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Michigan dnr > wildlife viewing guide > upper peninsula > porcupine mountains

2 Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park Upper Peninsula

wildlife viewing  |  directions and facility information

porkies Photo: MI DNR

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is located at the western edge of Michigan's Upper Peninsula along the south shore of Lake Superior. It encompasses nearly 94 square miles of Ontonagon and Gogebic counties' most rugged terrain. At the core of the park is a 48,808-acre dedicated Wilderness Area. One of the park's most striking geologic features is an extended basalt escarpment overlooking Lake of the Clouds and the Big Carp River valley.
Topographic relief in the Porcupine Mountains varies from 601 feet at the surface of Lake Superior to almost 1958 feet at Summit Peak, the highest point in the range.
This area has short, cool summers, no dry season, and long winters. Precipitation averages 32 to 36 inches annually and is quite evenly distributed throughout the year. The area is noted for its snowfall, averaging over 15 feet annually. Lake effect snow is common and accounts for a significant portion of this accumulation.

mirror lake  spring snow
Mirror Lake is aptly named and provides excellent cold water fishing.
Lake effect snows create a blinding blanket of white and an eerie
yet beautiful stillness. This wilderness area averages more than 15
feet of snow annually. Photos: MI DNR

The mountains were named by native Ojibwa people for their distinctive "porcupine" profile when viewed from the east. The Ojibwa occupied seasonal villages within the mountains. Burial sites are recorded for locations within park boundaries. Limited copper mining and logging occurred within the mountains beginning in 1845 and continued for about a century until the area was purchased by the State of Michigan. Numerous historical sites associated with these activities are found within the park.

aerial view
This "forest museum" was established in 1945
to protect the last extensive tract of uncut
hardwoods in the Midwest. The Porkies contains
Michigan’s last large stand of mixed hardwoods
and hemlock. Photo: MI DNR

The state park was established in 1945 to protect the last extensive tract of uncut hardwood forest remaining in the Midwest. In the words of the Michigan Conservation Commission, "The primary objective of the proposal [to set aside the Porcupine Mountains] was not only to make available for public use the highest range of hills between the Alleghenies and the Black Hills, but to preserve forever, as a forest museum, the last large stand of mixed hardwoods and of hemlock still existing in Michigan."


manabezh
The Porkies is one of the Midwest’s largest
wilderness areas. Breath-taking views such
as this waterfall are common. Photo: MI DNR

"The Porkies" is Michigan's largest state park, and it is one of the Midwest's largest wilderness areas. Noted for its hiking trails, scenic vistas, wildlife, and striking geological formations, the outstanding feature of the park remains the majestic old-growth forests it was dedicated to preserve. Almost 35,000 acres of ancient forest sits more or less in the center of the park. The Michigan Natural Features Inventory considers this forested tract to be the "biggest and best tract of virgin northern hardwoods in North America."

hemlock
Everything is dewy and
green here, including a thin
hemlock nestled deeply
in this closed-canopy
northern forest.
Photo: MI DNR

The principal forest type throughout the park is a closed-canopy northern forest dominated by sugar maple and eastern hemlock, with lesser amounts of yellow birch, red maple, basswood, green ash, and northern red oak. Bearberry, blueberry, juniper, and dwarfed pine occur along cliffs and rock outcrops in several areas of the park. Forests of white cedar, tamarack, and black ash occupy the flood plains of the Big and Little Carp rivers.

Wildlife Viewing

barred owl
The barred owl is a resident of dense,
mature woodlands, river bottoms, and
swamps. Their flight is silently skillful,
and their eyesight is keen for favorite
prey, including rodents, foxes, crows,
frogs, and snakes. Photo: MI DNR

The park offers a wide diversity of habitats in which to view wildlife, including mature hemlock and hardwood forests, open cliff tops, Lake Superior shoreline, successional forests of aspen and birch, and a variety of wetland types. Park naturalists believe that the excellent birding and wildlife viewing in the Porkies is a bit under-rated.

grouse
By nodding his head, spreading his tail
and strutting, the male ruffed grouse
tries to impress the females. He calls to
potential mates by standing on a hollow
log and rapidly beating his cupped
wings, making a deep drumming sound
that carries a long way. Photo: MI DNR

Some of the better viewing opportunitues occur for the following species: Birds (in season) - bald eagle, merlin, barred owl, common raven, pileated woodpecker, black-throated green warbler, northern parula, blackburnian warbler, black-throated blue warbler, Swainson's thrush, veery, hermit thrush, broad-winged hawk, whip-poor-will, common nighthawk, northern saw-whet owl, common merganser, wood duck, great blue heron, and American bittern.


white-tailed deer
The white-tailed deer is always a stunning sight,
especially in this wilderness venue. Photo: MI DNR

Mammals - black bear, fisher, red squirrel, varying hare, red fox, gray wolf, coyote, bobcat, porcupine, striped skunk, and on occasion, moose. In the early 1990s, black bears were a significant problem for park staff and visitors. In recent years, good progress has been made in keeping the black bear population wild. A combination of educational efforts, bear-proof trash receptacles at trailheads, placement of "bear-poles" at backcountry campsites, and other techniques have been successful. Bears are still active and seen regularly in the park. Visitors will need to continue to follow regulations and guidelines regarding handling of food and trash. But there are now fewer nuisance bear problems and more truly wild bears. The advice of DO NOT FEED THE BEARS still applies, of course!

gray tree frog
The shrill trill of gray tree frogs can be deafening
on a warm summer night. Gray tree frogs are not
always gray; in fact, they are frequently green or
light brown. Photo: MI DNR

Other wildlife - The size, quality, and diversity of the park's forests makes them excellent places to see a wide variety of the smaller forms of wildlife, including yellow spotted salamanders, wood frogs, wood turtles, northern ring-necked snakes, red-bellied snakes, and a diversity of unusual insects like horn-tails, giant ichnueman wasps, dragonflies, stoneflies, and beetles.


bloodroot
Photo: MI DNR

Flora - the park is an excellent spot to see and study upper Michigan's native flora. The spring ephemeral wildflower display in May is breathtaking. As summer progresses, a wide variety of woodland wildflowers can be seen, including coral-root orchids, rattlesnake plantain orchids, and a host of other flowering plants. Many species of ferns, clubmosses, lichens, and mosses (including some rare species) are also abundant.

The park is so vast and the opportunities so diverse that your first stop should be the Visitors Center to pick up maps, brochures, and other information that will let you get the most out of your visit here.

Portions of this area open to public hunting. Check with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for hunting seasons and regulations.

MapDirections

From Silver City, drive west on M-107 about 3.5 miles to the Visitor Center.

Ownership:
Michigan Department of Natural Resources, "Porkies" Park Headquarters, (906) 885-5275

Size: 60,000 acres

Closest Town: Silver City

Weather and Driving Directions for Silver City

Plan Your Trip with travel.michigan.org!

More information can be found by visiting the DNR's site (link leads to web app allowing users to search for campgrounds, harbors, trails and more), or by conducting a Google search:

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