Grand Sable Bank & Dunes
|Click to enlarge|
These vast banks and dunes along Lake Superior are a highlight of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Seen from the trail's vantage point midway up their height, the dunes look dramatic and overwhelming. They are entirely bare and blindingly blank on a sunny day, slanting into Lake Superior at the steep, 35 ° angle of repose common to all piles of dry sand. When the sun is low, the effect is more beautiful and mysterious, as the dunes shade into purples and pinks.
"Grand Sable" (pronounced "SAAH-bl") means "big sand." These banks are a huge formation, up to 275 feet high, created during the last ice age when sand and gravel filled in a deep rift in the glacier. Atop the gravelly banks, sand dunes rise another 80 feet. These are "perched dunes" because they are perched on top of another landform. They were probably formed when wind and waves piled up sand at the edge of Lake Nipissing, forerunner of Superior.
|Mouth of Sable River|
The half-mile trail passes through an old orchard, over a creek, and through a jack pine forest, then enters a bleak dunescape where only a few hardy plant pioneers like marram grass can take hold. Excellent interpretive displays explain the principles of plant succession in the beach's harsh, dry, nutrient-deficient environment, which alternates suddenly from hot to cold after sunset. You can also see a small ghost forest of trees overwhelmed by sand.
The parking lot for the trails to Sable Falls and Grand Sable Dunes is off H-58 about a mile west of Grand Marais. Free. Handicap accessible: no.
Return to Grand Marais
POINTS OF INTEREST
Harbor entrance, range lights, pier & beach. Fish from the long stone pier jutting far out into Lake Superior, protecting the harbor. Or walk the long beach and enjoy the range light, & 2 museums, one in the old Coast Guard station, draw people to Coast Guard Point ... more
Pickle Barrel Museum. A summer house in two giant barrels for the creator of the long-lived Teenie Weenie cartoons. Now saved from rot and open to the public with historical displays and period rooms circa 1930. ... more
Gitche Gumee Agate & History Museum. Agates, rockhounding, geology, commercial fishing, and the self-sufficient local lifestyle after the lumber company left – Karen Bryzs's heartfelt museum tells these stories ... more
North Country Trail/Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Hike the trail connecting the lakeshore's prominent sights to experience them more fully than a drive-up-and-go-on view. Plan your hike so a shuttle bus can take you back ... more
Log Slide Overlook. Almost 300 feet above Lake Superior, there are splendid views to the Au Sable Lighthouse and the immense expanses of the Grand Sable Dunes. Exhibits show the scene when loggers rolled logs down for loading on ships ... more
Kingston Plains Burns. The best-known of the U.P.'s eerie stump fields or ghost forests created when forest fires across the cutover were so hot they burned off the soil's humus and the forest couldn't grow back. Pine resin preserved giant stumps. Some still remain ... more