The Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary and the Niagara Escarpment

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Purple Coneflower

The purple coneflower that Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary is known for. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

Sunday, July 15, was an especially hot day for the U.P. as we welcomed new Odyssey participants and reunited with some of our favorite folks from previous sanctuaries at the Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary near Brevort.  We were especially grateful to Board members Aubrey Golden and Gisela Lendle King who joined us at the Dye. This was our 11th Odyssey stop, and there was very different terrain than we had experienced previously. Our first “north of the Bridge” sanctuary did not disappoint as we quickly spotted a profusion of the pale purple coneflowers that this sanctuary is known for. A variety of butterflies were visiting the coneflowers along with some other flowers that were hanging on in this dry and hot summer like wild bergamot, black eyed Susan, and pale spiked lobelia.  It was also interesting seeing tamaracks growing here.

Aubrey, who is also the president of the Michigan Karst Conservancy, was a wealth of information as he helped lead us through this sanctuary.  Sitting on the exposed dolomite he explained how the cracks and caverns are formed and how unique these geological formations are.  He explained that the exposed bedrock here is part of the Niagara Escarpment and consists of dolomite (limestone with the addition of magnesium) formed from sediment of the Silurian age.  Of interest is that the same escarpment forms Niagara Falls and Drummond Island. The geological feature called karst is easily seen here because the bedrock is exposed, and the cracks in the dolomite are evident. Water drains into these cracks which further erodes the rock over long periods of time. Many species of lichen and mosses grow on the exposed dolomite, including the foam lichen. Thank you, Aubrey, for sharing your knowledge and enhancing our experience here.

Karst at Fred Dye

A glimpse of the karst geology at Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Dave Wendling

For a great description of this area and the pioneering town of Kenneth, now a ghost town, please see MNA’s Sanctuary Guidebook. There is some fascinating history surrounding this sanctuary.

At the conclusion of our tour people scattered in a variety of directions, some to visit other sanctuaries, others to return to tents and campgrounds, while still others went on a mission to find that perfect U.P. pasty.  We can’t wait to go back to the Yoop in September to explore four more wondrous MNA sanctuaries.  Won’t you join us?

Check out MNA’s Flickr for additional photos from the visit to Fred Dye!

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One thought on “The Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary and the Niagara Escarpment

  1. I visited the Fred Dye Preserve about the same time but was somewhat disappointed. There just were not that many flowers in bloom. Maybe next year, or as a suggestion try a prescribed burn. It would help to remove some of the competing trees and these are prairie plants that are stimulated by fire to reproduce. Just my thoughts.

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