South Manitou Island   Ernie Ostuno
  Aug 29, 2006 08:01 PDT 

On August 21st I took a trip out to South Manitou Island, in northern
Lake Michigan. This was my second trip out there, the first was in July
july2006 082.jpg (40508 bytes)

The Mishe Mokwa leaves Leland Harbor for the 17 mile trip across northern Lake Michigan to South Manitou Island.

july2006 054.jpg (36274 bytes)

The South Manitou Lighthouse on the east end of the island.

The ferry departed from Leland, Michigan at 10 am and reached the island
at about 1130, covering a distance of about 17 miles. Some experienced
kayakers can make it to the island from Sleeping Bear Point, a distance
of only six miles (provided the waves are calm enough). 

july2006 049.jpg (43688 bytes)

The freighter Fransisco Morazon beached off the southwest part of the island during a storm in November 1960. The ancient cedar trees can be found in a valley just north of the perched dune seen on the right side of the photo.

july2006 019.jpg (41939 bytes)

A close up of the rusting shipwreck, now home to a colony of comorants.

The ferry docks on the southeast part of the island and the trees are on 
the southwest part, so a hike of about 3.5 miles along the south coast of 
the island is necessary to reach the trees. The ferry leaves back to the 
mainland at 4 pm, so I had 4.5 hours for the 7 mile roundtrip hike and 
inspection of the trees. 

july2006 045.jpg (55729 bytes)

An interpretive sign along the trail at the entrance of the old growth. The island is managed by the National Park Service.

july2006 044.jpg (48517 bytes)

A close up of the sign.

The old growth area is about 10 acres and covers the
southern half of a large perched sand dune and the the valley north of
it, as well as part of the next dune to the north. These dunes were
formed after the last ice sheet retreated and dumped large piles of sand
and gravel, which were eventually sculpted some by erosion before being
covered by vegetation, which in the intervening 10 thousand years has
built up an organic layer that allows large trees to grow here. 

july2006 031.jpg (53282 bytes)

Evidence that some trees were cut even in the midst of the "virgin forest".

Most of the island was deforested in the late 19th century, but for some 
reason these trees were not cut. There were signs of large old stumps 
near the edges of the old growth, indicating that logging operations were 
nearby, depsite the remoteness of this stand from known settlements on 
the island.

july2006 021.jpg (47052 bytes) july2006 029.jpg (46127 bytes)
july2006030.jpg (74052 bytes)

Another impressive standing snag, this one with an unusually large limb.

july2006 032.jpg (56452 bytes)

A massive fallen cedar, about 5 feet dbh. Some 528 growth rings were counted on one of the fallen trees.

For fans of Thuja Occidentalis, this place is a Mecca. Old growth cedar
trees are very rare in Michigan, as cedar forests were decimated along
with white pine in the 19th century lumbering era. 

   july2006_038.jpg (54850 bytes) Burl on ancient Red Cedar

These trees are very
old as well as very large for the species. In fact, the world record
holder once lived here. It has since died, but several contenders to
replace it can be found nearby in this stand with dbh of 5 feet and
heights between 90-100 feet. 

july2006 033.jpg (49663 bytes)

Other species noted here include, sugar maple, paper birch (seen here), cottonwood, and beech.

july2006 035.jpg (44192 bytes)

The crown of an old gnarled sugar maple.

Sugar maple are almost as common as the
cedar, and other species include cottonwood, beech and paper birch. I did
not take any measurements while I was there, except for sight estimates.
A thorough study of heights and girths would mean missing the ferry
back, so a camping trip will be required next time to accomplish this.

I have sent Ed photos of the trees, as well as other parts of the

Ernie Ostuno