A Legacy Preserved

The National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
“Elliot Falls Under the Stars”
“Elliot Falls Under the Stars” | Elliot Falls is by no means large, but it has captivated the imaginations of photographers and visitors for decades. Located at the end of Miners Beach at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, its waters spill timelessly over 500-million-year-old sandstone ledges into Lake Superior. Photography by Neil Weaver

Michigan national parks and lakeshores are among the nation’s natural treasures, the best of wild and historic places. Each is a destination of majesty and wonder — a legacy preserved for future generations by the U.S. Congress.

America’s guardian for these special places is the National Park Service, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Housed in the U.S. Department of Interior, the federal agency was created to provide uniform oversight for the country’s natural and historic heritage. It bears responsibility for protecting those sites while providing an opportunity for millions of visitors to enjoy them every year.

Copper Was King
Copper Was King | The Calumet and Helca Mining Company pattern storage warehouse, found in Calumet, a part of the Keweenaw National Historical Park, was a repository for thousands of patterns that were used to make tools and parts for workers employed by the copper mining company. Photography by Dan Johnson

The late Stephen Mather, a wealthy industrialist and naturalist, spearheaded the campaign to create the National Park Service a century ago, ending more than 40 years of independent management by states and/or federal agencies, like the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture and War Department.

Mather became the first National Park Service director. President Woodrow Wilson signed the enabling legislation, The National Park Service Organic Act, in 1916. It was landmark law that would task the NPS with conserving public-owned parks to retain their ecological integrity, scenery, history and wildlife so they remain “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

The Longest Trail
The Longest Trail | A hiker enjoys a fall walk on a Michigan segment of the North Country National Scenic Trail, the longest hiking trail in the United States. It stretches 4,600 miles through seven states, from North Dakota to New York, including Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Photography by John Pottenger, Coastline Studios

Today, the National Park Service administers 59 national parks, four national lakeshores, 10 national seashores and 50 national historical parks, along with national scenic trails and other historical properties.

Michigan is home to seven: Pictured Rocks and Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshores, Isle Royale National Park, the North Country National Scenic Trail, Keweenaw National Historical Park, and the Motor Cities National Heritage Area in Detroit along with River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe.

In this issue of BLUE we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service with photographs that capture the wonder found in Michigan’s national parks and the spirit of adventure enjoyed by those who visit them.

Warm Evening Light
Warm Evening Light | Dramatic sea caves, natural stone arches and colorful 200-foot-high cliffs are among the unique features found at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the nation’s first national lakeshore designated by the U.S. Congress in 1966. Photography by John McCormick

“Sea caves, arches, blowholes, turrets, stone spires and other features have been sculpted from these cliffs over the centuries by unceasing waves and weather.”
— National Park Service

Life on the Land
Life on the Land | Built in the 1880’s and 1890’s, the D.H. Day Farm with its big barn and outbuildings, stands as a historic landmark just south of Glen Haven in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photography by Mark S. Carlson
Fall’s Embrace
Fall’s Embrace | A covered bridge is found in the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore along scenic Pierce Stocking Drive. The original was constructed in the 1960s, but porcupines eventually made a mess of its siding. It was reconstructed in 1986. Visitors can drive, walk or ride their bikes along the drive and through the bridge. Photography by Neil Weaver
Sands of Time
Sands of Time | Miles of sand with towering 450-foot bluffs stretch forever along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Many visitors attempt the popular Dune Climb. Getting down to Lake Michigan’s shoreline is one thing. Getting back up to the top is another. Photography by Tom Haxby
Wild Explorations
Wild Explorations | Kayakers visiting Isle Royale National Park often enjoy paddling its ancient, rocky shoreline, or its protected bays and narrow fjords where the power of Lake Superior winds and waves are diminished. The 45-mile-long wilderness island in northwest Lake Superior was established as a national park on April 3, 1940. Photography by Aaron Peterson
Nature at Work
Nature at Work | More than 1,000 moose live on Isle Royale, an expanded population that developed once small groups of moose wandered across the ice from the Canadian mainland in the early 1900s. Moose shed their antlers after the mating season to conserve energy and grow a new set in the spring. Photography by Mark S. Carlson

Designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980, Isle Royale National Park is a wild and remote 45-mile-long island in Lake Superior where wolf and moose make their home. It is a national treasure loved by legions of hearty hikers, boaters, backpackers and kayakers every year.

Award-winning writer and BLUE Undercurrents columnist Howard Meyerson lives in Grand Rapids.

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