Bridalveil Falls cascades over the Pictured Rocks cliffs in a lovely springtime display.
Bridalveil Falls

NPS photo

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 beech are prevalent, but conifers dominate some sites. Soils range from well-drained sandy soils 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 influences physical conditions 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 activities, go to:

River flowing within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Natural Features & Ecosystems

The park is rich with sandstone cliffs, perched sand dunes, forests, beaches, wetlands, and many other natural features.

Beach Pea / Photo Courtesy of H.I. Minor


Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore abounds with rich and healthy plant communities.

Semipalmated Plover / Photo Courtesy of H.I. Minor


Wildlife in this varied landscape includes white-tailed deer, black bear, tree frogs, many types of birds, and an occasional moose.

Sunset Along Lake Superior

Environmental Factors

Weather, climate, water quality, and invasive species are some of the environmental factors impacting Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore


Last updated: September 22, 2021

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P.O. Box 40
Munising , MI 49862


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