Cruisin’ into summer

Two-day festival, free boat rides held in Munising

Alison Niemi, 8, of Munising, feeds a camel during Pictured Rocks Days, which was held Saturday and Sunday in Munising. (Journal photo by Jaymie Depew)

MUNISING — Thousands of people visited Munising’s Binsfeld Bayshore Park and Marina over the weekend and welcomed the upcoming summer season by checking out a free festival provided by the Alger County Chamber of Commerce and free boat tours from Pictured Rocks Cruises.

Pictured Rocks Days was celebrated Saturday and Sunday in conjunction with Yoopers Ride Free Days, an event in which 3,000 Upper Peninsula residents ride for free with Pictured Rocks Cruises after providing a valid ID showing a U.P. address.

Lines of people wrapped around the building of Pictured Rocks Cruises as they waited to pick up free tickets for a boat ride each day.

Kathy Reynolds, executive director of Alger County Chamber of Commerce, said her organization teamed up with Pictured Rocks Cruises six years ago, a year after Yoopers Ride Free Days began.

“People wanted more to do, so we had the festival the next year,” she said, adding that around 7,000 people attended last year’s festival. “We’ve been gauging activities like this during the slower months — that’s why we decided to have the festival during the second weekend of June. Memorial Day was busy, but this is more like the official summer kickoff event. The weather has been perfect and everybody’s been having a good time so far.”

There were activities for everybody at Binsfeld Bayshore Park in Munising this weekend. (Journal photo by Jaymie Depew)

Over 90 vendors were nestled along Veterans Drive in Munising, offering a variety of things to enjoy and engage in, such as face-painting, food and domestic beer, local artwork, live music, kayak demos by Northern Waters Adventures, a bounce house for kids, a petting zoo featuring Gunther the camel and much more.

The sounds of musical acts — Derrell Syria Project, Flat Broke Blues Band, Jan Arnold, and The Palestras — echoed off Munising Bay, while Rosco the Clown played a few tricks on people and mushers of Husky Haven Sled Dogs talked to anyone interested in the sport.

Every year, Pictured Rocks Cruises carries tens of thousands of people along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The lakeshore is managed by the National Park Service as one of only four national lakeshores.

The name Pictured Rocks comes from the streaks of mineral stain seen on the face of the weathered cliffs.

During a Pictured Rocks Cruises tour, people see lakeshore highlights like Chapel Rock, East Channel Lighthouse, Spray Falls — a 70-foot waterfall that pours right over the sandstone cliffs into Lake Superior, Miners Castle and more.

Passengers waiting to board Miss Superior, a 68-foot Pictured Rocks Cruises tour boat for Yoopers Ride Free and Pictured Rocks Days. (Journal photo by Jaymie Depew)

The Pictured Rocks tower 50 to 200 feet over Lake Superior and stretch for about 15 miles along the national lakeshore’s 42-mile length. The lakeshore also offers 12 miles of beaches, nearly 5 miles of sand dunes, over 100 miles of trails and several waterfalls and lighthouses.

The first tours to operate along the cliffs were aboard the Ottawa, a vessel owned by Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company. The Ottawa left from Grand Island every Sunday during the 1920s, according to the Pictured Rocks Cruises website.

A new National Park Service report shows that roughly 781,000 visitors went to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in 2017 and spent more than $33 million in communities near the park. That spending also supported 425 jobs in the region, the report states.

“Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is an amazing place and we are proud to welcome visitors from across the country and around the world,” said PRNL Superintendent David Horne in a news release. “We are delighted to share the rich natural and cultural history of this area, as well as the incredible recreational experiences it provides. We are also honored that the national lakeshore serves to introduce new visitors to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the many resources it has to offer.”

There were over 90 vendors, including food trucks and a petting zoo, at Binsfeld Bayshore Park in Munising over the weekend in celebration of Pictured Rocks Days. (Journal photo by Jaymie Depew)