Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials have announced that most of the recent backcountry cabin and campsite closures at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park were lifted Tuesday, two days ahead of schedule.
The cabins closed temporarily July 14 included the Big Carp six-bunk and four-bunk cabins and the four-bunk Lake Superior cabin. Ten backcountry campsites were closed also between the mouths of the Big and Little Carp rivers.
“Thanks to help of some dedicated crews, these cabins have been reopened ahead of schedule,” said John Pepin, deputy public information officer for the DNR. “This comes as great news for park visitors at the height of the summer camping season at the park.”
The cabin and campsite closures were the result of flooding from a July 11 thunderstorm that dumped as much as 11 inches of rain on some parts of the western Upper Peninsula and northeastern Wisconsin.
The National Weather Service confirmed an EF1 tornado struck three miles south of Bessemer in Gogebic County.
“The Gogebic County Airport reported 9 inches of rain in 6 hours, while weather observers near Lake Superior recorded up to 11 inches of rain in 4 hours,” said Linda Hansen, of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Resources Division. “Per our DEQ Hydrologic Studies Unit, these intensities and durations meet or exceed the 1000-year storm event.”
That storm – which caused significant damage on the western half of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – was followed up 10 days later by a complex of thunderstorms packing damaging winds, which hit the eastern half of the park.
The National Weather Service office in Negaunee Township confirmed pockets of significant tree damage from Ontonagon east toward Baraga.
Strong winds toppled trees onto power lines, knocking out utility service for more than 20,000 customers, including six state parks in the western U.P. Power was restored to all of the parks by Friday evening.
While some cabins and campsites have reopened, several additional features at the Porcupine Mountains remain closed.
The Speaker’s Cabin, located just south of the Lake Superior shoreline on the west end of the park, was moved Tuesday, 12 feet away from Speaker’s Creek. Flooding undercut the banks along the creek, chewing away nearly 10 feet of shoreline near the cabin.
“We had three major maintenance crews, along with our interior crew, working on moving Speaker’s Cabin,” said Porcupine Mountains-Lake Gogebic state parks unit manager Jeff Gaertner.
Speaker’s Cabin is closed until Aug. 20.
At the Presque Isle Campground, located on the western end of the park, campsite No. 36 is closed permanently. Floodwaters collapsed the sides of a stream bank, which undermined a steep embankment situated next to the campsite.
A stairwell to Lake Superior nearby, along the stream, has been closed temporarily until the path at the foot of the stairs can be cleared of fallen trees and mud.
At the Union Bay Campground, on the east end of the park, a yurt is set to reopen Friday. The roof of the structure was blown off during the July 21 windstorm.
Crews continued clearing downed trees from trails this week. The Lake Superior Trail remained blocked by several trees Monday, especially between Lafayette Landing and Lone Rock.
“We have three DNR Forest Resource Division crews working on trail clearing throughout the park,” Gaertner said. “FRD’s response to this has been outstanding and we appreciate it.”
A trail bridge over the Big Carp River washed out during the recent flooding. Trail users should seek a safe natural crossing upstream until the bridge can be replaced.
Since the storms hit, park staff at Porcupine Mountains has worked to repair bridges, trails, boardwalks and other structures.
“We appreciate how patient and understanding the public has been with us as we continue the cleanup and repair of these facilities,” Gaertner said.
Floating debris from 85 boats damaged or destroyed at Saxon Harbor July 11 has drifted toward the Porcupine Mountains. The day after the storm, numerous trees were seen floating off the mouth of Speaker’s Creek.
In recent days, DNR staff moving supplies to Speaker’s Cabin by boat found floating debris, mostly garbage, still on the lake surface. In a remote section of shoreline at the Porcupine Mountains, park staff found a smashed travel trailer that floated ashore.
Park staff had posted signs alerting boaters and other users of Lake Superior of the potential of encountering floating debris. At Silver City, water remained discolored by mud Monday, with several dead trees seen bobbing in the lake.
Near the mouth of Oman Creek, at Little Girl’s Point Gogebic County Park, a DNR boating access site there remains closed. Flooding washed out the shoreline around the boating launch and the parking lot.
Gov. Rick Snyder toured the area recently. He declared a state of disaster for Gogebic County July 15, making available all state resources to local efforts to repair damage. Snyder also activated the Michigan National Guard.
Three beach prisms – hefty concrete pilings that work to prevent erosion – were washed into Lake Superior and relocated Monday. DNR and DEQ staff are scheduled to meet Wednesday to assess the situation further.
The boat ramp has been pulled.
Lake Road, which leads to the boating access site, was heavily damaged during the storm by raging floodwaters, but has since been repaired.
Emily Lake State Forest Campground
Workers from J.M. Longyear LLC of Marquette continued their work today at the Emily Lake State Forest Campground, where four of the 13 campsites were occupied during the heavy thunderstorm.
Falling trees cut through the shells of two travel campers at the park. Campers escaped without injury. The trailers have not been removed from the park.
Loggers have been working at the site since Friday. The campground will remain closed until safety hazards can be removed and the campsites readied for visitors.
“After the loggers have gone through with their heavy equipment, almost all of the sites have at least some damage,” said Rich Pirhonen, ranger at Twin Lakes State Park. “Some need backhoe work, stumping, brush removal, grading and leveling et cetera.”
Along with the campground, loggers are also cleaning up about 15 acres around the boating access site area and along Pike Lake Road.
For campers with questions on reservations at any of the U.P. parks, contact the DNR’s parks call center at 1-800-447-2757 or 1-800-44PARKS.