As I drove from Pictured Rocks to Baraga, I realized I was retracing the route I had taken on my very first Alto trip, way back in May of 2016. And I’m pretty sure I found the same rest stop on Lake Superior, too.
That Alto looks pretty good after 5 years on the road. On to Baraga, and new adventures…
Baraga: Good and Bad
Let’s not bury the lead here: Baraga State Park is hard by US-41, the main road through town and up to the Keweenaw Peninsula, so it gets a lot of traffic. Camping there is a lot like parking by the side of the freeway during the day, although it does quiet down from midnight till about 5AM. I honestly don’t know how the tenters slept. I ran my A/C fan all night and that provided steady white noise that mostly drowned out the traffic noise (except for those big trucks with noisy acceleration).
But, other than that, it’s a nice park. There’s a butterfly garden, where we saw a few caterpillers and one chrysalis enjoying the vegetation. And the park has a nice one-mile nature trail (loop) where you can feel like you’re a million miles from that highway noise.
I found some Bluebead Lily on the trail, one of the few plants I can recognize without having to look up the name in my Seek app. Something about those bright blue berries just makes my day every time I see them on the trail now.
The other good thing about Baraga is that it has an old-fashioned drive-in, a short walk from the north end of the state park. And lucky me, I met my friends Brian and Warren there for lunch as they headed up to their vacation on the Keweenaw. (And I once again failed to get a group selfie. I am really not good at remembering to take selfies with friends.)
Baraga also has the Sand Point lighthouse, although it’s decommissioned and somewhat in need of some repair. Still, it counts in my continuing quest to see all the Michigan lighthouses.
After a huge breakfast at Hilltop Restaurant (very good and their cinnamon rolls are huge!), I noticed their lobby display listed a few waterfalls close by. Off I went in search of adventure in the form of waterfalls.
Found some! First was Power House Falls, a short drive east on US-41 from L’Anse, down a series of smaller and smaller roads, but well signed (so kudos to whoever made those signs because I was almost sure I had missed a turn until I saw one more “Power House Falls” sign beckoning me onward).
I found the Canyon Falls waterfall by continuing east another 8-10 miles on US-41. It was well worth the drive, as the rest stop (surprisingly full by the time I left!) led to a nice trail down to the waterfall and beyond.
There’s an observation platform where you can look down on the waterfall, but I kept going on the trail down the canyon till I got this view of the falls.
And then a quick scramble down the rocks got me into the canyon, where I felt like the only person around for miles. Water, trees, rocks, and sky, a pretty perfect combination to me.
Baraga and the nearby town of L’Anse are both interesting to explore. Skip the casino in Baraga and hit the beach north of Sand Point, or explore the waterfront park in L’Anse. Which is where the old L’Anse sawmill owned by Henry Ford stood, processing logs sent down by freighter from the Keeweenaw.
Ford owned three sawmills in the area in the 1920s, including one in L’Anse, and much of the land in the town and county. Why sawmills? He wanted to control the supply of lumber used in the wood paneling on Ford automobiles. The sawmills are long gone, and the auto industry in Michigan has been decimated. All that remains of that bygone era is this small sign on the back of a blank bulletin board at the site of the old sawmill.
Baraga State Park (MI State Parks)
- Two loops, both equally close to the main highway through town. The farther away from it you can book a site, the better you’ll like this park. Reserve at Michigan State Parks.
- Services: electric only (30 amp mostly). Potable water at the dump station and at water fountains around the campground. Each loop has a bath house with individual showers.
- Good Verizon and ATT and T-Mobile.
- Groceries are in L’Anse or Baraga, both independent stores with odd selections. Pro tip: don’t buy the meat at Pat’s Foods in L’Anse, a lot of it was browning on the shelf (yikes). Gas stations in both L’Anse and Baraga.
The point is that when I see a sunset or a waterfall or something, for a split second it’s so great, because for a little bit I’m out of my brain, and it’s got nothing to do with me.