with the birds making their homes on the rocks:


At the middle of the 3 hour cruise, the boat pulled into this very tall, narrow “canyon” cove—can’t imagine them doing this when Superior’s northern winds are blowing bigger waves!


The highlight of the tour was seeing Spray Falls which cascade over the cliffs into Lake Superior from Spray creek.  The flow wasn’t too bad considering it was August and the Midwest suffered a major drought this summer.  It must be really impressive in the springtime when snows are melting!


The trip back to Munising was quiet and relaxing.  It also started to cloud up, so I was very glad, indeed, that I had chosen the earlier tour as the sunset tour would be gloomy that night. 


Our final stop was this old wooden lighthouse on Grand Island before heading back to port.

All in all, it was well worth the $35 and a very convenient and affordable way to see the Pictured Rocks!


  1. Lovely tour, I really enjoyed it. Tell us more about the place you stayed please.

    1. Munising Tourist Park is the city-owned campground in town right along the shores of Lake Superior. $25/night and nearly always booked during weekends over the summer, so I always plan my visits there during the week when an available site is more likely. Always call and book a reservation at least a day or two in advance if you can. The park itself is nothing that special, but the beach and bay are great for paddling or boating, and sunsets are wonderful (I'll post about that next!).

  2. Awesome pictures! We didn't make it up to Pictured Rocks during our trip to the UP so it was great to see it through your eyes. The colors on some of those cliffs are incredible.

    1. Yeah, I can't believe I'd been to Munising 3 times previously without ever getting out on the water to finally see the, now I know, the boat cruise is well worth it!

  3. Really nice pictures and it looks like a nice cruise. I have considered workamping up that way some summer.

    1. Yeah, wouldn't that be just grand?!! I chatted with the WC host at Imp Lake who was hosting at a handful of USFS CGs for the summer (staying at a different one each month). Looked like a pretty easy gig since most CGs are less than 20 sites each and never full. Love the diversity of the U.P. though from small quiet lakes in the woods to stunning Lake Superior & Michigan vistas and beaches.

  4. Great pictures, thanks for sharing them with us.

  5. I've heard it is difficult to drive anywhere near the Picture Rocks, so I'm glad to know the cruise is a good choice.

    1. Yes, the rocks are pretty impossible to really see from land-- water is really the only solution. There were some folks kayaking (I would have loved to but could not find a parking space at the launch area the 2 times I tried!!), and I also saw some folks who had rented pontoon boats (great option if you want to spend a few hundred). So, for $35, I was happy to leave the driving to someone else!

  6. Cool rocks! Neat old lighthouse, too. I've never seen that style.

    1. I hadn't either, Roxanne. I think they said it was from the 1800's. It was located on Grand Island, that sits about a mile offshore.

  7. So glad you had a better experience than we did. I think had we been able to get into the tourist park we would have been much happier. Our visit was doomed from the beginning. - Cherie /

    1. So sorry your birthday weekend was such a bust. My birthday was a monumental fail this year (big 5-0 no less!) and was celebrated alone at a ho-hum fairgounds RV park in Tucson rather than home with family and friends, but my dog needed unexpected radiation treatments after her surgery so there was no other choice but to stay there and help get her through all that. Sure was mad at the world that weekend for all the lemons thrown our way!

      I do hope you guys will give the U.P. and Lake Superior another chance someday-- the Lake Superior circle tour is spectacular (especially the western UP, north shore of MN above Duluth, and the whole Canadian side).

  8. Wow.... I also was awestruck by that area ... Didn't take the cruise! Wish I had... I need another trip there

    Beautiful pictures

    1. Well, don't hurry back Carolyn!'s already starting to get colder there now :-)

      The UP sure is a terrific place to be in the summer, though (when Chicago is so darn hot and humid)!

  9. I visited the UP when I was a child. I have roots in the area as my great-great grandfather was a heroic captain who rescued sailors from sinking ships on Lake Superior. There is a small book written about him which I have in storage. I remember Tahquamenon Falls and Curtis Lake, but I want to go back and see much more.

    Thanks for your recommendation. I will put it on my bucket list for 2013.


  10. Can you tell us when the black flies and mosquitoes are in season so we can try to avoid them?


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