About Some Yooper Beach

Imagine yourself alone, barefoot on a beach. Imagine your toes sinking into its coarse expanse of small colorful pebbles, worn as smooth as glass by the patient persistence of nature. The warm red hue of the beach permeates the very air you breathe and walk amongst and you notice that there’s not a grain of sand in sight. You welcome the cool breeze off the water that moves swiftly over your face and eddies around your neck, leaving you with shivers that radiate from the top of your spine all the way out to your fingertips. That same breeze works invisible magic on the water, creating waves which crash into the beach with a loud, crisp clamor. An interesting whooshing noise occurs between waves as the water and small pebbles cascade down a short embankment into the lake. The water also drains down through the rocks, causing a quiet but distinct sound akin to a bowl of cereal just after pouring in the milk. And giant pine trees stand erect behind you with the majestic fortitude of silent soldiers, gazing with you out toward the northern horizon over a dark blue expanse. Where could you possibly be?

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a spectacular place, indeed. Just ask any Yooper. I wonder, though, how much of the UP an average Yooper is familiar with. I’ve been a Yooper my whole life and I’ve been blessed with the capability and aspiration to find and explore many of this land’s hidden treasures. Yet it seems there is always a new adventure to undertake or place to see in this great peninsula. Breathtaking and unique opportunities surround us, but they are difficult to pinpoint. Lackluster dirt roads and logging trails veil many of the most spectacular locations; because of this, the UP is teeming with secrets – hidden waterfalls, fishing holes, hiking trails, vistas, homely restaurants, breweries, craft shops… the list goes on. Someone knows about each hidden pearl of adventure, but that knowledge is only helpful for the people who have it.


How did it all begin?

Near the end of July 2009, I sat in my grad-student office at Michigan Tech thinking about how it could very well be the last summer I ever spend in the Yoop. I’d been trying to think of some fun things to do with my spare time. Over the summer I’d already been to plenty of hidden waterfalls, taken plenty of road trips, watched many incredible sunsets, and had even visited Michigan’s highest point, Mount Arvon. My thoughts drifted to beaches—and suddenly, I realized how much of the UP shoreline I didn’t know about. What an opportunity!

I did a quick Google search to find the best Lake Superior beaches to visit in the UP, and immediately found all the information I needed. Ahem… Not! In fact I found hardly any useful information at all. To my dismay, no comprehensive listing of beaches existed. So, naturally, I decided to take it upon myself to swim at and document every public beach on the UP – Lake Superior shoreline, and then make all the information available and useful to everyone else. As I said before, what good is knowledge if it is not shared?

Thus, for the latter portion of summer, I made a lot of road trips and had copious amounts of fun while swimming at every public beach on the UP shoreline of Lake Superior. 63 beaches later, I consider myself the first and youngest Yooper expert of beaches. I can name every public swimming hole between Wisconsin and the Sault, and I can describe valuable information about the area, the beach, camping, etc… As I went to each beach, I documented their names on a memento beach ball and had friends take pictures of me and the beach. I’ve also put together a proprietary quantitative rating system for the beaches in order to rank their characteristics and try to establish what the best beach in the UP is. Oh – the red-pebbled beach I mentioned earlier is not just a figment of your imagination… it is Hunter’s Point in Copper Harbor. Great beaches abound this great peninsula, and I hope I’m able to make more people aware of them.

I’ve used the word opportunity several times. An opportunity is something to be pursued. We have one life, and sometimes an opportunity only comes once. Yoopers are very fortunate to live in this opportunistic peninsula. Yet, many of us unknowingly take this blessed place for granted. I may be young and inexperienced, but I feel qualified to inform and empower people to take advantage of their own opportunities – be they in the UP or elsewhere. Truly, road trips in the UP are memorable experiences. I’ve always been puzzled when I have difficulty convincing people to take their first road trip with me. Less surprising to me, I’ve rarely been turned down for a second trip.

As I went to each beach I marked their names on a beach-ball and had friends take pictures of me. I took 3 signature pictures at each beach:

  1. A shot of me with the ball in my left arm, making the UP sign with my right hand and the beach in the background.
  2. A close-up shot of the beach name written on the ball.
  3. An action shot of me jumping into the water.



I’ve also put together a rating system for the beaches in order to rank their characteristics and try to establish what is the best beach in the UP. This website now displays the results of my calculations for all 63 beaches. To my knowledge, no other comprehensive listing of beaches along the UP – Superior shoreline existed as of the date I published my website. Even if such a list does exist, I’m doubt it includes a firsthand account of each beach, documented photography, and helpful information regarding beach rating criteria.

Enjoy this Yooper rendition of Blake Shelton’s Some Beach, by my wonderful and talented younger sister.



PS: I’d like to thank the following friends who helped out by tagging along, shooting photos, or both:

  1. Gowtham
  2. My sister Maija
  3. Kristin Moriarty
  4. Brett Hawkins
  5. My brother-in-law Eric Bradfish
  6. Nat Erickson

and, thank Kathy for the inner-tube pics at Presque Isle River, and Jacek for the advice outside Ontonagon.





27 responses to “About Some Yooper Beach

  1. Billy Monday says:

    Great information, and your presentation is entertaining! Do you have any recommendations for a photographer considering a field trip to the U.P. for the purpose of shooting nudes on rocky, Lake Superior beaches?

  2. Carol (Leonard) Bevins says:

    Missed a Beach, Squaw Beach… Perkins Park… Quess where…

    • Nils Markus Stenvig says:

      You must be talking about Big Bay. I did go there, but with houses and cabins lining the shore I elected to consider it a private beach. There could be an open stretch of shore someplace…

  3. Cindi says:

    My compliments to your sister!

  4. Kirk says:

    Well done!

  5. john stenvig says:

    Why is there not a link here to this website from Lake Superior Magazine? Others? Summer will soon be here.

  6. Mort says:

    Great website. I also went to Tech so I visited quite a few of these gems myself! I look forward to going back there a few times a year. Thanks!

  7. Honey Bee says:

    The Finnish translation for “beach” is “ranta”. The Finnish translation for “sexy man who drives around looking for beaches and takes pictures and sometimes dives into them but more than likely is just at the KBC waiting for his friends to arrive but then he forgot that most of them moved away after college but man were those good times I wonder what happened to all of them I should probably check Facebook” is Nils Stenvig.

  8. Amy says:

    This website is FANTASTIC!! You have such good information about all the locations. Its written so that regular people really get a feel for the beach and the area. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us! My family took a bunch of notes from this page with us on our vacation last week!!

    • Nils Markus Stenvig says:

      Thank you for all of your comments Amy. When I went to all these beaches I had a purpose in mind, as I always do. Helping people plan trips and find incredible beaches was that purpose. I really do appreciate getting feedback (especially when it’s good) about my website and I love hearing that people have found it useful. I can still remember every beach from end to end and the memories are vivid enough to imagine myself standing at each and every one.

  9. Kaylee says:

    Hey, great pics and I agree with Amy, FANTASTIC website! I am starting my 4th year at Tech this fall and this summer was my first living in Houghton so I have spent most of it finding a few of the places you have listed.
    A friend of mine has recently informed me that he had gotten himself engaged and is trying to decide a place to get married. He does not go to Tech and neither does his fiancee but she is from Minnesota and he is from the L.P. I guess her mom is trying to have the wedding in Minnesota, but his family wants it in the L.P. I told him they could compromise by having it in the U.P. (the Keweenaw in particular). I was half joking, but he took my advice seriously and has now requested me to find him a list of places to look into. They want to be wed next summer around mid July. So. Since I have somehow stumbled onto your site and you are the Yooper Beach Expert, do you have any recommendations for gorgeous yooper beaches to have a wedding at? I have some in mind, but not many, and a lot of the places I like require a hike to get to so those are out because I don’t think the wedding party wants to go to a hike to hear them say “I do”. Thanks in advance! :]

    • Nils Markus Stenvig says:

      Thanks Kaylee.
      I will send you an email with more information, but right now my short list would include McLain State Park, Bete Gris, and Great Sand Bay. I’ll elaborate later…
      Thanks for your comments. I hope your friend does have his wedding up there!

  10. I am interested in visiting as many of the UP beaches as I can for a photographic project I am undertaking. I plan on starting at Bay View on Whitefish Bay where I have camped before, and heading west. The one that I am writing about is the Huron River mouth site.

    My question is: I presume you drove in to the site along what Google lists as Forest Road, or Huron Road. What is the condition of that road? I have a RoadTrek conversion van camper, rather low slung, 21 feet long, and I don’t want to damage it’s under belly.

    Is this road a two-track?

    Thanks, and great site.

    Chuck

    • Nils Markus Stenvig says:

      Chuck,
      As Ken just pointed out, it is possible to drive your camper all the way out to the beach. And yes, on Google Maps the road is listed as Forest Road / Huron Road. It begins as a gravel road, then transitions to dirt, and finally to a combination of dirt/sand. The sandy stretch is where you will need to be careful. The last half mile getting to the beach is typically the worst stretch, and if you come to a tricky spot you will likely find it very difficult to turn around if you decide not to proceed. There can be deep ruts and sand in some places, and the trees are right out to the edge (and are often hit by people towing campers). The tree roots are also a problem in sandy stretches as they cause extra obstacles for your tires. But people tow their 25′ campers out here fairly often. Only make that leg of the trip if you are pretty confident in your close-quarters driving ability. It can be tricky to navigate and turn around once you do make it to the beach. You’ll never want to leave once you get there though. Absolutely spectacular (so long as the flies aren’t too bad).

      One other caution is that if you plan to drive through the Huron Mountains rather than take the highway around the South, be very careful. The network of roads can be difficult for many people, and meeting another driver in your camper may be a tricky situation. Its a wonderful drive, however.

  11. Ken G says:

    Charles Brackett,
    If you go to http://www.expeditionportal.com, and PM Jason (Northern Exposure) or Dave (Kilroy), they have driven vehicles similar to the one you describe, to that exact spot, and can describe to you the issues.
    From my memory of watching them reach the dispersed camping at the mouth of the Huron river (in 2009), they could get in there, however it was done gingerly/with care, and they couldn’t access all the spots that an SUV could.
    Regards,
    Ken

  12. Todd and Lori says:

    Thank you for putting this site together. Lori and I have both been spending hours looking it over, and have found the whole site very enjoyable. We have made a few trips to the UP, and are heading back up soon. You have done a fantastic job putting all this together, and it is a wealth of information placed into a fun format.

  13. Marc Volkmann & Laura Cox says:

    Loved your web site! Just Great! We are National Pk. devotees, going backpacking for one week, Isle Royale for the first time this summer – our 41st National Park in the US – and taking in the lovely Lake Shores en-route. Many thanks for the rating system it’s helped those of us from Maryland to plan our trip. Our first trip to UP – weather in last two weeks in Aug.into Sept.? Picture Rocks availability of camping (first come first serve) around labor day – any pointers?

  14. john stenvig says:

    Marc and Laura, I see no one has yet responded to your questions. I will try to help. Your trip to Isle Royale should be at a great time of the year. August and September are the finest months of the year to be on Lake Superior shorelines. The ferry service to Isle Royale changes after Labor Day so be sure to plan your trip accordingly. Campground sites over Labor Day could be hard to find but if you are willing to stay at a campground w/o elec or showers you should have little trouble finding a place to stay. Michigan State Parks allow for reservations, campgrounds in general do not. Your go’in to love it, I guarentee it!!

  15. Amy says:

    I think someyooperbeach is brilliant!

    But I have to ask–do you ever go to Lake Michigan? Is there some north/south divide of the UP that I should know about? Your maps seem to forget the southern shore. In my view, the US 2 Lake Michigan beaches between St. Ignace and Manistique are beauty beyond belief!

  16. Jill says:

    Have you walked or ran from Agate Beach north/east to Freda ghost town? I know the beach from Misery River north of Agate beach is all sugar sand, but don’t know what it’s like north/east of Rockhouse Point to Freda. I want to walk/run it next week while I’m visiting my parents (who live at the mouth of the Misery). It’s about 12.5 miles, but worried that north/eastern coastline is going to be difficult.

    Do you know of a resource that describes the coastline?

    • Nils Markus Stenvig says:

      Jill, no I have not run North of Agate Beach. I’m not sure the beach will be much good for running beyond Rockhouse Point. I would guess that the sand gives way to rock in some stretches, and there will be a bluff along the shore. Eventually you’d hit stamp sand from the old mill at Freda. You might make a good run up however far you can go North, and then head back South and go past Misery Bay around the point (it gets rocky but there are trails in the woods too) and then run out on Sleeping Bay. Absolutely gorgeous there. I’ve run that beach for sure! As for coastline resources, try the shoreline viewer from UP watershed! I usually have a link on all my beach pages. Here is the link on Agate Beach. Follow the buttons that say East, and it will take you toward Freda. http://www.superiorwatersheds.org/shorelineviewer/viewer.html?county=houghton&viewpic=250&menupic=250&locator=19

  17. Jacob says:

    Does anyone know a good place where you can camp on the lakeshore? Im planning a trip in a few weeks and would like to change up my usual trip at the greenwood reservoir. Thanks

    • Nils Markus Stenvig says:

      Jacob, not to be cute here… but did you check out the rest of the web site? Where, specifically, are you looking to go?

  18. Mark says:

    Wow! I can’t believe I just stumbled across your website today. What a find!
    Brings back so many great memories of great times at so many of the U.P. beaches with family and friends.
    I really appreciate the time that you took on your journey and to capture it for all of us to share.
    Thank you so much.

  19. Jeff says:

    My family and I have explored many of the environs you have detailed, and I find your blog amazing. Thanks.

    We are going to the Keweenaw next week. We want to camp, but we’re not the kinds of campers that use generators or watch tv.

    Our desire is to be immersed in nature… But theres one issue: We now have a three year old daughter. We can backcountry camp with her… she does well and is eager for more.

    Wondering if you could suggest some spots ( we are entertaining the idea of Gratiot River mouth) and perhaps keep safety in mind.

    With Love,
    The Fishers

    • Nils Markus Stenvig says:

      Jeff. Thanks for the comments. Backcountry camping on beaches in the Keweenaw is a little difficult. I would actually recommend camping at Fort Wilkins State Park. Not backcountry camping, but you will not be overwhelmed by technological amenities… trust me. And from there you’d be close to all kinds of outdoors things to do and see. If you are dead set on heading out into the wild and want to find a nice beach, try Keystone Bay. It will be an adventure to find it, but when you do you won’t be disappointed. An easier place would be High Rock Point–which is the tip of the Keweenaw. Easy to find the roads that take you out there if you are handy with a map and are directionally adept. Having a small child makes things interesting, I presume… Have fun!

  20. Mike Connick says:

    Great website, but here are two fantastic beaches that you missed:

    – Beach at Crisp Point Lighthouse
    – Beach at Vermillion

    Both are worth the extra effort required to get to them.





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