Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kingston Plains and Grand Sable Dunes photos

Southwest of Grand Marais around fifteen miles is the area called the Kingston Plains. This area, part of the Lake Superior State Forest, is also known as the stump field. This ghostly plain was created when forest fires burned so hot that everything including the seeds in the soil's humus was destroyed so the forest couldn't regenerate as it usually would. In the last 80 or 90 years some trees have regenerated but the plains are mostly dotted with tree stumps. Those stumps with straight tops were logged; those with ragged tops were destroyed by the fire. In most cases when there are large forest fires the U.S. Forest Service, or its equivalent back then, replanted. But since the Kingston Plains have no river system, they decided to not re-plant. As a result the ecosystem is isolated and was left on its own.

Pine resins within stumps have preserved pine stump fields as ghost forests, which provide an unusual visual record of the old-growth forests here before settlement. Stumps show the pines' density and size. It's not uncommon to see big stumps, two feet in diameter, every ten feet. In the Kingston Plains today, lichens are the principal living plant. Researchers have discovered that there are species of lichen that are unique to the Kingston Plains and exist no where else.

Since my hiking friend is back from New Mexico, we headed up into the dunes yesterday. Here are a couple of shots of Wendy plus photos of the dune scenery.

While walking across the dunes we saw a lot of the endangered Pitcher’s Thistle (Cirsium pitcheriRange). This plant is a native thistle that grows on the beaches and grassland dunes along the shorelines of Lakes Michigan, Superior, and Huron. It is now found in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin and in Ontario Canada. Also pictured are the yellow bouquet-like flowers that were blooming everywhere in the dunes.

In the middle of the dunes we ran across this "dune art." Perhaps it is an alter to honor the beauty of the area.

I'll never get tired of taking photos of Au Sable Point.


  1. is that where they used to roll cut logs down the dunes into Lake Superior when the lumber industry was booming in Grand Marais?

  2. The last photo in yesterday's blog update looking west from the Grand Sable Dunes does show the log slide area. As you look west, the log slide site is just a little bit east of the first section of trees.