Category Archives: Great Lakes Adventure

Paddle Turnip Rock – Five Things to Know


Turnip Rock is an Easy Paddle

One of the most amazing sites in the Upper Thumb is Turnip Rock. Carved over time by the force of constant wave action the soft limestone has been shaped to its namesake and separated from the mainland over thousands of years. CNN called it one of the Most Amazing Rock Formations in America and Pure Michigan featured it on it’s 2016 magazine cover. International travelers coming into Detroit Metropolitan Airport see Turnip Rock as their first view of Michigan’s wonder scenes coming into customs. It’s a marvel to behold and it’s an easy trip if the conditions are right.

This small guide offers a local point of view to avoid problems with the local law enforcement and property owners while being able to enjoy a unique natural wonder.


Paddle to Turnip Rock Port Austin Michigan


Turnip Rock is on Private Land

Despite its uniqueness as a natural wonder is located and surrounded by private land. Thus the only way to access it is from the water. Fortunately that can easily be achieved by canoe or kayak. This means that you can’t go feet dry. Stay in the water. If you must get out of our kayak stay as close to waters edge as possible. (Unless its an emergency)



Paddling  Near the Rock on Busy Weekends

During the weekends the number of paddlers can get quite large. If the area around the rock is crowded consider paddling a few hundred yards past and view the overhangs and cave features that border the Pointe Aux Barques community.  During the late 1800’s the cave were hideouts for fugitives. It’s worth taking a few minutes to explore.  You may be tempted to get out of your kayak and climb the rocks for a view. This is a no-no and there are several signs reminding not to trespass. (IMHO these signs are obtrusive, and possibly illegal as they are posted under the high water mark of Lake Huron)


Pointe Aux Barques Caves


Heed Weather and Travel Time

Plan on 2-3 hours total travel time to Turnip Rock from Port Austin. This assumes that the winds and lake are calm. You will paddle north-east along the shallow coastline until you see the small cliffs that mark the start of Pointe Aux Barques. If the wind is strong and the there are waves it’s a wise idea to defer to another day. Novice paddlers have been pushed by southern winds out into the lake requiring assistance or rescue.



Can I Climb on Turnip and Fingernail Rocks?

Despite numerous YouTube and other postings showing people climbing all over the rock formation, you are urged to not imbibe. The shore formations above the high water mark is private land. People have been hurt trying to climb it and arrested for trespass. Also the limestone is rather fragile and prone to breakage and collapse. The best way to mark your visit is to capture the rock formation with digital photos of you and your peeps in unique light and weather. Stay wet and wild and get a great shot from the water.   


Turnip Rock what to Bring


What to Bring on Board

Life jacket, Sunglasses, sunscreen, small towel, cell phone and a dry bag. Bring water and something to munch on. Water shoes are also highly recommended. It’s not a strenuous trip but winds and weather can make it a challenge for the unprepared.



Leave No Trace

Leaving no trace is everyone’s responsibility. While paddling to the rock remember to minimize your impact so it can be enjoyed for the next generation. Here are the seven principles of Leave No Trace.

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare. …
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces. …
  • Dispose of Waste Properly (Pack It In, Pack It Out) …
  • Leave What You Find. …
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts. …
  • Respect Wildlife. …
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors.

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Great Getaways in Michigan’s Upper Thumb


This 15 minute video is a great review of some of the highlights of Michigan’s Thumb.  With 150 miles of shoreline the contrast between the rocky, rugged Lake Huron side is toured to the sugar sand and calm waters of Saginaw Bay. The thumb region is a great area to explore.

This video is from Great Getaways, a television travel series that spotlights active getaway adventures across the Midwest and Canada with an emphasis on the outdoors.


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Tawas – Fun Across the Bay


On summer evenings we can see the blinking lights of the Tawas area from our beach. Its a day’s sail from Caseville but a several hour drive from the Upper Thumb.  The bay is  clear due to the currents coming in from Lake Huron and the little town nestled near the harbor is a charming mix of tourist and art colony.


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Small Town Charm

East Tawas might be a small Michigan harbor town located on Tawas Bay, but that doesn’t stop this fascinating area from being known as a four season destination. East Tawas is an exceptional port of call and vacation spot if you’re a passionate boater. The town is filled with charming restaurants, small artisan shops, lively pubs, and even a movie theater within walking distance of the harbor. The Tawas Point State Park with its iconic lighthouse is also not far away, so there’s a virtually endless list of things you can do while vacationing at or touring East Tawas.


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Boating and Sailing

East Tawas is located on Tawas Bay, and known as a prime cursing destination for sailing in Lake Huron. It has a safe and beautiful harbor, and this makes it the perfect fit for just about every float plan if you near Saginaw Bay. The East Tawas State Dock is a 140-slip marina that attracts boaters from all over the Great Lakes area. It has state-of-the-art features such as a comfortable dock office, a new shower facilities, a boat launch, and a park with a playground. The facility is undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation so expect some construction impact if you plan to visit. There are also many boat rentals in East Tawas where you can motor a small boat or sail out on the bay.


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Visit the Tawas Area Beaches

You have a long list of options when it comes to the beaches at East Tawas. East Tawas offers public swimming beaches that are fitted with amenities including picnic areas and playgrounds. City Park in East Tawas has camping areas that are situated on the beach. The neighboring Tawas Point State Park offers miles of sandy beaches, either along the cooler waters of Lake Huron or, the warmer waters of Tawas Bay. Tawas Point has been referred to as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest.” With its iconic lighthouse standing guard on the point.


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Enjoy the Local Food

While the food at your hotel, camp or on deck may be perfect, you can find a fine selection of cuisine within walking distance of the harbor or a short drive. Treat yourself to the fantastic locally caught walleye or great homemade fudge and candy. Some of the notables in town include G’s Pizzeria & Deli, Craving, Northwoods Steak House, and Tawas Point Grille.


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Go Fishing

Tawas Bay is a fishing spot, situated at the confluence of the Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay waters it’s known as the feeding ground for much of the fishery in Lake Huron. The waters of northeast Lake Huron are cool, while the waters of southwest Saginaw Bay are warm. As a result, many species are thriving here; walleye pike, yellow perch, and salmon are what the charter boat captains go for. If you’re after the elusive bass you can try at the Huron National Forest.


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Go Skiing

When the snow fly’s its time to rethink your activity. East Tawas is active during the winter, cross country skiing is a high impact option and draws enthusiasts from around the region. There are major trail systems for you to choose from in the Tawas area- the groomed Corsair Ski Trails, and the un-groomed Highbanks Trails. The Corsair Trail System, is situated in the beautiful Silver valley surrounded by the 120,000-acre Huron National Forest. The Corsair system is considered one of the largest groomed trail networks in Michigan. Iosco County has 94 miles of trails for snowmobiling that are spruced and ready for action in wintertime.

There are numerous activities in the Tawas area. Shopping, hiking in the Huron National Forest or check out the nightlife in town. Possibilities are endless, and your adventure in upper Saginaw Bay promises to be a memorable one.

Graphics courtesy of Wikipedia Commons, Tawas Bay USFWS photo by Frank Horvath

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Great Lakes Cruising of Yesterday


I’ll admit that I’ve taken a liking to cruising. It must be the influence of having a sailboat that we have taken from port to port on Lake Huron. Recently several cruise ships have announced routes and stops throughout the Great Lakes region. Currently there are three curse lines that cover the Great Lakes. Victory Cruise Lines, Great Lakes Cruise Company and Blount Small Ship Adventures. The Great Lakes Cruise Company has four ships that cover a wide range of ports and destinations. One ship, the Pearl Mist is small enough to tackle the famous cruising grounds of Georgian Bay and the beautiful North Channel.


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In the days before the highway and autos the only way to travel the vast distances for the Great Lakes was by sail and steamer. In the mid 1800’s until well into the 1950’s one could travel most of the lakes in style and comfort. One of the most famous and beloved ships was the SS South American. The SS South American was a Great Lakes overnight passage steamboat built by the Great Lakes Engineering Works at Ecorse, Michigan. It was built in 1913 for the Chicago, Duluth & Georgian Bay Transit Company. The vessel was launched on February 21, 1914 and was the newer of two sister ships, the older one being the SS North American.


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Along with its sister ship, SS North American carried passengers between Chicago, Mackinac Island, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, Duluth, Georgian Bay, Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo. These were they heydays of the industry. A business man could board a ship in Chicago for an overnight trip to northern Michigan. Spend the weekend with the family in the cool northern cabin in the woods and take the ship back to the city on Sunday night for work on Monday. It was noted that Hemingway’s father did just that early in the 1900’s.


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Only the South American visited Lake Superior, and made a short weekly stop in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula town of Houghton/Hancock. She carried over 450 passengers. The rare picture below hangs in the Rock Harbor lodge on Isle Royal. It shows tourists being dropped off at the American Dock which still stands today. 


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The South American was well known for its High School trips in the 1950’s. Southeast Michigan high school seniors would take a small cruise from Detroit to Chicago. The last season for the South American was in 1967. Her final route was to offer trips to the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal.


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Sadly, both ships are now part of history. The SS North American sunk on the Atlantic coast while being towed and the SS South American rotted away and was finally scraped in 1992. However, with the rapid popularity of cruising now taking place I expect to see more of these small cruising ships ply their way among the Great Lakes.


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