Many Upper Peninsula communities are located on the shores of Lake Superior, but not all of them have the Native American heritage and natural beauty of the L'Anse-Baraga area.
The two villages are tucked at the base of Keweenaw Bay, with L'Anse on the eastern shore and Baraga on the west.
L'Anse roughly translates as "the cove" in French, referring to its location at the bottom of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Baraga is named after Bishop Frederic Baraga, with a 35-foot brass statue - the Bishop Baraga Shrine - a testament to this famous Catholic missionary.
Prickett Dam Backwater in Baraga County, seen above, is an excellent fishing spot. (Photo courtesy of Karen Kautto)
The Ojibwa Casino in Baraga is a top tourist attraction where visitors can play blackjack, roulette, craps and other games of chance. If they want to get in more than a day of fun, they have the option of spending the night at the casino hotel or RV park. Gamers also can take in a bite at Lucky 7's Restaurant or the PressBox Sports Bar and Grill.
There is a heavy Native American influence in the area with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa Indians having dual land bases in both villages. Its L'Anse Reservation, established under the Treaty of 1854, is the largest and oldest reservation in the state.
The past also is present at the Hanka Finnish Homestead Museum in nearby Pelkie. This original 1920s Finnish farm, a Keweenaw Heritage Site, shows how a Finn family lived in the early 20th century.
Destination: L'Anse and Baraga
Mileage: Marquette to L'Anse, 69 miles; Marquette to Baraga, 73 miles.
Did you know: Mount Arvon is the highest point in Michigan at 1,980 feet.
Trip Highlight: Baraga's Ojibwa Casino offers Las Vegas-style gambling. Stop by the Hilltop Family Restaurant in L'Anse for a world-famous 1-pound sweet roll.
For more information: Visit the Baraga Chamber of Commerce, which covers all of Baraga county including L'Anse, online at www.baragacounty.org.
A lot of history seeps into the local culture at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula, but the scenic beauty in particular draws tourists.
Some of the most rugged and remote wilderness in the state is found in the nearby Huron Mountains. The highest point in Michigan, as a matter of fact, is Mount Arvon at 1,980 feet.
"We're the only ones that can make that claim," said Debbie Stouffer, vice president of the Baraga County Chamber of Commerce. "That would be one of the most important things to see."
A lesser-known peak is Little Mountain, which can be accessed from a footpath at the end of Golf Course Road in L'Anse.
According to the website Trails.com, Little Mountain Trail consists of a round-trip 2.5-mile hike to the top of the 1,155-foot-high rocky bluff that affords spectacular views. Apparently it's doable for trekkers of all abilities because Trails.com called it "a delightful hike for families ... even those who don't live in L'Anse."
Another unique point of land, which in this instance juts into Lake Superior instead of into the sky, is Point Abbaye, located at the tip of a peninsula surrounded by Keweenaw Bay to the west and Huron Bay to the east.
"You feel like you're out in the middle of the lake," Stouffer said.
The drive out to Point Abbaye is worth it for wilderness lovers as it leads to a view of the Huron National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses eight islands - granite outcroppings primitive enough to be designated as wilderness, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages them.
History buffs might want to stop by the ghost town of Pequaming, once owned by the Ford Motor Company, on the way to or from Point Abbaye.
And in the Upper Peninsula, what would a wild area be without a waterfall or two? Baraga County has plenty of them, including Silver River Falls, Slate River Falls and Tioga Falls. South of L'Anse is Canyon Falls, which is like a mini-Grand Canyon with the Sturgeon River winding through the area. The river also has the Sturgeon Falls/Gorge southwest of Baraga.
Being shoreline communities, L'Anse and Baraga have many areas from which to cast a fishing line. Many marinas in the area allow boaters to get out on Lake Superior and try for whitefish, lake trout and salmon, although many lakes and streams also make for good fishing spots.
With all the hiking, fishing, history-viewing and other outdoor recreation in the area, a tourist is bound to get hungry. One menu item that would solve the problem - and then some - is the 1-pound sweet roll baked fresh at the Hilltop Family Restaurant and Bakery in L'Anse.
Penney Jaeger, a co-owner of the restaurant, said, "It's definitely the thing that brings them in."
Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.