To Marquette locals Presque Isle is home to the favorite cliff jumping area, Black Rocks. It’s one of the first places you bring summer guests, it’s the first place you go when you come back to college in August, and it’s one of the most visited spots in the Marquette area during the warm months. But have you been there when the rocks are covered in a thick coating of ice and the lake has frozen over? It’s a new kind of amazing.
I visit Presque Isle easily three or four times a month during the winter. And it’s not just Black Rocks that I go for. It’s the whole Isle. Near Sunset Point there are unique ice formations that form on the shore line that you can crawl out on (with care!), at the overlooks you can look down at giant icicles that have formed off the cliffs, and if you are lucky you can spot a deer that will let you walk right up near them.
What’s your favorite winter activity? Snowshoeing? Snow biking? Pulling the little ones on the sled behind you as you hike? Whatever it is, you can do it on Presque Isle. I’ve even seen snowboarders board their way down the hills in the park. Make a family outing of it; this park is a family friendly area that someone of any age will love.
If you are not familiar with Presque Isle Park, it is a 323 acre area located on the edge of Marquette. There is a road that wraps around the Isle approximately 1.5 miles long. During the warm months the road is open to motor vehicles. But once the first heavy snowfall hits the road is closed, making it a mostly undisturbed winter wonderland for only humans on foot and wild animals to enjoy. If you are with young children or this is your first time to the Isle, I would suggest hiking along the road for the most part- but do make sure to get out to the viewpoints to see the ever changing ice! If you are a little more adventurous, blaze your own trail through the Isle and on the lakeshore surrounding it. Do take caution on the ice shelves though, as not all of them are completely frozen.
Depending on which route you take, I would plan for at least an hour to get around Presque Isle. I usually block off at least two hours for my trips as I like to blaze my trail according to the snow and ice conditions. Don’t rush yourself; take some time to enjoy the solitude and the amazing natural beauty of Lake Superior. If you have the chance to visit the area more than once, do it! The ice changes daily (sometimes hourly!) depending on the weather and it will completely astonish you on how different it looks a mere 24 hours later. If you don’t have a chance to get all the way around the Isle but you want to see something cool, park on the Pavilion side of the Isle (as opposed to the Lighthouse/break wall side) and trek from there to Black Rocks. It’s a half mile, but it’s a beautiful little flat walk.
My last word of advice is to bundle up! I recently went out to the Isle on a comfortable 1 degree day (yes, it was a single degree) and felt great until I reached the part of the trail that is not sheltered by trees. Boom! It was -30 degrees suddenly, and that was not comfortable. Make sure you have all the proper winter gear. If you feel like it is too much, stick it in a backpack and carry it with you- it might make you really thankful later on.
Get out. Enjoy the beautiful, undisturbed nature that is Presque Isle and Lake Superior in the wintertime.
– Written by Marquette resident Amanda Schreiber.