2014-0817 Michigan: Manitou Island

12:52 p.m. on September 2, 2014 (EDT)
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My 6 night trip to Manitou Island in Lake Michigan.  Decided to try and head north from Indiana hoping the temperatures would be a little milder; and they were mid-to-upper 70's (F) during the day and low 60's at night.  I had never been there before and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The trip starts with a ride to the island from Manitou Transit.  Very nice people who answered my many questions.  If you ever visit the island, keep in mind you pay for the ferry ($35 round trip) and you pay for backcountry permits too ($5/night or $40 for an annual pass); and you can pay it all at the dock.  Hour boat ride, uneventful but beautiful, about a dozen other hikers and campers getting on and off the island.


Views along the shore.


A freighter running between the island and the mainland.

Camp anywhere, just stay 300 feet from water, historic buildings, etc.  The above is just about where I camped for the first night.

Hiked around the southern end of the island the second day.  I did not see much of the interior of the island that day.

Blueberries?  Does anyone know?  The coyotes apparently eat them because I saw lots of the seeds in their scat.

My camp on the second night.  Can you see my hammock tucked in there?

Sunset.  A lot of overcast days and rain, but you can't let that stop you.  Despite the rain it was beautiful and the sound of rain on the tarp is very relaxing; I slept alot.

Inland: Manitou was once heavily lumbered and had homesteaders and summer cottages.  In several places you can see the old homes and barns, occasional abandoned cars, and a truck graveyard (coming up).  Consequently the inland is made up of relatively young trees and occasional clearings where a homestead used to be.  I really enjoyed the variety of scenery.

Inland forested trail.
Inland open fields.

North side of the island "The Potholes"

Some of the shorline was very rocky.

Sometimes it wasn't easy getting 300 feet from the water.  In this case, the first 100 feet were vertical. 


The view at sunset.

Glad to have stumbled across the truck graveyard.


On the last night, I hiked in to the inland lake, Lake Manitou.  When I imagined a lake on a small island, I pictured algae and full of weeds, but this lake was big and clear and beautiful; with just enough breeze to keep the mosquitos away.  I even skinny-dipped a bit.

A couple of notes:  You would think an island in the middle of a freshwater lake would make getting water a breeze, at least I expected it to be easy.  But the reality is, depending on the weather, the waves can be fairly huge and churn up a bunch of sand and seaweed, which I was able to filter out but it can be a lot of work (bring something to backflush your filter). 

Also, those big waves make gathering water a hilarious adventure.  The first night I planned to roll up my pants legs, wade out a bit to clearer water, scoop up a bit and then gracefully step back before the waves soaked me with what felt like ice-water.  The reality was, the first wave soaked me, I screamed like a little girl (it's so cold!), and moved with all the grace of a man trying to catch fish bare-handed.  Now I know why sailors have the reputation for swearing like they do.

And, no bears; but the chipmunks make up for it.  Hang both your food and your pack or be sorry. 

I can't wait to go back again.


2:34 p.m. on September 2, 2014 (EDT)
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That sounds like neat change of pace from climbing mountains. Did you run into other folks as you wandered about or only at the docks?

5:51 p.m. on September 2, 2014 (EDT)
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I spent my boyhood summers on the Michigan banks of Lake Michigan. Your pics stirred up memories. Thanks for sharing them!

6:45 p.m. on September 2, 2014 (EDT)
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Great photos. Looks like a really relaxing outing!

8:52 a.m. on September 3, 2014 (EDT)
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That is a really pretty area (well, maybe not the truck graveyard). Thanks for sharing the island with us.

9:42 p.m. on September 3, 2014 (EDT)
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Blue berries don't have seeds.  Likely either raspberries or blackberries that ripen about the same time.

8:37 a.m. on September 4, 2014 (EDT)
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@ Lonestranger:  No one the first two days then 20 the third day.  Then small groups every once in a while the last few days.  Certain places are very popular to visit (Crescent Docks) and that's when I ran into a bunch of people.  Avoid those areas and it's as if you have the island to yourself; or hit the popular spots and never feel alone.

@ Grey Eagle: Thanks.  Those must not have been blue berries, they definitely had big seeds in the middle.

Thanks for the comments everyone!

10:53 a.m. on September 4, 2014 (EDT)
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I used to camp on an island in Chesapeake Bay as a kid. The novelty trips to unusual places are really fun. Keep those TRs coming.

October 16, 2019
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