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    North Country Dreamland: Northern Lights and the skies of Northern Michigan

North Country Dreamland: Northern Lights and the skies of Northern Michigan

I am going to guess that the video below is the most incredible thing you will see today, and quite likely for many days. There’s lots more about photographer Shawn Stockman Malone of Lake Superior Photo and this project below, but first please settle back, click the full screen view at the bottom right and enjoy her amazing video, North Country Dreamland.

North Country Dreamland from LakeSuperiorPhoto on Vimeo.

Michigan Cougar Captured on Film

This story has become the most popular ever on the Absolute Michigan Facebook with almost 200 “likes”, 75+ comments and a whopping 254 shares. The photo was taken with a locked trail cam situated along a well-used wildlife trail in southern Marquette county. When you read the comments on the Facebook link you’ll see that folks all across the state believe they’ve seen cougars.

Marquette County Cougar, photo by Michigan Wildlife Conservancy

A trail cam in southern Marquette County operated by the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy (MWC) recently captured the above photo of a cougar. Dr. Patrick Rusz, Director of Wildlife Programs for the MWC and retired DNR forester Michael Zuidema verified the trail camera’s location on a well-worn wildlife trail atop a wooded ridge. The camera has also photographed wolves, coyotes, fishers and numerous other species at the same site over a four year period.

The MWC is publicizing this photograph because it may be the best, clearest photograph of a wild Michigan cougar ever taken. It is also unusually interesting because Mr. Zuidema has recorded over twenty credible cougar sightings in the same vicinity since the 1970s. These include several sightings within a few miles of the trail camera location.

Dr. Rusz stated that “the long history of sighting reports in the area indicates the cougar photographed on June 1 may be part of a resident population rather than a wandering cat from a western state.” Dr. Rusz has studied cougars for the Conservancy for 14 years and is co-author of a peer-reviewed study that confirmed cougars in both peninsulas of Michigan by analyses of DNA in droppings. He has also identified a long list of additional physical evidence dating back to 1966, and notes that Michigan State College zoologist Richard Manville documented several cougar sightings or incidents when he inventoried the fauna of Marquette County’s Huron Mountains from 1939 to 1942.

“The MDNR cougar team should now look at the very good evidence of a remnant cougar population collected before 2008,” said Bill Taylor, President of the Conservancy. “They could still easily verify cougar photos taken in the 1990’s in Alcona and Oscoda Counties in the Lower Peninsula and some others. The vegetation and other landmarks needed to confirm the photos are still there.”

You can compare the photograph above with photos of a wolf, coyote, raccoon, and porcupine taken by the same camera in the same location at the MWC website at

The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy is a non-profit citizens group established to restore Michigan’s wildlife legacy. They have restored more than 8,200 acres of wetlands, 2,500 acres of prairies and grasslands, and hundreds of miles of trout streams, and helped with several rare species recoveries and the creation of many backyard habitats.

More about cougars in Michigan on Michigan in Pictures and weigh in with your comments below or on the Absolute Michigan Facebook!

April 2012 Northern Lights light up the night

nlightsframed copy by CreateWithKim
nlightsframed copy by CreateWithKim

Late Sunday night and early Monday morning, the aurora borealis exploded over Michigan. They were seen from the UP as shown in the photo to the right from Marquette all the way down to the Indiana/Michigan border.

Without a doubt, Shawn Malone is Michigan’s reigning queen of Northern Lights photography. Her Lake Superior Photography Facebook page has a bunch of shots. About this video she writes:

2am and the solar winds decide to ignite the night sky with a spectacular burst of auroral activity, this activity level definitely not expected, so a few frames overexposed, but amazing nonetheless. Pphotographed over the south shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Check out the passing freighter for scale- what a view those sailors must have had!

Indeed. Purchase a panorama from Lake Superior photo, enjoy video below and see another one right here.

Northern Lights Aurora over Lake Superior Upper Peninsula of Michigan 04/24/12 from LakeSuperiorPhoto on Vimeo.

Get ready for the UP 200 Sled Dog Races!

The annual U.P. 200 sled dog race along with two other races, the Midnight Run and the Jackpine 30 take place February 16-20, 2012. These three UP sled dog races draw 15,000 fans to the Upper Peninsula and provide a variety of challenges for mushers.

Jackpine 30, photo by Paul R. Nelson

The UP 200 is a qualifying race for the Iditarod and draws mushers from around the United States and Canada for one of America’s premier 12-dog, mid-distance sled dog races. The first UP200 was run in February, 1990, and the race covers approximately 240 miles from Marquette to Grand Marais, with a return to Marquette along the same trail. The terrain includes stretches of near-wilderness, creek crossings, hills and valleys, and heavily forested land. Mushers say this is one of their favorite races, not only because of the challenging race, but because of the cheering crowds and warm welcome they receive in the Upper Peninsula.

Coinciding with the UP200 is the eight-dog Midnight Run, a race from Marquette to Munising with a checkpoint in Chatham. This year the Midnight Run has a new, improved trail and will start in downtown Marquette approximately 30 minutes after the last UP200 musher has left the starting gate on Friday.

The JackPine 30 rounds out the weekend’s fun with a six-dog, 30-mile sprint from Gwinn, Michigan to Marquette. The JP30 will start on Saturday morning, February 18, 2012 in Gwinn. From there, it’s a race to the finish with teams expected in Marquette late morning or early afternoon on Saturday.

While the dogs and mushers are front and center, the races couldn’t happen without a dedicated group of over 500 volunteers from the U.P. and the midwest region who come together to stage this great event each year. Check out the great video below from our friends at Under the Radar Michigan and also a more in-depth video about volunteers and the race, and see a whole ton of photos from all three races in the UP 200 photo galleries!

Will Michigan get its own version of the BP oil spill?

Acid Mine Drainage by savethewildup
Acid Mine Drainage by savethewildup

In Is Michigan’s BP Disaster Brewing in the UP? addressing the Kennecott Eagle Mine north of Marquette, the Center for Michigan’s Phil Power writes:

Today, TV screens, newspapers and the Internet are consumed worldwide with the horrendous British Petroleum oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico, now believed to be the greatest man-made environmental disaster in our history, if not that of the planet.

But something eerily similar is going on, far from the cameras, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near the tiny village of Big Bay.

There, a company with a history as one of America’s greatest polluters is now planning to mine for copper and nickel right under one of Michigan’s most uniquely famous trout steams.

Michigan US Representative Bart Stupak draws parallels between the BP disaster in the Gulf and Michigan’s first sulfide mine. He writes:

Mining has been done safely to the benefit of the Upper Peninsula economy for generations, but the sulfide mine proposed in Marquette County by the Kennecott Minerals Company raises concerns that have yet to be adequately addressed.

Both BP and Kennecott’s parent company, London-based Rio Tinto, have earned reputations for their willingness to cut corners on safety and environmental safeguards to improve their bottom lines.

…Unfortunately Michigan’s mining laws fall short of holding Kennecott accountable. State permits were approved without requiring an Environmental Impact Statement and without independent baseline hydrological and geological studies. Because there is no evidence of the environment’s condition before Kennecott starts mining, there is no way to prove what damage they cause.

We should heed the lessons we have learned from the Gulf spill. Weak state regulations in place for sulfide mining are worthless without proper enforcement. Given Michigan’s continuing budget problems, it seems unlikely the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment will have adequate resources to ensure Kennecott is complying with safety and environmental standards. Kennecott should be responsible for providing the state with the funding needed for these inspectors.

You may also want to check out Jack Lessenberry’s interview with Phil Power of The Center for Michigan about sulfide mining in Michigan.

Even now, some such as Representative Jason Allen are calling for reduced regulation of mining. The Kennecott Mine is only the first of many sulfide mines and even uranium mines that are being explored in Michigan. At a time when we are still coming to grips with the devastation that a poorly regulated company with an inadequate disaster plan has inflicted on one of America’s water playgrounds, is it really a wise idea to rush into a   that could destroy our water playground?

We’ll close with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s report on acid mine drainage (pdf), and maybe you can tell me how this fits in with “Pure Michigan”:

The formation of mine acid drainage and the contaminants associated with it has been described by some as the largest environmental problem facing the U.S. mining industry.

…Acid mine drainage from coal and mineral mining operations is a difficult and costly problem. In the eastern U.S., more than 7,000 kilometers of streams are affected by acid drainage from coal mines. In the western U.S., the Forest Service estimates that between 20,000 and 50,000 mines are currently generating acid on Forest Service lands, and that drainage from these mines is impacting between 8,000 and 16,000 kilometers of streams. In addition to the acid contribution to surface waters, AMD may cause metals such as arsenic, cadmium, copper, silver, and zinc to leach from mine wastes.

U.P. Oktoberfest ~ Marquette, MI – 9.12.09


More than 150 beers from some of Michigan’s finest microbreweries and brewpubs. Live music. Food available for purchase. Rain or shine.

The first-ever Michigan Brewers Guild U.P. Oktoberfest is coming September 12 . . . and it’s crossing the Big Mac bridge to do so! The excitement is taking over the heart of the Upper Peninsula and spreading!

Though Michigan craft beers have long been established in the Upper Peninsula, September 12 in Marquette unveils the first U.P. craft beer tasting event sponsored by the Michigan Brewers Guild. Set in the historic beauty of Marquette’s lower harbor at Ellwood Mattson Park, this singular beer event summons the great tastes of Michigan craft brews to the heart of the U.P. Just in time for Michigan’s craft brewers to unveil their fall-winter offerings, the U.P. Oktoberfest is sure to be the number one beer-lovers regional event this fall.


Purchase online or call 877-772-5425. For an updated list of ticket outlets please visit the MASH, at The cost to attend is $30 in advance, $35 at gate. Limited ticket availability. Advance ticket purchase encouraged. Includes 12 drink tokens. Additional tokens available inside festival. Must be 21 or over.

This Weekend: U.P. 200 and Midnight Run sled dog races

Dog sled races, UP200, 2007 by e.rabior
Dog sled races, UP200, 2007 by e.rabior

Eric says that this photo shows a team arriving in Grand Marais, halfway point of the 240 mile race, amidst unrelenting lake effect snow.

This year is the 20th running of the U.P. 200 and Midnight Run sled dog races and Over 15,000 visitors come to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for one of the nation’s premier weekends of sled dog racing. The U.P. 200 is a competitive, 12 dog, mid-distance sled dog race that is always held on the third weekend of February (Feb 20-22). The race is about 240 miles in length and is a qualifying race for the Iditarod.

You can get a look at what it’s all about courtesy Wild Weekend TV if you click over to the UP 200 web site!

Weird Photo Wednesday: Lakenenland Corporate Greed by Kristina_5

Lakenenland Corporate Greed by Kristina_5

Found on the Absolute Michigan flickr pool, Kristina_5 has some interesting shots from an equally interesting sculpture park located 15 miles east of Marquette, Michigan on M-28. She writes:

This sculpture park was created by Tom LaKenen (pron. Lay-Kin-en) several years ago. He started creating these pieces as a hobby. Eventually his yard became full and he had a hard time finding places to display them. He thought about trying to sell some except he is kinda proud of them and has so many hours inot each sculpture that he would hate to see them go. This is when LaKenenland was born.

For more bizarre Michigan attractions check out her Michigan Oddities set on flickr!

We Are All Downstream

Together. by Rick Spillers
Together. by Rick Spillers

Eric Hansen is the author of “Hiking Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” and “Hiking Wisconsin”. In this morning’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he has an editorial titled Headwaters are no place for toxic new mining that begins:

Take a moment to think about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the nearby patches of Wisconsin, Lake Superior and Lake Michigan that border it. Picture the sparkling waterfalls, blueberries, brook trout and wave-washed shores there — the multitude of reasons so many think of this as God’s Country.

Thing is, change is in the air — and there’s a fair chance that it won’t be a good thing for the unspoiled waters of the U.P. — or for our water quality here, downstream, in Wisconsin.

New proposals for mining in the U.P. involve a method — metallic sulfide mining — known for its record of toxic water pollution.

These metallic sulfide mining projects are an alarming new threat to the Upper Great Lakes that has gone largely unnoticed in Wisconsin, or elsewhere in the region outside of Michigan.

Are we, as a state and region, prepared for a metallic sulfide mining district in the U.P.? Have we done a thorough assessment of the risks involved and the long-range impact this could have on our groundwater, streams and lakes?

Read the rest…

With two proposed projects (Kennecott Eagle north of Marquette on Lake Superior and Aquila Resources Back40 project just a stone’s throw from the Menominee River and the Wisconsin border) and many, many more prospected sites (see map), the question “Are we ready?” is a darn good question to ask.

Through virtue of our work with an organization called Save the Wild UP, we’ve been following the story of sulfide mining in Michigan for years. It’s frankly stupefying that a mining technology that has killed fish and entire rivers, lain waste to lakes and as currently planned would actually spew tons of sulfide mining dust in the air as a kind of giant acid rain machine is still being considered at all.

Even more than the Lower Peninsula, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula depends on tourism and outdoor recreation for its livelihood and a couple hundred jobs would do nothing to offset the damage that news of mine accidents and poisoned rivers, lakes and air would generate. Once a mine opens in Michigan, so will the floodgates of a mineral rush that is virtually guaranteed to forever change the face of Michigan and our priceless waters. For it to happen without a public debate, behind closed doors is something we can’t allow to happen.

The photo above is just one of many in the Downstream group on Flickr, where almost 100 people have added one photo each to be paired with the song A Letter from Downstream by Daisy May Erlewine. The result is a fascinating look at the meaning of water in all our lives. I think more than any photo in the Downstream group, this one for me says why we shouldn’t allow huge corporations to bet their profits against the future of the Great Lakes. These waters are all of ours, and those of generations to come.

Eric concludes his editorial:

This is our region’s spiritual homeland, the headwaters country of our planet’s finest collection of fresh water.

Let us think long and hard before risking that notable resource by allowing metallic sulfide mining to get its foot in the door at such a critical location.

Let us heed Gov. Milliken and join our voices to protect both a land and its pristine water that mean so much to so many of us. Our grandchildren will thank us.


The Week for July 21-27, 2008

Fun on Pleasant Lake by MWOOD19
Fun on Pleasant Lake by MWOOD19

Welcome to The Week on Absolute Michigan. Summer is in full swing around the state and candidates in Michigan primaries are trying to chicken dinner their way to an August 6th victory.

Our July Michigan Event Calendar says that events folks can check out this weekend include the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival (Ypsilanti – man would I love to go to this!), Art On The Rocks in Marquette, the Hoxeyville Music Festival,   and the Yale Bologna Festival. Bologna Festival?? Early next week, the Traverse City Film Festival begins as well.

< The Week for July 14-20, 2008 | The Week for July 28 – August 3, 2008 >