Photos courtesy of Schoolcraft County Historical Society
For decades, one of the most popular places for picnic and excursions was to go to the Big Spring at Indian Lake. Initially, one crossed Indian Lake and then hiked to the Big Spring, but later, there was a narrow-gage railroad, pictured at left, that took people from Thompson to the Big Spring.
In 1889, a Mr. Shaw of Manistique began regular trips from his boat on Indian Lake three times a week with pickups at three different locations. Big Spring is an oval green pool area that measures 300 feet by 175 feet and has a depth of 40 feet. Initially, people built rafts so they could go out into the pond.
The Big Spring was also used as a dumping area for trash. As a result of the efforts of John I. Bellaire, Kitchitikipi became a state park. Much of the land around Big Spring was owned by the Palms Book Land Company and after its sale of the land in 1926 to the state, Big Spring picked up its third name, Palms Book State Park.
John I. Bellaire spent his life in Manistique advertising the spring as shown by the label shown above. He sold water and sand in his five-and-dime store, claiming they had magical powers. Bellaire also had a book published creating the story of the Big Spring. Basically, its a story of a young chieftain who is trying to prove his love to a Native American maiden, and he drowns in the spring. Supposedly, he returns in the form of a white deer. The label was attached to packets of sand and water sold by Bellaire.
As a result of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Association (WPA), several projects were undertaken in Schoolcraft County. The photo above shows the original ranger’s quarters and concession stand that were built in the 1930s by the CCC at the Big Spring.
This picture depicts the more modern raft that was built by the CCC so people would be able to view the bubbling springs and the large brown trout with more stability than the earlier rafts. Palms Book State Park has remained a favorite attraction and picnic area with both local citizens and tourists. A popular tradition (continued today) is to throw a coin in the water for good luck.
Today Kitch-tiki-pi is one of Michigan’s alluring natural attractions, voted the second-most natural wonder of the Upper Peninsula by the viewers of WLUC T.V. 6 in 2010. Beyond the history and legends, this unique natural wonder always seems to bring people back.
The Schoolcraft County Historical Society is on Facebook and rare historical pictures and news from the past are posted daily. To learn more, visit http://cityofmanistique.org/schs or Facebook: www.facebook.com/SCHistoricalSociety.