Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (courtesy, National Park Service)


Breezes turn cooler as summer turns to autumn.

The fall run of steelhead and coho salmon occurs in park streams. Beech nuts ripen. Black bear climb trees to feed on the nuts. Watch for claw marks on the smooth beech bark throughout the park. Beaver are busy in park wetlands, cutting and storing winter food sunk in "beds" near their lodges.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was authorized on October 15, 1966. Happy Birthday!

Visitors flock to the park to see fall color of hard and soft maple the first two weeks of the month. Aspen and birch turn later near the lake. Tamaracks turn golden yellow late in the month.

The first snow often falls around Halloween.

The "gales of November" lash the shoreline, sending giant waves crashing against the cliffs. In some places, the spray flies up and over the cliffs on the howling wind.

Loons congregate on bays in large groups as they migrate south. With first snows, varying or snowshoe hare change from gray to white. Their tracks are common among wetland conifers. Bears begin to hibernate.


The lakeshore is usually blanketed in snow by mid-month, creating a winter wonderland. Winter begins with the "shortest day" of the year. The lakeshore experiences only 8 and 1/2 hours of daylight on the solstice.

Winter sports activities begin in earnest. Ski trails are groomed, snowshoers head for the woods, and fishermen cut holes in the ice.

It's deep winter at the lakeshore. Chickadees, nuthatches, and ravens call in the woods. Most years we experience a "January thaw" with temperatures rising into the upper 30's. It's dark—sunrise at 8:30 a.m., sunset at 5:30 p.m. White-tailed deer are yarded up in white cedar swamps away from lake effect snow—waiting out the cold. The evenly cut browse line is visible on the lower tree branches. Some 150-200 inches of snow are common in this neck of the woods.

Hardy fisher-folk have set up their shanties on Grand Sable Lake and Munising Bay. Whitefish are biting in Munising Bay and Lake Trout are taken on Grand Sable Lake. Cross-country skiers enjoy the beauty of snow-covered landscapes and park trails.

In winter the lakeshore is the second cloudiest area of the U.S. But when night skies are clear, watch for the green glow of the northern lights on the horizon.

Since the turn of the December solstice we can see the days growing longer. On warm days raccoon and skunk wander about, especially creekside. Barred owls are nesting and their young are born amid lashing storms of late winter. Tracks of mice and voles they feed on are written across the snow. Buds on sugar and red maple begin to swell, ready for the sap to rise in March. Ruffed grouse feed on big-tooth aspen buds. Black bear cubs are born in the den, weighing a kilogram (2.2 pounds). In 40 days their eyes will open.

Snowshoers and snowmobilers "take in" grand white vistas along the lakeshore.


Seagulls return after a short, late winter absence. Bald eagles return to nest in old white pines. Sandhill cranes return to the marshes on Sand Point; their rattling calls are a welcome sound. People gather at area creek banks to net smelt running in small Lake Superior tributary streams. These European natives are eaten by lake trout and coho salmon.

The run is on! Local maple sugar makers boil sap into syrup by mid-month. Local Ojibwa historically moved to Grand Island to process sap on the island. Red squirrel gnaw maple branches to lick the sap.

Early wildflowers begin to bloom in the park. Hepatica, bloodroot, and spring beauty begin the show in the Beaver Basin and the Miners area mid-month. Much of the hardwood forest is free of snow late in the month. Spring peepers call loudly from wetlands later in the month as ice melts in the warm spring sun. Peregrine falcons return to nest along the Pictured Rocks cliffs and Grand Island.

Fisher-folk vie for the steelhead trout run into Sevenmile Creek. Later runs occur in Hurricane and Miners River in June some years.

Residents watch annual records for when ice normally "goes out" of Munising Bay the first week of May.

Red maples bloom into the first week of the month. Aspen leaves are the first to turn into bright green "squirrel ears." Marsh marigold berry (shadbush) blooms in wetlands and on the Kingston Plains, scene of turn-of-the-century logging.

Migratory birds return from their winter stay in warmer climes. Deer fawns are born beginning around the 10th and black flies hatch mid-month.


Apple blossoms decorate old farmstead landscapes scattered throughout the park. Wildflowers carpet the hardwood forest near the Lake Superior shoreline in numbers rarely seen elsewhere.

The lakeshore experiences over 15 hours of daylight near the summer solstice.

Porcupines seek out wood structures and parked automobiles in search of salt. Visitors note that black flies and mosquitoes are at their peak of the season.

Bald eagles fledge from their inland nests high atop a white pine. Young fledge from nests along Lake Superior a bit later.

July and August are the busiest visitor months, accounting for half of the annual visitation to the park.

Blueberries and huckleberries ripen in pine savannahs along the lakeshore. Thimbleberries and raspberries ripen along roadsides and old woods openings.

Nighthawks and neotropical birds begin to migrate south. Black flies are gone, mosquitoes are fewer, and horse, deer, and stable flies are numerous.

Lake Superior's water is finally warm enough to swim in. The first hints of fall color glow in red maples at the edges of wetlands.

The National Park Service was created on August 25, 1916. Happy Birthday!

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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