Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI

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DougBidlack
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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI

Post by DougBidlack » Tue Jan 01, 2019 8:43 pm

NTS,

Pictured Rocks has always been special to me and my family as it was the place we visited most frequently when we went to the UP (Upper Peninsula). My mom especially liked the area so we went there for her 70th birthday in 2014. Even though my mom was unusually healthy for her age, her colon was apparently a weak spot and she passed away early last year due to complications from surgery. We all knew that Pictured Rocks was the best place to spread her ashes on her favorite lake (Superior of course) and we decided to do it around her birthday again.

I only properly measured one tree at this park so far but I would prefer to post about every site where I've measured even a single tree before I share a year end list for the state of Michigan.

Pictured Rocks was established in 1966 as the first National Lakeshore. It was soon followed by Indiana Dunes, IN in November of 1966, Apostle Islands, WI in September of 1970 and Sleeping Bear Dunes, MI in October 1970. At about 73,236 acres, Pictured Rocks is also the largest of the National Lakeshores. It is named after the sandstone cliffs that can reach up to 200' above Lake Superior. These cliffs make up 15 of the 42 miles of Lake Superior shoreline. There is also a 12 mile sandy beach that was quite conveniently named Twelve Mile Beach. At the eastern end of the park is a nice 5 square mile perched sand dune that rises as much as 300' above the Lake. Below is a picture of Ellen with the namesake cliffs in the background.
PicturedRocks#1.jpg
Here is another view of the cliffs framed by birches. These may be heartleaf birches but more on that later.
PicturedRocks#2.jpg
The cliffs are colored by mineral stains and here are some of the common minerals and their stain colors.
Iron = red and orange
Copper = blue and green
Manganese = brown and black
Limonite = white
I don't have a great picture of the most colorful parts of Pictured Rocks but here is a decent picture.
PicturedRocks#3.jpg
About 76 percent of the forest is classified as Northern Hardwood-Hemlock-White Pine Forest Group. Sugar maples are the dominant hardwood with yellow birch second and American beech third. Jack and red pines dominate on some of the well-drained sand flats and some boreal forest communities are present on cool, moist sites and typically dominated by balsam firs and black spruce. Lastly, there are some significant northern white-cedar forests along lake and stream edges. This information is taken from the document listed below.
Hop,K., S. Menartd, J. Drake, S. Lubinski, and J. Dieck. 2010. National Park Service Vegetation Inventory Program: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan. Natural Resource Report NPS/GLKN/NRR-2010/201. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.
Most of the forest is second-growth and at the time of the above publication was 100-120 years old. There is a small amount of old growth which appears to be mainly northern white-cedars, particularly around big beaver lake. Below is a crummy picture of Ellen showing the typical forest dominated by sugar maple and yellow birch.
PicturedRocks#4.jpg
The most famous white pine in the park is not particularly large but it is quite picturesque as it is growing on Chapel Rock. This pine is now depicted on a quarter which came out just last year. Here is a picture of this white pine on Chapel Rock with Ellen.
PicturedRocks#5.jpg
Unfortunately beech bark disease is now present in the park and it is absolutely devastating the beeches. Here is a picture from 2014 showing some of this devastation.
PicturedRocks#6.jpg
The forests of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore are similar to the more southern, carolinian, forests of Superior Provincial Park in Ontario but there are a fair number of additional species at this more southern location on Lake Superior. These species include:
American Beech - unfortunately this species is now being wiped out...at least from an ecological perspective
Eastern Hemlock
American Basswood
White Oak
White Ash
Black Cherry
Bigtooth Aspen
American Mountainash - Kouta and I only saw Showy Mountainash in Lake Superior Provincial Park. I wonder if Showy Mountainash might not also be present at Pictured Rocks.
Paper Birch - Kouta and I also only saw Heartleaf Birches in Lake Superior Provincial Park. I think the authors of the sources I consulted may not have made a distinction between paper and heartleaf birches at Pictured Rocks.
Striped Maple - Mountain Maple is also present at Pictured Rocks just as in Lake Superior Provincial Park.
Eastern Hophornbeam
The last species mentioned happens to be the only species that I measured. Eastern hophornbeam is at its northern range limit in this area but it is still capable of growing quite large. In this respect, eastern hophornbeam seems like yellow birch and American basswood in that they all seem to be able to get large at their northernmost extremes. The eastern hophornbeam I measured was 4.75' x 63' shooting straight up in July of 2014. Here is a picture of this tree with me.
PicturedRocks#7.jpg
I'll end with a couple more nice shots of Ellen kayaking along the beautiful cliffs of Pictured Rocks.
PicturedRocks#8.jpg
PicturedRocks#9.jpg
Doug

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dbhguru
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Re: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI

Post by dbhguru » Wed Jan 02, 2019 8:24 am

Doug,

Gorgeous photos! I well remember Pictured Rocks. I have nothing but fond memories of the UP, and in particular, the Lake Superior side. The Porkies are a jewel. I hope Monica and I can return at least once to the UP. Looking forward to your Michigan Rucker list.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Jan 02, 2019 1:05 pm

Beautiful photos and descriptions, Doug. It looks like a paradise for those fond of the great lakes clifftop flora. I have found that the narrow slopes of unconsolidated material that sit at the tops of similar cliffs (though smaller) along lake erie sometimes have wildly contorted, ancient-looking stunted Hophornbeams. Have you noted any trees like that in the clifftop margins?

The start of a new year is a good time to catch up on backlogged postings. I should try to do the same. I'll look forward to the rest of your posts, I even have a little to post from MI myself (I was in Kensington two days ago, sans laser), but I don't think I measured anything that might have a place on your year end listing.

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DougBidlack
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Re: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI

Post by DougBidlack » Fri Jan 04, 2019 5:32 pm

Bob and Erik,
glad you both liked the photos. I'm looking forward to posting the Michigan list as well. It's been a few years since the last one.

Erik,
I had to think for a while about your question as not many gnarly trees came to mind along Pictured Rocks. I think the birches (paper and/or heartleaf) are the only ones that sorta come to mind. They tended to be quite short and a bit gnarly right at the edge. I remember seeing a fair number of hophornbeams near the cliff edge but they were not gnarly at all and they were not right at the cliff edge either. The tree species that I most associate with the shoreline of the Upper Great Lakes would be northern white-cedar...hands down! I checked my pictures though and found that this species was not super common along the shoreline at Pictured Rocks. There was generally good diversity near the edges and there tended to be a higher proportion of conifers near the shore than was typical for more inland areas but not so much for Thuja. Mountainash and birch were especially well represented for deciduous trees as in the photo below.
Pictured Rocks #1.jpg
I wondered if maybe the cliffs were too high (too far from the water) and that was the issue but here is a picture showing trees much closer to Lake Superior.
Pictured Rocks #2.jpg
Still not dominated by Thuja as at other sites.
Here is a map showing the Niagara Escarpment in red going through the southern part of the Upper Peninsula.
Niagara_Escarpment_map.png
Northern white-cedars especially love growing on dolomitic limestone like the Niagara Escarpment. Here is a map I made of the distribution of northern white-cedar. The darker colors are where it is most common and the black county (Mackinac) is where it is most common according to surveys by the US Forest Service. The gray counties are where the species is found but where it was not detected by the USFS according to the "Michigan Flora Online" by Reznicek, Voss and Walters. Northern white-cedar is clearly most common in counties to the North, with a high Great Lakes shoreline to County area ratio, and in counties where the Niagara Escarpment is present.
Northern White-cedar.001.png
Here is a picture of cliffs along the Lake Michigan shoreline in the UP at the ghost town of Fayette. This is part of the Niagara Escarpment and northern white-cedars can be easily seen crowding along the cliff edge here.
Pictured Rocks #3.jpg
Northern white-cedars were common in Pictured Rocks along some (interior) lake edges as well as streams such as the Big Beaver lake outlet to Lake Superior pictured here.
Pictured Rocks #4.jpg
So obviously the species grows well at Pictured Rocks under the right conditions. Just odd to me that there aren't more along the cliffs. I've seen plenty along the shoreline of the Keweenaw Peninsula and Isle Royale which are of volcanic origin and not limestone. I guess Thuja just doesn't compete as well on sandstone. Sorry I got a little carried away with northern white-cedar but that is a species that I would especially expect to find as gnarly specimens along cliffs of the northern Great Lakes. Maybe just not on sandstone or where they are only 100-120 years old.

Doug

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ElijahW
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Re: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI

Post by ElijahW » Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:11 pm

Doug,

I'm sorry to hear about your mom passing. I don't know how it was with you, but after my mom died this past November, I've had difficulty going to places she used to enjoy. I guess that's the natural way of things, but that fact doesn't make things any easier to deal with.

Your images of Lake Superior are beautiful. I've seen that color of blue in Lakes Michigan and Huron, but not our eastern Great Lakes, Ontario and Erie. That's a one-of-a-kind place. Thanks for sharing,

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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DougBidlack
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Re: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI

Post by DougBidlack » Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:16 am

Elijah,

thank you. I'm also sorry to here about your mom passing. Last year was an extremely difficult one for me and I'm sure for you as well. The place I feel saddest when thinking about my mom is within the house itself. Mom, more than anyone else, made the house a home and the place just feels so sad and lonely now. I don't feel that way along Lake Superior except maybe for a few brief moments. Mostly I just have good feelings when I'm in places that my mom loved.

Doug

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI

Post by Larry Tucei » Thu Jan 10, 2019 2:10 pm

Doug, Beautiful photos of Lake Superior. I have been on the north shore from Duluth up 50 miles it looks very similar to your area. Sorry to here about your Mom.
Elijah- Sorry to here about your Mom.
Larry

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DougBidlack
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Re: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI

Post by DougBidlack » Fri Jan 11, 2019 2:05 pm

Larry,
thank you.
Regarding the Lake Superior shoreline in Minnesota, I also think it looks similar to Pictured Rocks but the big difference is that the Pictured Rocks are made of sandstone and I think that the North Shore of Minnesota is of volcanic origin. In Michigan, the best place to see shoreline of volcanic origin is on Isle Royale or along the Keweenaw Peninsula which are both in the western UP.
Doug

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ElijahW
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Re: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI

Post by ElijahW » Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:33 am

Doug, Larry,

Thank you.

I’ve only been to the UP once, and that was probably ten years ago. I really should go back sometime.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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