• Indianhead Point stands tall along the Pictured Rocks. Photo copyright Craig Blacklock

    Pictured Rocks

    National Lakeshore Michigan

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    Grand Sable Dunes are rapidly eroding into Sable Creek and Lake Superior. The area from the Ghost Forest Trail north to Lake Superior then along the shoreline to the west side of Sable Creek is temporarily closed. Follow closure signs for your safety. More »


The Kingston Plains still struggled to rebound from forest fires following extensive logging in the early 1900s.

Kingston Plains

NPS photo

The soils of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore reflect the area's geologic background, topography, climate, and vegetative influences. The two dominant soil-forming elements are parent material and drainage conditions.

Soil types of the lakeshore can be grouped as upland loams, plains sands, sandy loams and sands, upland stony loams and sands, lakeshore soils, swamp and wetland soils, and organic soils.

Upland loam soils are underlain by gravels at 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches), with stony clays below gravel. They are generally well drained in surface layers and are moderately productive. The soils are distinguished by large amounts of limestone in the lower gravels. Local areas are stony. Upland loams occur in the southwestern portion of the lakeshore.

Most of the plains sands occur in land that is level to slightly rolling. All these soils are underlain by dry loose sand several feet deep. These soils are well drained and low in fertility. Plains sands occur throughout the Kingston Plains and extend into the southeastern and southcentral portions of the inland buffer zone.

Hilly terrain and stony conditions occur throughout the sandy loams and sands soils. The surface soils, 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 inches) deep, are underlain by leached sands, which are easily penetrated. Some clays occur locally in the subsoil. Sandy loams and sands soils occupy the comparatively high, hilly upland areas in the eastern sections of the lakeshore, in the western portion of Beaver Basin, and southwest of Sand Point.

Bedrock (sandstones and limestones away from Lake Superior) is present at slight depth throughout upland stony loams and sands. The profile is poorly developed, stones are very common, and many inclusions of clay and clay hardpan are present. Upland stony loams and sands soils are present in the rolling terrain from Beaver Lake to Sand Point.

Sand, gravels, and stones are indicative of lakeshore soils. They are generally excessively dry due to rapid subsurface drainage. Active and stabilized dune areas are included. Lakeshore soils occur at Sand Point and extensively along the northern shore of the national lakeshore from Miners Beach to Sable Creek.

Swamp and wetland soils have black muck surface layers with clay or sand beneath. The water table is from .3 to 1 m (1 to 3 feet) below the surface, and the soils are almost permanently waterlogged. Water-tolerant trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants grow well in these soils. Swamp and wetland soils are present in bogs, marshes, and in narrow floodplains along major stream channels.

Organic soils are mucks and peats up to ten feet deep. Water-tolerant vegetation grows well in this soil type.

Did You Know?

The former Grand Marais Coast Guard Station now serves as a Ranger Station at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

When the 729-foot freighter S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald went down on November 10, 1975, the last land-based communication to the ship was from the Grand Marais Coast Guard Station. This station and the Munising USCG Station are now managed by Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. More...