Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘Michigan’

Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan “The Rapids of St. Mary”

The roaring river of St Mary’s separates the twin cities,  Sault Ste Marie, Ontario and Sault Ste Marie, Michigan on the northwestern tip of the UP of Michigan.  The International Bridge takes road traffic over the St Mary’s River, which is the connecting river between two of the Great Lakes:  Lake Superior to Lake Huron.

Soo LocksThis is home to The Soo Canal, the longest locking system in the world, commonly called “The Soo” by locals. A stop at the Information Center gives you additional information regarding the magnitude of the locks and their importance to shipping in the Great Lakes Region.  Through The Soo, it is possible to watch very large ships being lifted or dropped 21′ as they go through the rapids from lake to lake. Two of the ships being moved this particular day were the S S Atlanta Huron, a bulk Canadian freighter measuring 736′ X 76′, and Lee A Tregurtha, an original WWII tanker now sailing for over sixty years,measuring even larger at 826′ X 75′.

Tower of HistoryIt was fascinating to watch the ships being moved and there were several vantage points.  A nearby tower provided an overview of the area, while it was also possible to watch the ships from the dock area – nearly close enough to touch them.

The Tower of History also gave great overviews of the city as well as the locks. Built in 1969 by the Catholic Church, its purpose was to tell the history of the early missionaries. Today the story of Native Americans as well as the early missionaries is told with pictures, films and displays. 2000 years ago the Native American Indians gathered near the waters here due to the abundant supply of fish and furs. The Tower of History is 210′ high with outside balconies to make viewing a pleasure.  Since it was a very windy day, it was advised that visitors not go to the top. But that was just a challenge and proved quite scenic.

Agawa Canyon FallsThe following day, an early morning train, Agawa Canyon Tour Train, left Sault Ste Marie on the Canadian side. The round trip of 228 miles over towering trestles into the Canadian wilderness provided a scenic view including many lakes, waterfalls and pines.  At the farthest end of the tour, the train sweeps down into Agawa Canyon with a stop at Canyon Park, home to many beautiful waterfalls.

Before leaving Sault Ste Marie the next day, visited the Museum Ship Valley Camp, an actual retired ship. The S.S. Valley Camp was built in 1917 by a shipbuilding company in Lorain, Ohio. It is possible to walk not only the decks, but also visit the living quarters and explore inside from top to bottom. Valley Camp once had a crew of 29 men, so is the perfect place to display lifestyle of the Great Lakes’ sailors. From the more luxurious Captain’s Quarters to the rather plain cabins of the Oilers and Coal Passers, visitors receive a true glimpse into how they lived and worked onboard.

Museum Ship Valley CampA museum with over a hundred exhibits exists inside Valley Camp. Many items are displayed that have been recovered from sunken ships in the Great Lakes. An attractive aquarium features many of the fish who swim in the St Mary’s waters.

Sault Ste Marie does not claim to be tourist country, but it certainly holds many interesting pieces of the past for the curious to explore.

To reach Sault Ste Marie on the US side, take I-75 North to its end. 

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Oswald’s Black Bear Ranch Michigan Home for Rescued Cubs

Black Bear RanchOn a trip through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, commonly called the UP, a sign for a Black Bear Ranch appeared along the road. Bears are a symbol of courage and bravery, having appeared in many Native American legends. All my life this gypsy has been attracted to bears and their habitat, so this was a bonus find along the way.

Oswald’s Black Bear Ranch is the largest strictly bear ranch in the United States. Located on the back roads near Newberry, Michigan, it has become one of the top ten family attractions in the area.  Owned by Dean and Jewel Oswald, this family affair began as a rescue operation for black bear cubs. Dean brought them to his ranch, fed them, and gave them loving care. Once word spread of his love for bears, people from all around the world would call to say they had found a small bear cub, but were no longer able to care for it. Then Dean would bring it to its new home.

Tyson BearThe main attraction in the early days of Oswald’s Black Bear Ranch was Tyson, the largest black bear in the United States and possibly the world. Although the name black bear suggests the color black for all those bears, their colors range from cinnamon to dark chocolate to jet black. Tyson weighed in at 880 pounds, but the Oswalds believe he reached 1000 pounds, before taking his last breath in 2000.

Those curious about bears are free to walk throughout the property – outside the fences of course. It’s an enjoyable stroll to encircle one of their four enclosed areas and view the bears as they lumber along. This experience is more personal than a visit to a zoo, since visitors usually get closer to a real bear than they have ever been before. Today they have added a trolley for older or handicapped visitors, who aren’t able to make the long walk, but would still enjoy seeing the bears in their wilderness habitat.

Baby Bears Play AreaTwo little bear cubs enjoyed playing with an old swinging tire in their cage. They amused themselves for quite some time pushing it from side to side and sometimes getting on it for a ride. The cubs seemed quite pleased with themselves while swinging. Nearby was a big pool of water where they bathed and splashed each other, exactly like two children might do.  Cute is the word that best described their antics. Each year a contest is held in the local area to name the newest bear cubs.

Bear Waiting for SnackAnother favorite activity involves feeding the bears. The larger bears might be fed apples, while the younger ones prefer Fruit Loops.  Eagerly awaiting their snacks, bears bravely approach the fence. These small cubs, all under the age of four months, received many gentle rubs and even hugs, as it was permissible to pet them during a previous visit. However, last year the government stepped in and now prohibits touching the bears or taking pictures with them. Some still feel Dean Oswald lets visitors a little too close for comfort, but the children and young at heart certainly enjoy being allowed this close contact.

Black Bear HibernationThe older bears lived in a large fenced in area with a half mile perimeter to roam. The high fence protected visitors but still gave the bears freedom more closely resembling the wilderness where bears usually live. At the back of the fenced in area were cement block houses for winter hibernation. With straw covered, wooden floors inside, bears had a comfortable environment for their winter sleep.

Today there are 27 bears at Oswald’s Black Bear Ranch. Of course, there is also a souvenir shop for those who want to take home a memory. My treasure was a warm flannel nightgown with Oswald Ranch written among the black bears. It feels like getting a warm, soft hug from a bear!

Oswald Black Bear Ranch is located just 20 minutes south of Tahquamenon Falls, or from Newberry go 4 miles north on M-123 towards Tahquamenon Falls. Turn left at 4 Mile Corner (Deer Park Rd., Muskallonge Lake, H-37 H-407). Then it’s 4 1/2 more miles to see the former home of Tyson Bear .

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