The Historical Significance of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

By Amanda Edington

Introduction

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a vastly beautiful and resourceful land. Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes, is located directly north of the Upper Peninsula and centered along the peninsula’s northern coastline, lies Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The lakeshore is 42 miles long and consist of towering mineral-rich, sandstone rock formations. As depicted by David Douglas, an Army engineer with the Lewis Cass expedition of 1820, Pictured Rocks was seen as a picturesque and stratified beauty of massively laid, heaping sandstone [1]. In addition to its beauty, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was the country’s first national lakeshore, established on October 15, 1966. Prior to its establishment as a national lakeshore, the area had been utilized for hundreds of years before by Native American tribes, explorers, and early fur traders. While the soil of the northern part of Michigan it not suitable for most agricultural crops, the locals utilize the resources the land does provide. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has a history of providing economic stability to its surrounding area through the gain of profitable natural resources, conservation measures, and tourism related to the land’s beauty and explorative regions.

Historic Miner’s Castle, National Park Service.
Historic Chapel Rock, National Park Service.

 

Forest Product Economy

 

Of the lakeshore’s plentiful resources, lumber was a highly valued product for the local people. Industrial logging of Pictured Rocks lakeshore began as early as 1877 in Alger County. White Pine had been exhausted in many areas, and with Michigan being well known for its large forests, it was indeed next in line for logging usage.[2] In addition to northern Michigan’s large forests, the state’s geography played a significant role in the success of the logging industry in the Upper Peninsula. The geography consists of many interconnected streams, and large dune slides that make transporting logs by river much easier. Unfortunately, like many other areas, Michigan too was harvesting more pine than the land could sustain. [3]

By the end of the late 1800s, areas such as Grand Marais and Munising had been completely depleted of pines therefore resorting to hardwoods in the early 1900s. The switch to hardwoods helped regain the local economy as the people of the Munising area manufactured paper products and cedar railroad ties. While the Munising Mills corporation was abandoned shortly after 1944 due to shortages during the war, the Munising Paper Company was successfully producing 70 tons of paper per day. This particular paper company did so well, given the resources provided by the Pictured Rocks lakeshore area, that they were bought by Kimberly Clark in 1952, a company that is well known and running still to this day.[4] While the town flourished as a logging center from 1896 into the 1920s, the industry left behind a disaster of “cut-and-get-out” logs. The area was in dire need of conservation efforts if it was going to ever be a tourist destination spot.[5]

Log Slide, Alger County Historical Society

Conservation and Preservation

            In order for a grander tourist economy to exist, the land of the lakeshore region needed to be conserved. In 1923, a group of sportsmen from Munising along with the Superintendent of State Parks for Michigan proposed that the state Conservation Commission take notice of the Pictured Rocks area.[6] During this time however the creation of state parks was low, and funding was not available. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the state of Michigan did little to make Pictured Rocks a state park, putting conservation measures in the hands of the locals.[7]

As an effort to help, Alger County donated 27-acres of land that surrounded Miners Castle, to the state in order to encourage the state park idea.[8] Unfortunately, doing so did not quicken the result of the area becoming state land; in fact, the people of Alger County continued to “operate” the site at Miners Castle for the State. Fortunately, during the 1950s, there was a tourist boom in Michigan that “reawakened the Conservation Department’s interest in Pictured Rocks”.[9] Yet it was not until June 27, 1961, “Senator Hart introduced the first federal bill to preserve the Pictured Rocks”.[10] While most loggers were not fond of the bill, the majority of the local people were. Preserving the land would mean jobs for the locals and profits for the surrounding area from tourism.[11]

Tourist Economy

It was the hope that tourism would fill the void of the logging industry. Tourism had existed in Michigan during much of the mid to late 1800s, but it was not until much later for Pictured Rocks. It was the establishment of the area becoming a national lakeshore that granted much easier access to the rock formations, which in turn increased the number of tourists. This establishment was most encouraged by Mission 66, a ten-year program that intended to expand park services for visitors by 1966. Prior to this time, however, the journey was not easy for those who wished to view the shoreline for themselves.[12]

One artist, A.L. Rawson, explained his experience over two summers at Pictured Rocks during the mid-1860s, as having to “strain” to call the area “a pleasant summer retreat” due to: “the appalling fact that it is about two or three days’ canoe journey, either way, to a beef-steak”.[13] An additional story that depicts the isolation of the area is from the 1890s, when a Marquette pharmacist wanted to show his new bride the “famed Pictured Rocks”, and to do so he had to hire a tug-boat to make the trip.[14] Such stories expressed the great need for further development of the area at this time, and today it is obvious to say that through the involvement of the National Park Services, tourism has exploded since years following.

As of today, visitors come to the national lakeshore from across the country. According to reports from the National Park Service, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore saw 723,179 visitors in 2015, which brought in $31,189,300 in economic benefits.[15] These economic benefits are very crucial to the economy of the surrounding area. Tourist activities of the national lakeshore consists of many outdoor, adventure opportunities such as: hiking/backpacking the 40 plus miles of trails, canoeing along Lake Superior, rock climbing, camping, fishing, hunting and simply sightseeing the beautiful, vibrantly colored rock formations. It is safe to say that Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has provided benefits for both the local economy and its tourists.

 

Kayaking, National Park Service

 

Backcountry Map

 

A portion of the North Country Trail, National Park Service

Conclusion

            Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has a history of providing the local area with economic stability throughout the years due to gains associated with natural resource production, conservation measures, and tourism. The land that is part of the lakeshore has provided a bountiful amount of resources to the people of the surrounding area such as: jobs, wood/wood pulp products, and food sources to name just a few. As the land made a comeback post logging era, the rebirth of the lakeshore encouraged visitors to make the trip to the Pictured Rocks[16]. Today, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore sees people from all parts of the world. The pristine lakeshore, as explored by many, is a great asset to the state of Michigan both historically and still today. Through effective protection efforts, it is the hope that Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore will continue to be enjoyed, explored, and appreciated for many years to come.

Notes

 

[1] Stonehouse, Historic Resource Study, 26-27

[2] Picture Rocks National Lakeshore National Park Service U.S. Department of Interior. Logging History. PDF. 2010.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] National Park Service. Pictured Rocks an Administrative History. PDF. 2002.

[6] P.J. Hoffmaster, “A Report on Pictured Rocks Area, Alger County, for State Park and Game Refuge,” August 25, 1924, Great Lakes Shoreline Survey Records, Pictured Rocks National Seashore, Munising, Mich.

[7] National Park Service. Pictured Rocks an Administrative History. PDF. 2002.

[8] “Field Notes”, Great Lakes Shoreline Survey, National Park Service, undated, PIRO; Munising News, June 18, August 6, August 20, 1926.

[9] Ralph A. MacMullan, Hearing Statement, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Public Lands of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, United States Senate, Eighty-Eighth Congress, Second Secession on S. 1143. Escanaba. Michigan, July 20. 1964 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964), 20-21 [hereafter cited as Pictured Rocks Hearing, Escanaba].

[10] Senate Bill 2152, 87th Congress, 1st Session.

[11] National Park Service. Pictured Rocks an Administrative History. PDF. 2002.

[12] National Park Service. Tourism’s Economic Benefit. HTM. April 25, 2016.

[13] A.L. Rawson, “The Pictured Rocks of Lake Superior,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, (May,1867), XXXIV CCIV, 324.

[14] Faye Swanberg, “Folks Remembered,” Alger Footprints, 12, 4, (Dec., 1988), 2; Munising Republican, June 13, 1902.

[15] National Park Service. Tourism’s Economic Benefit. HTM. April 25, 2016.

[16] National Park Service. Pictured Rocks an Administrative History. PDF. 2002.

Bibliography

“A Report on Pictured Rocks Area, Alger County, for State Park and Game Refuge.” Michigan Recreation Search Site Details Page. August 25, 1924. Accessed December 04, 2017.http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/Details.aspx?type=SPRK&id=457.

“Backcountry Camping.” National Parks Service. Accessed December 04, 2017.           https://www.nps.gov/piro/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm.

Backcountry Map. https://www.nps.gov/piro/planyourvisit/upload/BackcountryMap.pdf.

“Days in Session of the U.S. Congress | Congress.gov …” Accessed December 4, 2017. https://www.bing.com/cr?IG=85EA4C01EE364B029CF9995456DB73FD&CID=356BBDEDB10660A279E7090DA1667B6&rd=1&h=EpppHe8hB4BI5q_q8cgwrRR_LpbY1SyCqfPljoxhDw&v=1&r=https%3a%2f%2fwww.congress.gov%2fdays-insession&p=DevEx,5068.1.

“Logging History.” National Parks Service. 2010. Accessed December 05, 2017.         https://www.nps.gov/piro/learn/historyculture/index.htm.

MacMullan, Ralph A. Hearing Statement, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Public Lands of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, United States Senate, Eighty-Eighth Congress, Second Secession on S. 1143. Escanaba.  Michigan, July 20. 1964 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964),20-21 [hereafter cited as Pictured Rocks Hearing, Escanaba].MI: Alger County Historical Society, 1986.

“Photo Gallery (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service. Accessed December 04, 2017. https://www.nps.gov/media/photo/gallery.htm?id=FAEB732E-155D-4519-3E2120EFCC702951.

“Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service. 2010. Accessed December 04, 2017. https://www.nps.gov/piro/index.htm.

PRNL tourism.jpg

Rawson, A.L. “The Pictured Rocks of Lake Superior,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, (May,1867), XXXIV CCIV, 324.

Service, National Park. 2016. “Tourism’s Economic Benefit.” April 25. https://www.nps.gov/piro/learn/news/tourism-economic-benefits.htm.

Stonehouse. n.d. Historic Resource Study.

Symon, Charles, and Faye Swanberg. Alger County, a centennial history, 1885-1985. Munising,

“The Pictured Rocks: An Administrative History of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

National Parks Service.” Accessed December 04, 2017. https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/piro/adhi/adhib.htm.

“Tourism’s Economic Benefit.” National Parks Service. Accessed December 04, 2017.https://www.nps.gov/piro/learn/news/tourism-economic-benefits.htm.