Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of Munising’s and the Upper Peninsula of Michican’s greatest attractions. With 15 miles of cliffs and a length of 42 miles, there is much to do in the park. Hiking along trails and waterfalls, swimming from beautiful pink sand beaches in water so clear and blue it rivals the Caribbean and boating along the cliffs are the main attractions.
When I first heard of Pictured Rocks, it was from someone who had taken a boat tour to see the formations which are best seen from the waters of Lake Superior. But being the adventurer that I am (:0), I didn’t want to just see the rocks, I wanted to experience them! So, I signed us up for a kayak tour, not just an everyday motorboat tour! That’s for old people! After all, we have a kayak. We kayak frequently. The fact that we are Florida kayakers who kayak on flat rivers upstream and then, float down, didn’t occur to me.
Our tour was through Pictured Rocks Kayaks. After a well-rehearsed safety demonstration by the guides, we carried our life jackets and “spray skirts” (rubber suits worn around our waists that clipped onto the kayak openings to keep us dry) to a large cruiser to motor along Lake Superior from Munising to the Pictured Rocks.
Once in place, our boat anchored as our guides launched our kayaks from the boat. That was the first inkling that the trip might have been more than we were prepared for. As the main boat lurched and rolled in the waves, I started to feel a little seasick.
Once in the kayak, Glen and I struggled to get our paddling in synch. As fast as we tried to paddle, the wind and the current pulled us away from the main boat, our guide, Nick, and the rest of our tour group. When we finally headed towards the rocks, Glen and I were in last place, but we relentlessly followed everyone else who seemed to have no problem navigating the high waves. I was terrified and kept asking what I was doing wrong. Glen was in no mood to analyze our *%$# situation that I had gotten us into.
Once near the cliffs, our troubles grew as the waves hit the rocks bouncing us repeatedly back and forth. I desperately tried to take photos leaving Glen to paddle alone. We found some respite when we paddled through the sea caves and the water calmed and drummed along the walls. Then, we were back out in the sea again reminding me of the fate of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Our tour guide kept effortlessly gliding by to check on us. I think even he was worried about the Floridians who did not know how to paddle a kayak.
About three quarters of the way through our two-hour tour, I finally figured out I was digging too deep into the water with my paddle. My efforts, instead of helping, were causing us to stall. It helped that as we turned around Indian Head Point, the wind shifted making the surface of the water smooth. Finally, we could see to the bottom of those deep Caribbean waters. And just as the tour wound down, when I was finally feeling comfortable, it was time to load the kayaks on the boat and head to shore.
Do I want to go back to Pictured Rocks? Absolutely! The cliffs and water are beautiful. We learned so much about the history and ecology of the area from our knowledgeable guide, Nick. Would I do a kayak tour again? Probably not. I’ll leave the kayaks to the young folks. But I’m all for a jet ski or pontoon boat!
(Please note, I am no way intending this as a negative review of Pictured Rocks Kayaking. Their standards for safety are very high and they have operated successfully for many years. We were just in over our heads (pun intended) and could have easily given up and gone back to the boat at any time. We are way too stubborn for that. By all means, if you are physically fit, a kayak tour is a delightful way to experience Pictured Rocks Lakeshore.)