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The 7 Natural Wonders Of The Great Lakes

These 7 Natural Wonders of the Great Lakes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the pristine beauty that the Midwest has to offer.

  • September 8, 2023

Table Of Contents

The Greatest Lakes on Planet Earth

These 7 Natural Wonders of the Great Lakes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the pristine beauty that the Midwest has to offer. The Great Lakes have a long history as the receding glaciers carved out the deep freshwater lakes over 14,000 years ago. The footprint that they left behind is what we are blessed to explore today. From the St. Lawrence Seaway to the North Shore of Lake Superior, the natural wonders feel infinite. But for the sake of this article, I put together the most unique, awe-inspiring features the Great Lakes has to offer.

1. The Great Lakes System

Starting with a wide perspective, the top of the list is the Great Lakes themselves. Looking at the planet, this reserve of fresh water truly stands out as a unique treasure. After the glaciation of North America, thousands of years of snow and ice made the earth sink, providing a home for the Great Lakes we know today.

5 Fascinating Great Lakes Facts

  1. Lake Superior holds more than 50% of the Great Lakes reserves. That’s more than all the lakes combined!
  2. The fresh Great Lakes account for over a fifth of the Earth’s salt-free surface water by volume, sprawling out to almost 100,000 square miles.
  3. Combining the US & Canadian Great Lakes shorelines equals over 9,500 miles!
  4. The Continental US has fewer miles of ocean shoreline than Great Lakes Lakeshore miles
  5. 10,000 years ago, the first human inhabitants explored the Great Lakes Basin

2. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

The Apostle Islands consists of 22 Lake Superior islands off the Bayfield Peninsula in Northern Wisconsin. These aren’t your typical Great Lakes islands though! The water has weathered these sandstone rock formations creating a unique system of caves across multiple islands. From caves to trail systems, there is so much to explore throughout each island!

Paddle Adventures Around the Sea Caves

One of the most popular forms of transportation around the Apostle Islands is to kayak, canoe, or SUP. Bring your own or connect with a local travel expedition for a guided tour throughout the most famous features the Apostle Islands has to offer. Before you head out, check the wave conditions to make smart choices about the adventure you lead: wavesatseacaves.cee.wisc.edu.

Photographer’s Dream Landscapes

Our favorite Apostle Island’s local photographer to follow is @PoorDogPhotography. From icey winter caves to blush summer sunsets, he is dedicated to capturing this Lake Superior gem. With 22 islands all with their own unique characteristics, there is no shortage of breathtaking features to get out there and shoot! Here is a preview of the photographs he’s captured around the Apostle Islands, which are available for prints here: Poor Dog Photography Prints!

3. Kitch-iti-kipi – The Big Spring

The Big Spring known as Kitch-iti-kipi has many meanings in the Chippewa language: Mirror of Heaven, The Great Water, The Blue Sky I See, The Roaring, Big Cold Water, and Bubbling Spring. The famous fresh spring is located in the southern side of the Upper Peninsula at Palms Book State Park. Kitch-iti-kipi is rightfully known as The Big Spring because it pumps out over 10,000 gallons a minute from fissures under the limestone at a chilly 45°F!

Visit Palms Book State Park

The Manistique, Michigan park is one of the most easily accessible natural wonders on the list. The spring is a short walk from the parking lot and handicap accessible. To fully experience The Big Spring, make sure to take the raft across the lake and look straight down into the vibrant deep blue spring. The massive fish and mossy driftwood floating underwater is mesmerizing.

4. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

The Northern Michigan magic along the M22 scenic highway is one of the most popular destinations in the Midwest. The epic views, endless sand dunes, and accessible trails connecting the park makes the park very family friendly. The Leelanau Peninsula is famous for its pristine lakeshores with expansive Lake Michigan views hundreds of feet high. The dunes can be deceiving though, run or roll down the giant sand hill only takes a few minutes, but can take hours to hike back up!

4 Of Our Favorite Sleeping Bear Dunes Scenic Points

  1. Empire Bluffs Trail
  2. Number 9 on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
  3. Top of the Dune Climb
  4. Pyramid Point

On the southern end of the Sleeping Bear Lakeshore is the Empire Bluff Trail seen below. The 1.5 mile round trip hike is high above sea level with panoramic views of the majestic sand dunes along Lake Michigan. Summer hikes have a lot of foot traffic, but we were the only ones on the trail when we explored Empire Bluffs during the winter. 

5. Niagara Falls

The Canadian New York border is home to one of the largest waterfalls on planet Earth. Flowing down from the four Great Lakes to the west, Niagara Falls travels through the Niagara River towards Lake Ontario. The volume that flows through this waterfall is unfathomable! Before the US & Canada started diverting water for power, over 5.5 billion gallons of water per hour flowed over Niagara Falls. BILLION! ?

The iconic tourist boat adventures on the Maid in the Mist gets you right in the action at the base of the falls. This Earth Day they announced two new environmentally friendly all-electric vessels!

6. Bruce Peninsula’s Georgian Bay Lakeshore

The Bruce Peninsula is a vast 60 mile stretch of land separating the Georgian Bay from Lake Superior. The northeast side of the this unique Great Lakes lakeshore is what puts it on the map. The Bruce Peninsula National Park is home to some world famous features like The Grotto. The park does a fantastic job preserving the park with creative ideas like a 4 hour parking pass that you reserve like you would a campground. Luckily when we didn’t have to worry about fighting for a spot since we stayed in the park in one of their spacious yurts. 10 out of 10 would recommend the yurt experience, which could sleep up to 6 people comfortably.

7. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

We saved the best for last with our personal favorite Great Lakes Natural Wonder, the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore. The 42 miles of Lake Superior shoreline can be experienced by foot along the massive trail system of the North Country Trail. The epic coastline features are also commonly seen by the water from either a guided kayak tour or one of the daily cruise expeditions.

Our #1 Great Lakes Destination

With over 73,000 acres of protected lands, the park is home to more than just massive rocky coasts. Sand dunes, waterfalls, and unique rock formations like Chapel Rock and Miners Castle give this National Lakeshore a lot of character. There is so much to explore, it’s impossible to do it all in one trip. The 7 mile hike to Chapel Rock and Grand Portal became our #1 favorite trail to date on our most recent fall adventure.

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