Newberry – first stop in the Upper Peninsula!

We left Petoskey RV Resort on Thursday August 19 at 10:30 with Acey’s mileage at 76,347.1 and Thor had 91,039 miles. We soon came to the Mackinac Bridge that connects the Lower peninsula to the Upper. Just about anything you want to know about this awesome bridge can be found here!

We arrived at Kritters Northcountry Camprground in Newberry, MI at about 1:30. While JIm set up, Linda made lunch. We have 30 amp service and no sewer – but we are close to the things we want to see in the eastern UP; the shpwreck museum, the Soo Locks and Tahquamenon Falls.

Friday we packed up lunch and headed to Whitefish Point to visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. It seems an appropriate place for the museum; the area is known as Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast since nearly 200 shipwrecks have been documented in the vicinity.

As is typical of a museum, there was a LOT of reading and visual displays. Lake Superior was discovered in 1621. (Of course this does not take into account the Indians that were already established there)

The very first shipwreck documented on Lake Superior was, ironically, a schooner named INVINCIBLE.

It seems winds and storms, particularly in November, were the cause of many shipwrecks, as was the case for the INVINCIBLE

The exact date was hard to determine – but it was in November of 1816 that the INVINCIBLE was lost.

The INDEPENDENCE had an interesting story

A totally different fate claimed the demise of the INDEPENDENCE

“The first steamer to sail Lake Superior became the first steamer to be destroyed on Superior.”

This diving apparatus looks to be similar to what was used in the movie MEN OF HONOR – a great movie!

We were surprised to learn that collisions were a major cause of many a shipwreck; generally only one of the ships would sink, as was the case of the SAMUEL MATHER

Behind the model is an artist’s portrayal of the sunken ship.

Here is a photo of the MYRON from Wikipedia and you can read more at that link

There was an exhibit about the Daniel J. Morrell that wrecked in Lake Huron in 1966 that had only one survivor; we did not get any photos of it, but Wikipedia to the rescue! Read about it here!

By far, the largest display at the museum focused on the Edmund Fitzgerald. Of course the Gordon Lightfoot ballad (which played several times while we were in the museum) has made the story of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald familiar to most of us!

Here is a model of the Edmund Fitzgerald – the yellow suit behind is an atmospheric diving suit that can be used for very deep dives – up to 2,300 feet! (Read about it here!)

This artist rendering of the wreck shows the ship in two pieces — it was the only wreck that we saw that showed the ship in 2 parts.

Lifeboat Artifacts from the Edmund Fitzgerald


Another focus of the museum was lighthouses – they have certainly undergone many transformations over time and now the “classic lighthouse” is nearly irrevelant with modern technologiy.

Fourth Order Fresnel Lens from the Gull Island Lighthouse-Northern Lake Michigan

You can read more about the museum here.

After visiting the museum, we walked down to the beach and watched a freighter come around Whitefish Point and across the horizon we could just barely make out Canada.

Using a marine app on our phone, we discovered the freighter was the MESABI MINER

There was a memorial to the Edmund Fitzgerald crew on near the beach. 29 bells.

We were able to tour the Keeper’s house, built in 1861, replacing the original lighthouse built here in 1849. This was home for the keeper and assistant keeper and their families. There was an enclosed walkway to enter the lighthouse which would be particularly useful in the frigid winters here. In 1996, the house was restored to 1920-era condition. We could not enter the lighthouse – COVID!

After that, we went to visit Tahquamnon Falls. Its brownish color is due to the presence of tannic acid, a natural substance found in decomposing vegetation; mostly from eastern hemlock. The Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi with a height of 50 feet, length of 200 feet and a maximum recorded flow of 52,228 gallons per second!

We walked down the 94 steps to the brink of the Upper Falls.

Back up the stairs we went to look at the falls from another viewpoint

And another stairway led down to the gorge


Saturday we drove over to Sault Sainte Marie to see the Soo Locks. When we first arrived, the locks were empty – and the bridge to Canada did not have any traffic on it either.

The locks use gravity – not pumps – to move water between elevations; raising and lowering boats and ships.

Only 2 of the 4 locks are currently in operation on the US side – the MacArthur Lock was the one closest to us – the longer lock next to it is the Poe Lock. If the vessel can fit in the MacArthur Lock (800 feet long, 80 feet wide, and 29.5 feet deep), that is the one they use; only the longer ships use the Poe. (1,200 feet long, 110 feet wide, and 32 feet deep) There is a third lock in operation on the Canadian side. it measures 253 feet long, 51 feet wide and 44 feet deep.The Canadian lock is used for recreational and tour boats; major shipping traffic uses the U.S. locks. We soon saw a freighter approaching upriver, so we would be able to see the whole process of a ship going through the locks!

Looking back upriver, the MacArthur Lock was full now and a tour boat was approaching, and the swing arm came down.

After the boat was tied up, the lock’s gates closed upriver.

As the water level fell in front of us, we could see the freighter was entering the Poe Lock.

Notice the dark wall above the water line – compare it to the above photo.

We could see the name of the freighter – the HON. JAMES L. OBERSTAR. According to an App Jim found, she was heading to Marquette – most likely to pick up some iron ore.

The MacArthur lock was emptied and the tour boat headed downriver.

The stern of the OBERSTAR was across from us – and the lock was starting to fill, lifting the huge freighter.

It will take a while to raise the water in the Poe lock for the OBERSTAR to go upriver.

Watching the action in the MacArthur lock, 5 small boats and a tour boat were making their way in to go upriver

Finally, the OBERSTAR was lifted and ready to leave the lock

The OBERSTAR was SO LONG (807 feet) – it was hard to get a photo of the whole ship! You can see the MacArthur Lock is now full…

Everybody out!!

That was really interesting to watch – and the admission was FREE — thanks to the fee the freighters pay!

After we visited the locks, we stopped in Brimley to visit with Bill – we had been in a small group with him for many years but had not been in contact recently. It was great to catch up!

Bill’s Grandfather had bought some land along the St. Mary’s River and his father built a house that the family has used for many years – in the summer. What a lovely view!

Sunday morning we worshipped with Stevens Valley Church – we watched last week’s service – they are no longer broadcasting LIVE on You Tube, but post the service on Sunday afternoon, so we figured it would be good to see the service from the previous week, then Zoom with our Sunday School class afterwards. So, after we Zoomed, we made lunch and went to see some bears! We had seen the lower falls when we were here in 2009, but missed the bear ranch.

Oswald’s Bear Ranch was not far from our campground. Quoting from their brochure; “41 bears running free” “We have raised bears here since 1984 and opened o the public in 1997. We rescue bear cubs from all over the U.S.A. Once here, each bear will live its life here. The average bear lifetime is 25-30 years. Presently we have five natural habitats with trees, fresh running water to swim in and drink pools. This is an entirely family-run operation helping to keep the cost of admittance and souvenirs affordable for family entertainment… A ‘BEARY’ fun time!!”

The bears are enclosed in double walled fences (right corner) and an elevated platform so we could look down on the bears. Males and females are in different areas, the yearlings are together.

One area had “photo holes” in the fence and hot wires to keep the bears back – gave for a great photo op!

They had educational signs on the fences

Some homemade signs were also informative.

This 12 acre lake provides water for the ranch.

This enclosure had a waterfall by a swimming hole.

We did have a “beary” fun time at Oswald’s Bear Ranch!

We made pizza for dinner and had a long Zoom time with the family – we had a full screen as everyone was on this evening!

Tomorrow we head to Copper Harbor for a few days. It’s at the tip of the “dog ear’ of the UP of Michigan.


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