Miners Castel is located about 5 miles east of Munising on Alger County Road H-58, then 6 miles north on Miners Castle Road (H11). It is one of the most famous landmarks along the Pictured Rocks shoreline, and is the only cliff area in the park accessible by vehicle. Leashed pets permitted. From the parking lot, a short paved wheelchair accessible trail leads past interpretive exhibits to breathtaking overlooks of Lake Superior and Grand Island. Stairs and a steeper trail lead to the lower overlook adjacent to Miners Castle. Erosion over long periods of time has created the interesting rock formations that give this place its name. A rockfall in 2006 dramatically changed the look of Miners Castle as one of its two turrets unexpectedly fell into the lake.
The Pictured Rocks cliffs hold great spiritual significance to the Anishnabe or Ojibwa people who have lived in this area for thousands of years. Imagine canoeing into this region and seeing the cliffs for the first time from a 16 foot birch bark canoe. Miners Castle was named by Englishman Alexander Henry’s employees when they were exploring the area for minerals in 1771. Though no minerals were ever found, the name “Miners” has endured. Had you been sailing by back then, what would you have called it? This area was prominently featured in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 Song of Hiawatha, an epic poem based on the history of the local Anishnabeg people as recounted in Algic Researches, written by Indian Agent Henry Schoolcraft. To the geologist, Miners Castle is an open textbook, revealing the history of the Earth at the northern edge of the Michigan Basin. The Pictured Rocks escarpment is one of the primary landscape features along the entire south shore of Lake Superior. Commercial tours have been providing boat tours past the Castle since the 1940’s. This rocky cliff is one of several highlights of the 2.5 hour cruise that continues east to Chapel Beach.
Why is this rock here?
The Pictured Rocks cliffs are made of three formations of Pre Cambrian and Paleozoic age sandstone, the Jacobsville (bottom), Munising (middle), and Au Train (top). These layers represent different periods of time, sources of sediment, and physical characteristics. Weathering, ancient and current great lakes levels and several glacial events have carved the rocks into the forms we see them today.
Why is this rock interesting?
Look for numerous layers in the sandstone cliffs. Each layer represents very long periods of deposition of sand and other minerals. The oldest layers are on the bottom, the youngest toward the top. Within some layers are crescent shaped structures of sand, known as cross-beds. Cross-beds indicate the direction of river sediment flow. Today, the Miners River is creating cross-beds in the stream channel as it moves sand toward Lake Superior. Colorful patterns may have given rise to the name Pictured Rocks. These patterns are caused by mineral stains on the rock surface as minmineral laden water seeps from cracks and between layers in the rock. Blue and green stains are copper; black is manganese; and yellow, red, and orange are iron. Most of the waterfalls in this area are the result of water running over a shelf or cliffs of limey sandstone called the Munising Formation. This formation of rock extends from Tahquamenon Falls, some 75 miles east of the Lakeshore, to Laughing Whitefish Falls, about 30 miles west of the Lakeshore. The Munising formation is also called the Northern Michigan cuesta or escarpment.