Eastern Region Viewing Area

LOCATION and PHOTOS

Map of the Grand Island NRA.
West Unit of the Hiawatha National Forest. The Grand Island NRA is located in Lake Superior, one half mile from the mainland community of Munising, Michigan.

Asclepias incarnata.
Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is both very fragrant and beautiful! Swamp milkweed and brushfoot as well as butterflies like tiger swallowtail are found throughout July at Echo Lake and Echo creek on the Island. Photo by Deb Le Blanc.

Male monarch butterfly resting on an Island cedar bough.
Male monarch butterfly resting on an Island cedar bough. In 2012, nearly 4,000 native cedar seedlings were transplanted on Grand Island to restore this important tree species back into its native landscape. Photo by Deb Le Blanc.

Grand Island’s farm field summer 2008 before restoration planting.
Just one mile from the main portal to the Grand Island NRA, visitors to the Island can experience nearly 5 acres of ongoing native plant restoration at the "old farm field". Throughout late June into early August thousands of native wildflowers are in peak bloom. Photo by Deb Le Blanc.

Grand Island National Recreation Area (NRA)

Forest: Hiawatha National Forest

District: Munising Ranger District

Description: A visit to Grand Island means a visit to a place rich in scenic beauty, natural history and heritage. Visitors standing atop one of the island's shoreline cliffs, or digging their toes into the sand at Trout Bay beach or viewing the native flora along the many miles of walking/hiking and mountain biking trails it is no question why Grand Island was as attractive to early Native American Indians and European explorers as it is to us today. Grand Island is a congressionally designated National Recreation Area (NRA). The Island's massive 300-foot high sandstone cliffs shaped by centuries of climate influences, lush forests, and white sand beaches comprise approximately 13,500 acres surrounded by the largest fresh water lake: Superior.

The Grand Island NRA is comprised of unique ecological features such as the "tombolo" and rugged cliffs of Jacobsville and Munising sandstone. It hosts numerous Michigan native plant communities such as Great Lakes shoreline, Great Lakes marsh, dune and swale, Trout Bay's "tombolo" within ancient small dunes and swales with dry northern forest, rich mesic northern forests, dry-mesic forests, rich and poor conifer swamps, streams and lakes, small waterfalls, seeps and intermittent creek drainages with deep ravines lined with sandstone from the ancient shorelines. Grand Island's diverse flora provides visitors the opportunity to view boreal species, southern species and western disjuncts. The dry mesic forests at the south end of the Island is dominated by massive northern red oaks (Quercus rubra), while the center of the Island is dominated by sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and at the far north end of the Island you will find the most northern population of American beech (Fagus grandifolia).

Wildflower Viewing: From late April through September, numerous wildflowers can be seen in their natural Island settings. Spring ephemerals are at peak from late April into May and in some years even early June! In the center of the Island, a sugar maple overstory protects the forest floor layer. Here, you will find it carpeted with dense populations of spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) and C. caroliniana ) with pockets of toothwort (Dentaria laciniata), Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis), wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) and leeks (Allium tricoccum). A variety of ferns are common features as well in this habitat including maidenhair (Adiantum pedatum), royal (Osmunda regalis), Cinnamon (Osmunda cinnamomea), interrupted (Osmunda claytoniana). The sandstone cliffs provide habitat for an uncommon fern- slender cliff brake (Cryptogramma stelleri) and rare butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris). North beach harbors the rare grass American dune grass (Leymus mollis) found on the small sand dune formations shaped by Lake Superior's strong storms over the years. At Trout Bay's Tombolo from early June to July beneath massive fire scared red and white pine you will see an assemblage of dry northern forest flora including the beautiful pink lady slipper (Cypripedium acaule), trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens), pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) and the unique flower Native American's refer to as the ghost flower- Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora). At Williams Landing in July you can forage on wild berries as you begin your hike or biking experience. There you will find wild red and black berry (Rubus idaeus & R. allegheniensis) and a real treat in thimbleberry (Rubus occidentalis). In autumn the Island's forests is dominated by warm, rich colors often best described as a natural kaleidoscope of hues. Fall wildflowers great Island visitors into October and to name a few include smooth aster (Aster laevis), large-leaved aster (Aster macrophyllus), Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis), false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) and wild lettuce (Lactuca canadensis).

Since 2006, over 500,000 native wildflowers and grasses were re-introduced back into the Island's landscape. At the old farm field, nearly 225,000 native wildflowers were transplanted into a degraded weed infested opening. It provides today an opportunity for visitors to view not only a suite of native wildflowers and shrubs, but also numerous species of pollinators, large and small mammals, songbirds, raptors, amphibians and reptiles all living in their natural environment. Interpretive signs and walkways through the restoration allow the visitor an opportunity walk throughout the restoration plantings. To achieve this restoration, native seed was first harvested from the Island then grown at the Forest greenhouse. Since 2006, hundreds of volunteers helped in all the restoration plantings. The old farm field is a Watchable Wildlife viewing station.

Safety First: Be prepared in spring, summer and autumn for rapid changes in weather as thunderstorms develop quickly off Lake Superior. Bring appropriate clothing for the changing weather conditions. Water is available on the Island but it is recommended you bring enough water for 1 to 2 hours of hiking and you can refill at wells located at Williams Landing, Murray Bay and Juniper Flats. Remember to bring plenty of insect repellant as the Island's lush vegetation is not the only thing influenced by this unique Island ecosystem. Various insects are common throughout spring and summer season. The Island provides Great Lake beach areas where you can dig your toes into the sand and enjoy Lake Superior's splendor- remember to use sunscreen. Poison ivy is present along some portions of the Island's road system at the south end, just remember "leaves of three let it be".

Directions: Grand Island NRA is approximately 1/2 mile off the mainland community of Munising, Michigan in Central Upper Peninsula of Michigan. From Munising proceed west on M-28 towards Christmas, Michigan, along the southern shores of Lake Superior to the intersection of Powell Point Road and M-28, approximately 0.25 miles west of the Holiday Inn Hotel. Turn right (north) on Powell Point Road (at the Welcome sign for Grand Island NRA) and proceed down to the Ferry Service parking lot at Powell Point. You may travel by Ferry to Grand Island NRA or you may use your own watercraft to access the island it lies approximately 1/2 mile from Powell Point. To access the island, you will cross "Grand Island channel" to Williams Landing at the southern tip of the Island. At Williams Landing is an interpretive site and visitor center providing additional information.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Hiawatha National Forest, Munising Ranger District.

Closest Town: Munising, Michigan.