“The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay if they put 15 more miles behind her…” Singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot immortalized the ill-fated ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald for the masses, but locals here need no reminders. Less than 20 miles from Whitefish Point and the safety of Whitefish Bay, the huge laker and all 29 hands on board were swallowed up in mere minutes by a fierce November squall in 1975.
On Lake Superior—the largest and fiercest of the Great Lakes—northwest storms can build over 200 miles of cold, open water. They unleash their full fury on the 80-mile stretch of water from Grand Marais to Whitefish Point (hence the nickname, the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes”). Whitefish Point has long served as a beacon for mariners, a narrow finger of land reaching toward Ontario and forming the protected waters of Whitefish Bay, one of the few safe havens on the big lake.
A needed resting spot for birds migrating across Lake Superior, Whitefish Point is a bird-watcher’s dream. Beginning with the hawk migration in April through late fall, the point attracts an amazing variety of birds. Eagles, loons, songbirds, waterfowl, owls, some unusual arctic species like arctic loons and arctic terns, and more all pass through, some 300 species in all.
Even if you’re not a birding enthusiast, plan to spend some time at this lovely point, where you can wander the sand beaches, watch the birds, and keep an eye out for the big lakers that pass quite close to shore as they round the point. Bring along binoculars and an extra jacket.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel