Kitch-iti-kipi ("KITCH-i-tee-KI-pee" with short "i"s) is Michigan's largest natural freshwater spring. The name means big cold water and is sometimes referred to as The Big Spring. Its original name was the "Mirror of Heaven" given to it by the early Native Americans.
Kitch-iti-kipi spring is one of Michigan's Upper Peninsula's major tourist attractions. It is northwest of Manistique about six miles (9.7 km) west on US Highway 2 and 12 miles (19 km) north on M-149 in Thompson Township, Schoolcraft County at the northern terminus. It is located within the Palms Book State Park.
Kitch-iti-kipi is an oval pool measuring 300 by 175 feet (91 m × 53 m) and is about 40 feet (12 m) deep with an emerald green bottom. From the fissures in underlying limestone flows 10,000 US gallons per minute (630 l/s) of spring water throughout the year at a constant temperature of 45 °F (7 °C).
Hydraulic pressure forces the groundwater to the surface. It is not known exactly where this enormous volume of water comes from. The spring's pool bowl is similar to other sinkholes except it is connected with an aquifer (underground stream) to Indian Lake. The small spring pool was created when the top layer of limestone dissolved away and collapsed into the cave already created by the underground water.
Ancient tree trunks with mineral encrusted branches can be seen, as well as fish that appear to be suspended in the crystal clear waters of the spring. The fish are lake trout, brown trout and brook trout. On occasion one may spot yellow perch and other species that move between Big Spring and Indian Lake.
A self-operated observation raft guides park visitors to vantage points overlooking the underwater features. This raft is on a cable that is pulled across the spring pool by park visitors or by a park employee. There are viewing windows where visitors can see the fast flowing spring. Visitors can look over the side of the raft for viewing as well. The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the raft, dock, concession stand and ranger's quarters with other groups that participated.
The state of Michigan acquired Kitch-iti-kipi in 1926. History records that John I. Bellaire, owner of a Manistique Five and Dime store, fell in love with the black hole spring when he discovered it in the thick wilderness of Michigan's Upper Peninsula in the 1920s. It was hidden in a tangle of fallen trees and loggers were using the nearby area as a dump.
Bellaire saw its potential as a public recreational spot. He could have purchased the spring and adjoining property himself; however, he persuaded Frank Palms of the Palms Book Land Company to sell the spring and 90 acres (36 ha) to the state of Michigan for $10. The property deed requires the property to be forever used as a public park, bearing the name Palms Book State Park. The State of Michigan has since acquired adjacent land so the park now encompasses over 300 acres (120 ha).
Old Native American legends
One legend goes that Kitch-iti-kipi was a young chieftain of the area. He told his girlfriend that he loved her far more than the other dark-haired maidens dancing near his birchbark wigwam. She claimed she wanted to put him through a test of love and demanded, "Prove it!" The test of his devotion was that he must set sail in his canoe on this spring lake deep in the conifer swamp. She would then leap from an overhanging branch in an act of faith. He was to catch her from his canoe proving his love. He then took his fragile canoe onto the icy waters of the lake looking for her. Eventually his canoe tipped over in the endeavor. He drowned in the attempt to satisfy the vanity of his love for this Native American maid. It turned out she was back at her village meanwhile with other Native American maidens laughing about his frivolous quest. The spring was then named in his memory.
Another legend was that they took a drop of honey on a piece of birch bark and dipped it into the spring. This was then presented to a loved one to make them true forever.
Another legend talks about the tamarack trees growing on the banks of the spring. A small piece of the bark was ground in a mortar and pestle. The remnants were then placed in an individual's empty pockets and magically would be replaced by glittering gold at exactly midnight that night.
Other Native American legends tell of some Chippewa parents who came to the pool seeking names for their newborn sons or daughters. They supposedly found names like Satu (darling), Kakushika (big eye), Natukoro (lovely flower) and We-shi (little fish) in the sounds of the rippling water. Still other legends say the Chippewa Native Americans had even attributed special healing powers to the spring waters.
The name Kitch-iti-kipi is said to have many meanings in the Chippewa's language. Some were “The Great Water”, ”The Blue Sky I See”, and “Bubbling Spring”. Other Chippewa Native Americans called it “The Roaring“, "Drum Water”, and the “Sound of Thunder” - even though there is total silence coming from the spring!
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- Madison, George; Lockwood, Roger N. (October 2004). "Manistique River Assessment" (PDF). Fisheries Special Report 31. Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan Department of Natural Resources: 65–72. Retrieved May 12, 2008.
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- DuFresne, Jim; Clifton-Thornton, Christine (1998). Michigan State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide. Seattle]: The Mountaineers Books. p. 9. ISBN 0-89886-544-1. Retrieved May 12, 2008.