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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June 5: The Odyssey Tours Mystery Valley

By Dave Wendling and Tina Patterson

The giant earthcrack at Mystery Valley

The giant earthcrack at Mystery Valley. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

Anticipating 13 people joining us at Mystery Valley, we were slightly giddy to see car after truck arrive at this very special Odyssey stop. As our eighth sanctuary on the tour and kicking off point for Segment #3, the unique geological characteristics of Mystery Valley had been highly anticipated; what a pleasant surprise to get to welcome 27 hikers!

One of our Odyssey goals had been to introduce MNA to more local folks, and this was a huge success at Mystery Valley as we frequently heard, “I have lived here for years and always wondered what this place was like.” We also heard stories of local lore/history about the baseball teams that played on the valley floor and native Americans who once lived on the property, tractors disappearing into sink holes, and even the legend of a man who traveled underground for miles through the caverns and streams and came out in Lake Huron. It is also a treat to meet up with hikers who have joined us on previous hikes; we are beginning to feel like family! We are always happy to see our intrepid photographers and thank them for past work; we are receiving such great pictures from Marianne and Marilyn (thanks ladies).

We also were proud to share this special day with Aubrey Golden, MNA Board Member and President of the Michigan Karst Conservancy (MKC) and also Dave Luckins, whose knowledge of Mystery Valley and sense of humor was a highlight of the hike. Bob Preston, a retired professor, joined us on our hike and is doing a survey of the unique flora and fauna of the karst. What an amazing wealth of information he so generously shared with the group!  We won’t ever forget a perfect day with all the folks who learned about Mystery Valley, and we also recognize the importance of conservancies working together for the shared goal of saving these Michigan treasures. Continue reading

Dave Discovers Karst at Mystery Valley

Dave discovers karst!

More details and photos from our Odyssey visit to Mystery Valley are coming soon. Stay tuned!

If you’re looking to get out and explore nature this weekend, MNA is hosting two field trips on Saturday. Join us at Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary in Genesee County or Hiawatha Plant Preserve in Mackinac County!

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.