Towering above Lake Superior are the most prominent of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore's geographic and scientific features - the multicolored sandstone cliffs for which the lakeshore is named. These cliffs reach to a height of 200 feet above the lake and extend 15 of the 42 miles of shoreline within park boundaries.
Equally important as these cliffs in geographic and scientific significance are the Grand Sable Dunes, sand dunes perched atop five square miles of high sand bluffs at the eastern portion of the lakeshore. Miles of unspoiled beaches are a third prominent feature of the lakeshore.
The scientific features of the park reach far beyond the visually spectacular. Because of its location within the transition zone between the boreal and eastern deciduous forest biomes, Pictured Rocks has elements of both forest types. Hardwood forests of maple and beach are prevalent, but conifers dominate some sites. Soils range from well drained sandy sols to hydric soils. Streams, ponds, marshes, bogs, and other aquatic habitats are abundant. Lake Superior wields a powerful climatic force over the region; by keeping adjacent lands warmer in winter and cooler in summer, it greatly inluences physical condiontions and hence biotic communities.
Along with university researchers and other partners, the national lakeshore's Science and Resource Stewardship Division conducts studies on resource management issues involving wildlife, water quality, invasive species, and forest health. For more information on the park's science mission and activites, go to:
Due to its geographic location and proximity to Lake Superior, Pictured Rocks is greatly impacted by environmental factors.
Natural Features & Ecosystems
The park is rich with sandstone cliffs, perched sand dunes, and unspoiled beaches. All home to a diverse array of ecosystems.