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Category Archives: Grand Marais Harbor

Our last stop of the day was Grand Marais, Minnesota. After grabbing a bite to eat we headed out to the harbor. We were hoping for a spectacular sunset but it didn’t happen. Never-the-less the weather was warm and it was a calm evening.

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We took some photos of the breakwater. Lake Superior is high right now so areas that were exposed a few years ago are not under water.

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Walking out onto the natural rock breakwater we noticed some names carved in the stone. This one was from 1899.

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The late evening light brought out lichen colors on the rocks.

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This was the sunset looking toward the Sawtooth Mountains.

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As we were walking back to the car we noticed this duck sitting right beside the path. It wasn’t about to move.

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This was a shot looking east from the harbor parking lot.

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Our last stop of the day was in Grand Marais, Minnesota. After a quick dinner we headed down to the harbor for some late afternoon and sunset shots. The sunset was not the best and it was a little early for any boats in the harbor but it was still a nice evening. One thing we did notices is that the lake is really high and many of the shots we used to take on the walk out to the lighthouse are now covered in water.

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As winter arrived I started thinking of places and events that I wanted to photograph this winter. The events and bird photography require a little more planning than the Landscape Photography locations.

Apostle Islands Ice Caves

Without a doubt the top of my list is the Apostle Islands Ice caves. I discovered them in 2007 and have photographed them every year they have been open. When I first started photographing them I was frequently the only person on the ice that day. What a difference social media makes. This past winter well over a hundred thousand people visited the caves in-spite of the bitterly cold winter. Given the temperatures we have been seeing so far this winter I would expect the ice caves will open again in February. If you haven’t been you should make the trip.

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The Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race

The Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race will be taking place on February 7th and 8th. This is really a fun family event and one of the better sled dog races from a viewers point of view. It is possible to get up close to the dogs at the start of the races. Since it is an out and back race you can also stick around and watch the mushers return. They also have different levels of races from professionals to kids.

Off and Racing

Off and Racing

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If you are really lucky, like we were last year, the Apostle Island Ice Caves will be open that weekend. You also may also be able to drive out to Madeline Island on the ice road while you are in the area.

Bond Falls

Although Bond falls is best known as a fall destination for photographers it provides some exceptional photography in the winter. There are not many waterfalls that are all that interesting to photograph in the winter. Bond Falls in the U.P. of Michigan is an exception. Most waterfalls in the Upper-Midwest are frozen in the winter. If there has been fresh snow they look like all of the other scenery. Bond falls is just below a dam it has water flowing all winter regardless of how cold it is. The flowing water combined with some interesting ice formations makes this one of my favorite winter photography locations.

Bond Falls

Bond Falls

Ice Bond Falls

Ice Bond Falls

Mississippi River

During the winter we make a number of trips over to the Mississippi River looking for eagles. Our first stop is usually Alma, Wisconsin where eagles hang out around the lock and dam. The National Eagle Center provides a weekly report of eagles seen along this section of the Mississippi River. They also provide eagle watching tours.

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We then drive north to Reads Landing, Minnesota. We commonly see 30+ eagles in front of the Reads Landing Brewing Company. You can stop in the Brewery and watch the eagles in comfort while having lunch.

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Our last stop is usually  in Colvill Park  Redwing, Minnesota where the eagles hang out near the open water below the power plant. The catch to watching eagles in the winter is the best time to find them gathered in large numbers is when there is a bitterly cold stretch of weather. This causes the Mississippi to freeze up and reduces access to open water.

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Canadian Hill Farm

I can usually find something to photograph on the farm during the winter but most of my time is spent photographing birds during snow storms. There is nothing like hunkering down in the house with a roaring fire in the fireplace while sitting in my rocking chair and photographing birds.

Northern Cardinal male

Northern Cardinal male

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Hudson, Wisconsin

Hudson is a great place to watch Trumpeter Swans during the winter. With the successful reintroduction of Trumpeter Swans into the Midwest watching and photographing them has become a year around event. Trumpeter Swans don’t migrate in the winter they just move to the nearest open water. There is a small patch of open water in Hudson where they congregate in large numbers during the winter months. It is easy to get up close and photograph them.

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Hudson is also where the Hudson Hot Air Affair is held every February. This is one of the few hot air balloon rallies in the area. It is well worth the trip to watch the inflation and flight of the balloons.

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Amnicon Falls

Amnicon Falls State Park is a favorite stopping point during the winter. Although in very cold weather the Amnicon River usually freezes there are times when I can find open water. The tannin tainted water car result in some colorful photos.

Amnicon Falls

Amnicon Falls

Horton Covered Bridge

Horton Covered Bridge

Red Cedar State Trail

In the winter most of the Red Cedar State Trail is a cross country ski trail so in order to photograph it you have to be willing to cross country ski. There are some beautiful ice walls along the trail at the 1.5 mile mark. These are the result of water seepage through limestone rock.

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On cold days the trees along the trail can be covered in heavy frost.

Frost

Frost

The southern portion of the trail is a walking trail in the winter and on a sunny day I like to photograph the Dunnville Stone in the late afternoon light.

Dunnville Sandstone

Dunnville Sandstone

Grand Marais, Minnesota

I like to make the trip to Grand Marais at least once every winter. I’m never quite sure what I’ll find. On one trip there were high waves washing over the breakwater and lighthouses.

West Breakwater Light

West Breakwater Light

At other times I love to take intimate shots of the ice formations that are formed when the water washes over the breakwater and then freezes into beautiful patterns.

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Devil’s Punchbowl

I like to photograph at Devil’s Punchbowl near Menomonie, Wisconsin in the winter. Water seeping through limestone rocks creates a massive ice wall in the bowl. There are also opportunities to photograph objects frozen in the ice.

Devil's Punchbowl

Devil’s Punchbowl

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I just received word that my landscape photo, Surfs Up, was awarded first place in the Northern Wilds Photo Contest. This photo was taken several years ago in early January. My wife and I drove up to Grand Marais, Minnesota to watch a sled dog race. As we neared Grand Marais we noticed large waves on the lake. When we reached Grand Marais we drove out to the harbor to watch the waves pound Artists Point and the Lighthouses. The wind was so strong that it was difficult to even stand-up to photograph the waves.

East Breakwater Light

East Breakwater Light

More photos from the day can be found on my website.

When I visit Grand Marais, Minnesota I always make it a point to visit Artists Point and the harbor area at sunrise. These are a few shots from my last visit.

Grand Marais Harbor

Grand Marais Harbor

Grand Marais lighthouses

Grand Marais lighthouses

Sunrise at Artists Point

Sunrise at Artists Point

On our trips to the Minnesota North Shore we usually plan to end our day in Grand Marais. This allows me to spend time in the evening photographing the Sunset. It was a cloudy day so there wasn’t much of a sunset but there was some nice light on the Coast Guard Station late in the day.

Coast Guard Station

Coast Guard Station

Grand Marais Harbor

Grand Marais Harbor

We drove up to Grand Marais Harbor last week. This is really a two day trip from Duluth if you want to stop along the way but we did it in one day. Normally we drive to Grand Marais and stay then drive up to the Canadian Border the next day before returning to Duluth. This gives us plenty of time to make stops along the way.Grand-Marais-Lighthouses-14-2-_1014

I had hoped to get some nice intimate ice photos on the rocks outside the breakwater but there was just too much ice this time. This was a shot taken several years ago.Ice-Patterns-Grand-Marais-Harbor-12-2-_0329

The walkway on the breakwater was solid ice so we walked on the frozen water part of the way out before giving up. A snow squall started while we were out on the breakwater and the wind was blowing.West-Breakwater-Light-Grand-Marais-Harbor14-3-_1371

When we left Grand Marais little did we realize that our adventure was just beginning. This is the time of year that the deer come out of the hills and gather along highway 61. A few years ago we counted several hundred between Grand Marais and Duluth. On the way up we only saw a few dead ones.Grand-Marais-Breakwater-14-3-_1364

Just out of Grand Marais we saw a car just ahead of us hit a deer. The driver was ok. The deer was still alive and the car was totaled. We saw where another car hit a deer a short time later. The driver was checking out the front of the car and the dead deer was a little ways behind the car.

Unfortunately deer weren’t the only problem. Highway 61 has passing lanes every so far and we had pulled into the right lane. As the lane ended we pulled back into the main lane. Just then we saw a herd of deer in the road so my wife started pumping her breaks to alert the car behind us. Rather than slowing down he sped up so he sped up and drove on the right shoulder to pass us. Fortunately he missed the deer.

Before we got back to Duluth we had one more exciting moment. We were going slower than normal because all of the problem along the road when a van passed us on the left and at the same time a car passed us on the right shoulder. We were very happy to make it back home.

This past week we headed up to Grand Marais, Minnesota to watch the Gichigami Express Sled Dog Race. When we reach Grand Marais we found some spectacular waves in harbor. There were strong winds out of the south east pounding the breakwater creating waves higher than the lighthouses. I’ve never seen anything like in on Lake Superior. We were really lucky to experience the event.

 Our first stop was the East Breakwater where we were able to get some great shots of the waves hitting the East Breakwater. This also provided a good spot to capture the West Breakwater Light. 

West Breakwater Light

West Breakwater Light

East Breakwater Light

East Breakwater Light

East Breakwater

East Breakwater

 

We then moved on to the West Breakwater. Normally you can walk out to the West Breakwater Light but the waves were pouring over the breakwater. We walked out to Artist Point in order to capture the pounding Surf.

East Breakwater Light

East Breakwater Light

West Breakwater

West Breakwater

Flag at Coast Guard Station

Flag at Coast Guard Station

At sunset the surf was still strong so we drove out to the West Breakwater to capture some sunset photos.

Breakwater Lights at Sunset

Breakwater Lights at Sunset

Breakwater Lights at Sunset

Breakwater Lights at Sunset

East Breakwater Light

East Breakwater Light

This week our trip of the fall was a little more extensive. Our destination was Munising, Michigan. Our drive took us through central Wisconsin on highway 29. There were spots of color and some nice color around Shawano, Wisconsin. From there we headed north to Escanaba, Michigan. There wasn’t a lot of color on this portion on the trip. We then headed north on highway 2 . The objective was to catch highway H13 through Hiawatha National forest into Wetmore, Michigan. Although the first day was a little disappointing things picked up on subsequent days.

I wanted to check out the colors in Hiawatha National Forest and see where the good color was for the next morning. Our first stop was at Pete’s Lake. As you can see the color was not at its peak but it looked like a possibility. However, I was very disappointed to see that they had logged in the park. Many of the beautiful trees that I loved to photograph had been cut down.

Pete’s Lake

We then stopped at Moccasin, Thornton, and Big Twin Lakes on the way into Wetmore. I was again very disappointed because the lakes were extremely low with lots of weeds and other debris showing. The colors were not up to previous years. Many of the birch were just turning brown rather than turning a bright yellow. By the end of the lake visits I decided than it was not worth a sunrise visit because I already had better photos of these lakes. This shot was from several years ago.

Thornton Lake

After checking into our motel and having a bite to eat we headed out to my favorite sunset location at Miners Beach in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. About halfway to the beach we encountered road construction. The highway department had applied tar to one side of the road so traffic was one way. Normally in Wisconsin we apply tar with a pea gravel coating but apparently Michigan just uses tar. It wasn’t drying right so they were having to direct traffic on to a single lane. We continued on to Miners Beach. Elliott Falls was but a trickle and there was not a lot of color. The sunset wasn’t much but I took a few shots. We decided to leave early because of the road construction. The tar was still wet and they were still directing traffic after dark so I didn’t get any tar on the car.

Miners Beach

Given the lack of really good color around Munising we decided to drive over to Seney National Wildlife Area. On the way over there was fog in the low areas so I thought it might be interesting in Seney. I was right. There was a fog over most of the ponds. If you ever wondered how many spiders were around you got a good idea on this day. The heavy dew covered the spider webs and there were literally thousands of them glistening in the sun. Even many of the trees were covered in spider webs. Seney provided some great photography opportunities with the early morning fog. We also saw quite a few Trumpeter Swans, hawks, ducks and even a Blue Heron.

Trumpeter Swans

We then headed down highway 77 toward Grand Marais, Michigan with our eventual destination Au Sable Light Station. The trees along Highway 77 had some good color. In Grand Marais we checked out the work being done in the harbor. It is undergoing a major 30 million dollar renovation. They are in the process of dredging and rebuilding a  massive breakwater in the harbor. The new rock breakwater can be seen on the right.

Grand Marais Harbor

We headed out to Pictured Rocks with our first stop was the ranger station. As we drove into the parking lot we noticed a truck with a stunning photo on the door and Petersen Photography below it. When we went into the station Paul Peterson was talking with the rangers. Petersen was an Artist in Residence at Pictured Rocks.  Check out his website for some great photos. When we drove through Grand Marais we noticed a sign for the Lake Superior Brewing Company. My wife ask how the food was and it was given rave reviews for the food and beer. We decided it would be worth a visit later in the day.

Au Sable Point Lighthouse

We drove on to the Hurricane River where the trail to Au Sable Light Station starts. We don’t walk the trail because walking the beach is much more interesting. The 1.5 mile walk is along a combination of beach and rocks. Depending upon the water levels and wave action you should have no problem hiking along the beach. Along the way there are a number of old ship wrecks that can be found. The first is not far from the Hurricane River parking lot and the others are just before the Light Station. This year the lake appeared to be low and the wrecks were more exposed than I had seen them in the past. It was a beautiful day for a walk and photography.

Ship Wreck

After the hike we decided to drive back to Grand Marais and have an early dinner at the Lake Superior Brewing Company. It was well worth the drive back to Grand Marais. The food and beer were as advertised with a nice variety of both. The only problem I had was there was too much food. I’ve been trying to lose a little weight and having a half pound olive hamburger with fries didn’t help.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Beach

After dinner we decided to drive back along highway H58 to Grand Marais. The colors were outstanding with the late evening backlighting. I suspect they will reach their peak around the first weekend in October. On the drive back we stopped at Kingston Plains in the Lake Superior State Forest to take a few photos. This area was repeatedly burned off during the logging era. It is speculated that the fires were so hot that it virtually sterilized the earth. Trees are growing now but it has been a long process of regeneration.

Kingston Plains

We expected to reach the Munising area around sunset and normally would have stopped at Miners Beach but decided that they were probably still working on the road and I didn’t want to risk getting my car covered with tar. Our second choice for sunset photos was Sand Point in Munising. As we drove past Munising Falls I noticed that the parking lot had recently been tarred. This should have raised some red flags but it didn’t. After a couple of miles we could see that they had traffic control setup and had tarred one side of the road. We decided to head back to the motel. Too bad because it looked like a nice sunset. This photo was taken at an earlier sunset.

Sand Point Sunset

On day three we planned to take the short drive over to Marquette, Michigan. We have never stayed in Marquette and wanted to check out the photography opportunities for a future visit. We stopped at Au train Falls and Laughing Whitefish Falls along the way. Laughing Whitefish Falls was outstanding in terms of fall color but there was not a lot of water going over the falls. The fall colors on the drive to Marquette were good and probably will peak the first weekend in October.

Laughing Whitefish Falls

Our first stop in Marquette was the visitors center. It was well worth the stop. The individual who helped us was one of the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic that I’ve ever met in a visitors center. He gave us all kinds of tips on where to go and what the fall colors would be like. So many tips that it would take a long weekend to take it all in. Since this was a reconnaissance mission we are now well informed for a for a much longer visit in the future.

Marquette Harbor Lighthouse

We drove out along Lakeshore Boulevard to check out the sites along the Marquette waterfront. It was a beautiful day for sightseeing and photography. The highlights of the waterfront were the ore docks and the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse. This looks like a great place for some sunrise photography.

Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railroad ore dock

We drove out of town to  Presque Isle Park and drove the loop. This is going to be well worth a longer visit. There is a location to take sunset photographs and that’s on our list for next time.

Presque Isle Park

We decided to head up to Big Bay which is about 30 miles up the coast. The visitors center recommended a number of stops along the way and we had already noted some nice hiking trails to waterfalls. One of the recommended stops along the way was Sugarloaf Mountain. When we arrived the parking lot was full and there were cars parked all along the road. This was definitely a hot spot on a beautiful fall day. The trail to the top was well developed and nice sturdy steps had been constructed. I heard someone say that there were 182 steps but I didn’t count them. We later found out there are 304 wooden steps. The view from the top was an outstanding 360 degree view and well worth the hike. As you can see the fall colors were nice but they should really be good the first weekend in October.

Sugarloaf Mountain

We drove on to Big Bay and decided to drive out to the Big Bay Lighthouse. The Lighthouse is now a bed and breakfast but the grounds are open to the public from 10am to 4pm. We made it with 15 minutes to spare. What a beautiful location to enjoy the serenity of Lake superior. We then headed back to Marquette and after a late dinner called it a day.

Big Bay Lighthouse

On day four we headed down toward Bruce Crossing, Michigan. Our main destination for the day was Bond Falls. The colors were nice all the way to Bond Falls although there was quite a bit of fog along the first part of the trip. I told my wife we had to more it along because it would be crowded at the falls. She didn’t think very many people would be out on a Sunday morning. I thought there would and the bet was that we would see more than 30 people. Looser buys the ice cream.

Bond Falls

As it turned out I was right there were more than 30 people at the falls but not as many as I expected and I only saw three other serious photographers. I’ve made many visits to Bond Falls but this is the first time I’ve been able to visit at the peak of fall colors. Bond Falls is probably the most photographed waterfall in Michigan and for good reason. There is a lot to photograph and since the falls is below a dam the water levels are good even during this year’s drought.

Bond Falls Z

We then headed home after a very successful trip. The colors are nearing their peak all over northern Wisconsin and the U.P.

I happened to find the fascinating would of Grand Marais Harbor ice patterns by accident. A number of years ago my wife and I took a group of kids up to Lutsen Mountain skiing. We had planned to do some cross country skiing while the kids downhill skied at Lutsen. Unfortunately it rained all the way up the North Shore. The next morning it turned colder. Downhill skiing was really fast but the cross country trails were a mess.

My wife and I decided to drive up the North Shore to Grand Marais to do a little shopping and look around the harbor. The Ben Franklin store in Grand Marais is not to be missed. They have everything you will need to survive in the north woods.

The Grand Marais Harbor breakwater is a cement structure built on top of a natural rock formation. Outside the breakwater there is a considerable area of exposed rock. As we walked along the breakwater we noticed that when heavy waves washed over the exposed rock water had been trapped in large cracks and small depressions. It then froze creating some fascinating ice patterns. We spend a good part of a very cold afternoon walking around the rocks looking at ice patterns.

We have since returned to Grand Marais a number of times to look for and photograph the ice patterns.

You can find more ice pattern photographs on my website. Since photos are arranged in chronological order you will need to page through the photos to find the older ice pattern photos.