South Manitou Island is located in Lake Michigan. It is approximately 15 miles west of Leland, MI. It’s land mass is just over 8 square miles and is nearly 3.6 miles long and 3.3 miles wide in the longest and widest parts of the island. South Manitou Island is part of a chain of islands that extends north to the Straits of Mackinac. The island consists of a ridge of tilted layers of limestone, buried under a blanket of glacial debris. When the Lake Michigan water basin filled with water, the peaks of the ridge remained exposed as islands forming the Manitou Islands.
South Manitou Island was created when the last glacier covered a good part of North America 10,000 – 100,000 years ago. This glacier is known as the Wisconsin Glacier. The Wisconsin Glacier reached north from the St. Lawrence watershed, west into the Mississippi watershed, east to New England, but stopped short of the Ohio River to the south. The advancing ice was channeled into the lowlands now occupied by The Great Lakes, Green Bay, and the Fox River. This advancing ice is referred to as a lobe. The way in which these lobes where shaped were due to highly resistant bedrock. As a result the ice would move in the path of least resistance. There were 6 major lobes of the Wisconsin Glacier. They include Langlade Lobe, Green Bay Lobe, Lake Michigan Lobe, Ontario Lobe, and the Saginaw, and Huron-Erie Lobes. South Manitou Island was formed as a result of the Lake Michigan lobe of the Wisconsin Glacier moving through the Lake Michigan basin.
According to Native American mythology, perhaps a legend created in more recent times, the traditional version of the Chippewa legend goes that long ago the mother bear, Mishe Mokwa, and her two cubs sought to cross Lake Michigan from the Wisconsin shore to escape a great forest fire. The mother bear made it across, but her twin cubs played and splashed instead of swimming hard to make it across. They drowned in the lake, forming the two Manitou islands. The Great Spirit, Manitou, marked the mother bear’s resting place -The Sleeping Bear Dunes and raised North and South Manitou Islands as the place where the cubs perished. The mother bear lies and waits forever for her cubs to reach the shore.
In the mid 19th century the island was inhibited by European immigrants. The US Lighthouse Service also established a permanent settlement as well. In 1915 the U.S. Life-Saving Service became part of the U.S. Coast Guard. The US Life-Saving Service / US Coast Guard maintained the lighthouse from 1871 to 1958 which stands over 100 feet tall. That lighthouse is visible from the mainland. Most island inhabitants farmed and would sell extra crops, produce, ice, and wood to passing ships (in that day – steam ships). Between the Manitou Islands and the shore of the mainland is what is referred to as the Manitou Passage where ships heading both north and south bound travel. South Manitou Island also was the only natural harbor for 220 miles along the Michigan shore and was a convenient and safe location for ships traveling between Chicago and the Straits of Mackinac. Many ships would weather storms in it’s harbor. There are no longer any active farms on the island – but original buildings, barns, old machinery, and a cemetery are the only remaining evidence of the island’s history.
Today, South Manitou is enjoyed as part of the National Sleeping Bear Dunes. Visitors typically are ferried to the island by the Manitou Island Transit Company which docks at the island once per day during the main tourist season and every few days during the off season. Many hikers and back-packers alike hike this island for the peace and solidarity that this remote wilderness island offers. There are also motorized tours of the island available. The former US Coast Guard station is now the island’s ranger station and is closed to the public. There are over 50 found ship wrecks and over 100 unfound wreck locations in the Manitou Passage. There are, however, protected by state and federal law. One of the most famous ship wrecks in the Manitou Passage occurred on November 29, 1960 when the Fransisco Morazen ran around in 20 foot of water. The ship and it’s superstructure are visible from the shore and is a popular destination for underwater diving. One interesting fact is on the southwest corner of the island there is a grove of large white cedar trees. One of the fallen trees showed 528 growth rings, dating its existence to pre-Columbus. Another fallen cedar was estimated to have over 900 rings!
To Log This Cache:
1. Post a picture of you (your face must be clearly visible) at your favorite spot on the island as part of your log. Additional photos of any beautiful views are always encouraged.
2. South Manitou Island was created from the Wisconsin Glacier. Describe the topography of the island from your travels. Include descriptions of the soil, rock formations, etc.
3. Take a elevation reading at these coordinates and then again at the highest point on the island that you happen to visit. What is the difference. Explain what accounts for that difference in elevation.
4. Email me the answers to #2 and #3 using my profile.
Any logs that do not meet the requirements will be deleted at the cache owner's discretion.