Big Spring (Kitch-iti-kipi)
|Someone long ago came up with the inspired idea at Big Springs to build a raft which visitors could use to reach the middle of the clear pond and look way down at the big fish.|
Few natural sights in Michigan compare with the beauty and mystique of this enormous, bowl-like spring. Through a storybook forest of cedars and pines, you come upon an amazing, emerald-green spring, oval and jewel-like, some 200 feet wide. Colors are enhanced by the very white sand at the bottom.
|This raft with its viewing center to see clearly into the green depths of the pond adds to the magic of this extraordinary spot.|
Visitors pull a cable on a raft to reach the middle, then gaze down through some 30 or 40 feet of crystal-clear water. Bubbling up from the bottom is a constant flow of about 10,000 gallons of water a minute or more. Huge brown trout swim lazily around. Lime-encrusted logs, mossy and fallen to the sandy bottom, look like piles of sticks so close you could almost touch them.
The new, wheelchair-accessible raft has a canopy – a redesign to reduce reflections and make it easier to observe underwater activity through the viewing well. It's fascinating just watching the bubbling water create constantly-changing patterns of sand. Visitors still pull a cable to propel the raft across, but now the cable is on a wheel. It's so easy, a child can do it.
The water here stays 45° F year-round, so the spring can be viewed in any season, with the raft operable. It's a popular stop for snowmobilers. If it's mid-winter and the gate is closed, you might have to hike in a hundred yards or so. During snowmobile season, the snow on the trail has been so packed, it's not even necessary to wear snowshoes to see the spring.
Summer is a good time to visit; fall color season would also be nice. In the morning, mist hangs over the water and turns the surrounding woods into abstract, mysterious shapes.
To experience the serenity of the place in summer, come either before mid-morning or near dusk. At mid-day it's busy. Children love this place. The water is so green and clear, the fish so big – and a kid of six or seven can make the raft move! One enraptured toddler called out, "Hello, fish! Hello!. . . . I see a humongous fish! I see five of them!!" There's a pleasant picnic and playground area and a well-run concession stand (open from mid-May into mid-October) with snacks and gifts.
Kitch-iti-kipi (pronounced "KITCH-i-tee-KI-pee" with short "i"s) is Michigan's biggest spring. Its name means "big cold water." It is not known where this enormous volume of water comes from. Hydraulic pressure forces the groundwater to the surface. The spring's bowl is similar to other sinkholes except it is connected with an aquifer (underground stream). Sinkholes are created by underground water dissolving limestone bedrock to create caves. When the top layer of limestone finally dissolves, the cave collapses.
The state acquired this beautiful place in 1926, thanks to John Bellaire, owner of a Manistique dime store. He fell in love with the place, which loggers had used as a dump. Seeing its potential as a public beauty spot, he persuaded the Palms Book Land Company to sell the spring and 90 acres to the state for $10. Search online for "Palms Book State Park Michigan DNR" and you will get a fuller version of the park story, including the fictitious "old Indian legends" made up by Bellaire to publicize the park.
Palms Book State Park and Big Spring/Kitch-iti-kipi are northwest of Manistique. From U.S. 2, take M-149 8 miles north. (906) 341-2355. Open for day use only, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Recreation passport required: $10/year for Michigan residents. Or $8/day or $29/year for out of state. Wheelchair-accessible: raft, sidewalks, not yet restrooms. Dogs OK on 6-foot leash.
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