Tag Archives: Great Lakes

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 Lakes Ship Building


I recently ran across a online resource for Great Lakes Shipping enthusiasts.  The Fr. Edward J. Dowling, S.J. Marine Historical Collection offers an ever expanding data set of ships, shipbuilders and ship names that span back to the 1830’s. 


Steamship Alpena

“The collection also contains 52 notebooks filled with more than 70 years worth of compiled data on virtually every steamship (about 10,000) of more than 100 tons that has navigated the Great Lakes. The data includes the years of which the ships were built, their owners, the ships’ dimensions, type of equipment used on them, final disposition and other data. In addition, the collection has details on almost every fleet navigating the Great Lakes.”

Steamship Interior


I became very interested in ship building in the Thumb when I found that Caseville’s Frances Crawford built a schooner the Frank Crawford on the Pigeon River in 1861. See the post Ship Building in Caseville to find out more.  


Steamship Alpena2


Fr. Edward J. Dowling was a noted Great Lakes historian, an associate professor of engineering graphics at the University of Detroit, and a special lecturer in marine travel and commercial shipping on the Great Lakes. He authored Lakers of World, published by the University of Detroit Press in 1967 and numerous journal article on Great Lakes shipping.


Ships depicted are the City of Alpena from the Dowling Collection.

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Transom Charm – What’s In a Name


“The name selected for a boat may not seem like an important thing. But, considering the strong feelings many of us have for our boats; the fact that we put so much work, and sweat and money into them; the fact they are a big part of our memories of so many good times, with family, with friends; the fact that sometimes our very lives are in the safekeeping of our boat; most of us feel that selecting the right name for our boat is important.”- The Frugal Mariner