Posted by: Kath Usitalo | September 7, 2011

Clearly, The Big Spring Is A Big Deal

The eerie, crystal clear beauty of The Big Spring

Kitch-iti-Kipi is an Indian name for, “Wow, those are some awesome waters, man.”

Reflections and underwater scenery

Either that, or it’s Chippewa for “Mirror of Heaven” or “Big cold water” or one of several other descriptions of Michigan’s largest natural spring. Although it’s on the list of “must see” Upper Peninsula attractions, I just finally got around to visiting The Big Spring at Palms Book State Park, a short drive north and west of Manistique.

The raft passes over The Big Spring

I knew all the facts and stats: -Kitch-iti-Kipi (KITCH-i-tee-KI-pee, with short “i”s) is a 200-foot spring in a freshwater pond that is 45 feet deep. -The year ’round water temperature is 45 degrees F. -Each minute more than 10,000 gallons of water push through the limestone sinkhole. -The spring is connected by an aquifer to nearby Indian Lake. -Visitors propel a large raft with a viewing well along a wire guide back and forth across the pond for the incredible underwater scenery. I wasn’t prepared for the gasp-worthy sight of the crystal clear, aqua and emerald pond. Or the eerie underwater tree trunks and limbs coated in limestone. And the schools of fish—someone said they were large brown trout—that appeared small because they were so far below the surface. No fishing allowed here, but since the trout and perch travel between the Big Spring and Indian Lake you have a chance to snag them at that State Park. Tucker the Wonder Dog and I boarded the covered raft with a family of four from Wisconsin, joining a couple of women and a small boy who wanted to cross the pond again (for, apparently, the umpteenth time).

Even 5-year old Ella was able to turn the wheel and operate the raft

The kids had a blast looking at the bubbling water and shifting sands, and spying fish through the viewing well, and turning the wheel to propel the raft across the water. When the little ones started running around the raft deck Tucker couldn’t help but bark, disturbing the quiet beauty of the place. That beauty had been hidden for a time when the Big Spring was used as a dump for local logging operations. In the 1920s a shop owner named John Bellaire from nearby Manistique saw the beauty of the place and thought it should be preserved for public use. Through his efforts, in 1926 the Palms Book Land Company sold 90 acres, including the pond, to the state for $10 and created Palms Book State Park. The day-use park now measures 388 acres and includes a picnic area, concession, restrooms, playground, and ADA accessible path and raft. A State Recreation Passport is required for entry ($10 per year for residents; non-residents pay $29 annually or $8 daily); the raft ride is free. The Big Spring bubbles all year ’round, though in winter the park gate may be closed which means tromping a further distance through the snow to reach the pond. I imagine it’s worth the trek, but I enjoyed my visit on a nice and warm, late summer afternoon.

Crossing the pond on the raft takes just a few minutes; on an uncrowded day you can make as many trips as you like

Visitor Info Clicks: Palms Book State Park Manistique Upper Peninsula Pure Michigan



  1. I’ve always wanted to go here! Thanks for the crystal clear encounter. Now, how about those Hiawatha pasties?

    • Can’t believe it took me this long to see it. It was a gorgeous day.

      I’m stopping in Traverse City on the way home and I’m worried the pasties won’t survive the detour!

  2. The $10 charge is for your vehicle. If you walk in, it’s free. It is my understanding that Palms Book offered it with the condition that nobody be charged to see it. So….when it was made a State Park, there was the admission charge for your vehicle, so being locals, we would park on the side road and walk in. We didn’t live far, so we were there a lot. It continues to be one of my favorite places on earth. On the same list of favorites is Manistique East Breakwater. Love, love, love it!

    • I called to verify and you are correct. There is no charge if you walk in. But if you drive up and leave your vehicle, even if it’s before the gate but still on park property, you must pay the fee. Thanks for the clarification!
      I should have stopped at the Breakwater on my recent visit to take pictures, it was such a beautiful day. Oh well, a reason to return!

      • Yes, you can’t park on their property. But, when the road curves o the right to go into the park, it actually has a fork that goes straight. That’s a good place to park and walk. I don’t want to come off sounding cheap, but we were there so often that it got expensive if you didn’t have the yearly tag. That was always on my parents vehicle.

  3. We went there briefly (a storm was rolling thru when we got there) but it was a really neat experience. We also got to see a family of otters playing!

    • Otters…how cool! I definitely need to pack a picnic lunch and go back and spend more time there.

  4. […] Big Spring, Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan’s largest natural spring; in the Upper Peninsula near Manistique […]

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