The Odyssey Will Explore the Fascinating Karst Geology at Mystery Valley

By Chelsea Richardson

[Ed. note: Chelsea Richardson has joined MNA for the summer as a Communications Intern. Chelsea is a student at Central Michigan University, studying public relations. She will be contributing to both the blog and Michigan Nature magazine. We’re excited to have her on board!]

MNA’s June 5 Odyssey Tour will visit Mystery Valley Karst Preserve and Nature Sanctuary in Presque Isle County. Mystery Valley is home to one of the largest karst collapse valleys in the Great Lakes region.

Mystery Valley Sinkhole

Mystery Valley’s sinkhole. Photo from MNA Archives

Karsts are extremely fascinating.  They are an area of irregular limestone in which erosion has produced cracks, sinkholes, underground streams and caverns.  Limestone forms from the shells of mollusks and coral reefs accumulating in seas over vast periods of time and being compacted into rock.  In Michigan this deposition occurred in the early Palezoic era, roughly 500 million to 350 million years ago. Lands that karsts occur on are generally lacking surface streams, so water drains mainly or exclusively underground.

The Mystery Valley karst was formed by the collapse of the surface into a network of underground chambers created by erosion of the rock below. Several dramatic earth cracks have formed along with a lake that rises and falls, and sometimes disappears altogether!  Mystery Valley is 1.5 miles long, 500 yards at its widest point and about 150 feet deep.

Here visitors can explore this unique geologic wonder by following the 1-mile Earthcrack Trail. Hikers can view large cracks caused by the moving rock.  These cracks can span more than 100 feet deep in some places.

Mystery Valley Crack

One of Mystery Valley’s deep cracks. Photo by John Porter

Together, the Michigan Karst Conversancy (MKC) and MNA work to protect this natural wonder and its surrounding area. To learn more about karst geology, check out Living With Karst: A Fragile Foundation.

Join Dave Wendling and Tina Patterson on June 5 at 10 a.m. to explore this extraordinary karst, and don’t forget your camera! To RSVP for the Odyssey (and for driving directions), visit the MNA website.

If you can’t make it to the Odyssey Tour, MNA’s Fall Adventure will also tour Mystery Valley, along with several other sanctuaries in the northern Lower Peninsula. Learn more on MNA’s website.

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