Grand Sable Falls in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near Grand Marais. Photograph by Mikel B. Classen
Grand Sable Falls is located on the eastern end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Though it is not the largest waterfall in the park, it’s beauty makes it one of the park’s premier sights. The falls are located a mile west of Grand Marais off H-58, a well marked parking lot is the trail head. The walk to the falls is short and not difficult. The 168 steps to the bottom provide different views of the falls on the way down and from here can be seen this 75 foot cascade in its entirety. The stream is surrounded by hardwoods of Maple and Aspen adding to the falls’ ever changing look with the seasons. This is an incredible autumn destination. During the Summer, look closely, Trillium and Lady Slippers can be spotted in the forest.
Trillium in Black & White. Photograph by Mikel B. Classen
This has always been a special place and marks the beginning of the massive Grand Sable Sand dunes. A small walk from the bottom of the falls to the beach, just a few yards, awaits one of the most spectacular views on all of Lake Superior. Standing there looking up at the immense sand dunes that stretch in an arc to Au Sable Point 15 miles away, is a moment worth walking to. As a suggestion, walk the shore back to Grand Marais from here. It’s a great alternative to the stair climb.
Lady Slippers are one of the wildflower wonders of the U.P. Photograph by Mikel B. Classen.
The eastern end of Pictured Rocks gets much less traffic than the west end at Munising. Grand Sable Falls is one of the overlooked attractions at the National Park. Missing this is a big mistake. This is a must-see for any trip into Grand Marais.
Historical Picture of Grand Sable Falls with visitors. Today, there are stairs. People and photographer unknown. From Mikel B Classen historical pictures collection
Special Note: This attraction is located within the National Park. It was announced that the National Park Service (NPS) would be instituting fees or requiring passes for park visitors beginning this year. At this moment it is unclear what that will be and how this will affect visitors to Sable Falls. I advise stopping into the NPS visitor’s center first to learn what the requirements are if any. Access has always been free and open before.
Where Grand Sable Creek meets Grand Sable Dunes at the shore of Lake Superior. Photograph by Mikel B. Classen
Historical Photos from Mikel B. Classen Collection
This is a picture of some men camping out at a place that is still popular for camping to this day, Chapel Beach. Chapel Rock in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore can be seen in the background.
Going camping back in the late 1800s was a lot different than it is today. There was no Coleman Company, no L.L. Bean, no ergonomic backpacks. And hiking shoes, not a chance. The equipment was heavy and bulky while the wilderness was formidable. The wooden equipment chest in the picture above attests to that.
This group camp was taken north of Marquette at Partridge Island.
The hunting camp shown above was a major project to set up showing that group camping has always been popular. There are both men and women pictured here representing several couples on this particular foray into the woods. It doesn’t appear they are moving on anytime soon.
Individual tent setup along a stream. This was the simple basic way to go. With the stream in the background this looks like a fishing trip.
Even in the early days, the U.P. was recognized for its value as a recreation paradise and fishing and hunting became the staple of the region. People of note began particpating in the sport like Henry Ford and William Coleman. Innovations followed and equipment made specifically for the purpose of portable camping became available. These early campers were the pioneers of an entire industry that today is worth billions.
This is an unidentified camp near Lake Superior. The woodstove pipe coming out of the tent flap is classic.
One thing that is still true, an adventure into the woods is like no other. The wilderness calls many of us and in response we are rewarded with experiences of a lifetime. Whether it is a lake, a stream, a mountain or the deep woods, these places fill a place in our souls that can be filled no other way.
Grand Portal facing west. Before there was a boat tour, a small craft was the only way to view them up close.
It seems that Pictured Rocks has always been an attraction throughout recorded history. The magnificent rock formations drew comment and admiration from the earliest explorers. People ventured into them braving Lake Superior for a just a look. Recently I found a few old stereoview pictures that were privately made. Many photographers at the time created stereoview prints for commercial reproduction. Those are most of what are found today. Occassionally, the more wealthy travellers would get personal stereoviews done as a vacation record. In other words early vacation photos.
Grand Portal facing east. This is a companion photo to the one above, both taken inside the Portal.
All of these pictures came dated 1892. Unfortunately I do not have the names of who these originally belonged to. Looking at the picture it can be seen that they had an exceptionally calm day for their sight-seeing. Unusual water for Lake Superior.
Chapel Rock and River, 1892. This is one of the major destinations of early sight-seers. It sill is to this day.
In the early days travellers would set out from William’s Landing on Grand Island for their Pictured Rocks expeditions. Often these were multi-day affairs with traditional campsites at Chapel Beach. There are campsites still there for modern-day hikers. Now it only takes a couple of hours to see the rocks. Back in 1892 it was much more of an adventure and took serious committment to arrive at the legendary Pictured Rocks.
Spray Falls in Pictured Rocks, 1892. This picture could be taken today. Very little has changed with Spray Falls over the years.