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Grand Island exploration made easier

September 4, 2012
By JOHN PEPIN - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MUNISING - A new guide for "Exploring Grand Island" brings a wealth of information to your fingertips for those looking to achieve a deeper visiting experience and historical appreciation of the 22-square-mile island, situated in Lake Superior just northwest of Munising.

The guide, produced by longtime wilderness guide and former Michigan State Police trooper Michael Neiger, is a GPS-enabled, U.S. Geological Survey map-based, backcountry guide to the trails, campsites, beaches, overlooks, old growth, waterfalls, historic sites, caves and shipwrecks of the Grand Island National Recreation Area.

The laminated 16-page guide is meant to be read before a visit to the island, but it's also light enough and sized right to be able to take along. The detailed maps included in the guide are likely reason enough to bring it with you.

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"The island's natural features, scenic beauty, rich history and largely undeveloped state have made it one of the Midwest's most attractive backcountry destinations for generations," Neiger wrote in the guide. "Long a summer hunting and gathering area for Native Americans, the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Co. operated the island as a public resort and game preserve from 1904 to 1959, along the lines of Mackinac Island, with transportation limited to ponies, saddle horses, horse-drawn carriages and bicycles until the 1920s."

Since 1990, the island - which is about eight miles long by roughly five miles wide - has been managed by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the Hiawatha National Forest.

In addition to the detailed maps, the guide also provides contact information for ferry services and guided bus tours and kayak and bike rentals. Neiger also covers a variety of considerations for visitors ranging from biting insects, pet rules, and water availability to off-trail travel, fires and camping rules.

The guide also covers a series of safety hazards on the island from black bears and hypothermia to rip currents, crumbling sandstone and dead overhead trees and branches Neiger calls "widowmakers."

Neiger breaks down, in great detail, segments of the 21-mile Rim Trail Tour. He includes graphics showing elevation changes, locations of various points of interest, including shipwrecks, caves and old growth. Similar depictions are featured for the island's thumb and tombolo sections.

The guide also includes maps of the Timber Wolf Cave Complex, Peregrine Falcon Cave Complex, Murray Bay Picnic Area and Campsites and Black Bear Cave Complex.

A schematic showing the layout of gravestones in the historic Williams-Powell Cemetery details the names of those buried there and provides a quick guide to cemetery etiquette and epitaphs from a couple of the headstones.

Articles highlighting various aspects of the island's history, including a 1908 murder mystery at the North Light Lighthouse and filming of scenes for the silent motion picture "Wild Goose Chase" in 1918, are also included.

A passage from the guide talks about wave action against the island's cliffs producing strange sounds in 1833, detailed by an Indian interpreter traveling with Henry R. Schoolcraft.

"At the base (of the cliffs), the action of the water has worked out deep hollow places," the excerpt from a letter read. "The rushing water into them, causes a dismal sound, as if some dreaded monster lay concealed in its dark caverns."

Neiger's Grand Island guide is available at local bookstores and sells for $12.95. He is working on a similar guide to be released next year that is expected to be a definitive wilderness guide for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore called, "Exploring Pictured Rocks."

For more information, visit:

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.



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