@Andrea Syron

Kitch-iti-kipi (The Big Spring): Michigan’s Largest Natural Freshwater Spring

Quick Facts | History | Things to do | Hours and admission costs | Directions

If you’re looking for a breathtaking detour on your journey through the Central Upper Peninsula, you can’t skip over Kitch-iti-kipi or the “Big Spring.” Nicknamed “Mirror of Heaven'' by the Ojibwe, this must-see site reflects its surroundings year-round on crystal-clear waters.

Kitch-iti-kipi quick facts 

  • One of Michigan’s most popular attractions, it welcomes over 60,000 visitors annually.

  • Located 11 miles north of US-2 outside of Manistique.

  • The largest natural, freshwater spring in Michigan, it is 40 feet deep and 200 feet across.

  • The water temperature is a constant 45 degrees and the teal water is crystal clear. It rarely freezes in the winter.

  • 10,000 gallons of water per minute erupts from fissures in the limestone rocks at the spring’s floor.

  • It is home to large lake trout, brown trout and brook trout.

  • The overflow of the spring waters enters a rushing stream that winds its way through the surrounding forest and empties into Indian Lake.

  • There is an ADA-accessible, paved path from the parking lot to the observation deck and dock. The raft is ADA-accessible, too.

  • Pet-friendly; pets must be on a six-foot or shorter leash at all times in the park and on the raft. If the raft is crowded, please consider keeping your pet on shore. 

  • No swimming. No fishing. No kayaking or paddling. You can swim, fish and paddle at the nearby Indian Lake State Park.

History of Kitch-iti-kipi

For many years, Ojibwe families lived in the area surrounding Kitch-iti-kipi. Many left when European settlers arrived. worked to tame the thick forests, harvesting the lumber to build communities in the U.P. and the Midwest. Lumber camps used Kitch-iti-kipi as a dumping ground for unwanted logs and trash.

John Bellaire, the owner of a five-and-dime store in Manistique, came upon the hidden spring in the 1920s. He would visit the enchanting waters almost daily. Rather than buy the land for himself, Bellaire wanted everyone to enjoy the spring. So he convinced members of the Palms and Book families who owned the Palms Book Land Company to sell 90 acres surrounding the spring to the State of Michigan for $10. The deed stipulated the land had to be used forever as a public state park. 

Over the next two decades, the State obtained several more land parcels and the Palms Book State Park now covers nearly 388 acres.

There are several folktales and legends about the spring. A 2020 book by Carole Lynn Hare (Miskwa Anang Kwe), The Legend of Kitch-iti-kipi, tells her tribe’s version. John Bellaire admitted to making up other stories in the 1920s to attract visitors to the area. 

Things to do at Kitch-iti-kipi
 

Ride a FREE raft to see the ethereal depths of Kitch-iti-kipi

From the parking lot, take a short walk on a paved path to the Kitch-iti-kipi observation deck and a crank-propelled raft. The path and raft are fully ADA-accessible. Riding across the spring on the raft is well worth the wait during busier times.

To operate the raft, one or more passengers volunteer to turn the big wheel that propels the raft slowly forward, then back to the dock. The raft is O-shaped with a glass section in the center of the deck. A fence surrounds the opening and a roof overhead reduces any sun glare. From this center observation spot or from the sides of the raft, you can see the large trout swimming below, ancient tree trunks, lime-encrusted branches and clouds of sand pushed up by the bubbling water. It is a window into nature you will long remember. 

Park rangers will occasionally operate the crank wheel and feed the fish as you cross the spring. This brings the fish closer to the surface so you can take even better photographs. 

Picnic within yards of Kitch-iti-kipi

When you return to the dock, there is a concession stand that offers snacks, souvenirs and picnic supplies. There are picnic tables, charcoal grills and modern restrooms nearby. 

Encounter nature on the Kitch-iti-kipi trail

The nearly 100-foot-long (0.3 km) out-and-back trail is an easy walk. You can hear birds and see trees and plants along the way. 

Enjoy your outdoor recreation passions 

When you are at Kitch-iti-kipi you are near the Upper Peninsula’s beautiful Hiawatha National Forest, Lake Superior State Forest and Seney National Wildlife Refuge. These year-round, wilderness destinations offer seasonal berry picking, birdwatching, canoeing, fishing, hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.

Spend the night at Indian Lake State Park or nearby hotels and resorts

Indian Lake State Park is on the fourth largest inland lake in the Upper Peninsula. It is home to two campgrounds (one modern and one semi-modern), overnight lodgings, a popular swimming beach, boat launch, picnic area, two miles of hiking trails and a quarter-mile, paved, ADA-accessible trail along the lake, 

When you leave the park, you are also a short drive from many hotels, resorts and restaurants that will fit your budget and amenity and menu preferences. 

Visit other popular attractions within driving distance of Kitch-iti-kipi

Kitch-iti-kipi hours and costs 

  • Kitch-iti-kipi and the Palms Book State Park are open year-round, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The summer months are the busiest. If you wish to avoid the crowds, arrive before 10:30 a.m. or after 5 p.m. Plan to spend 1 to 2 hours at the park. 

  • Entry fee: FREE with Michigan Recreation Passport. Non-residents can purchase a day pass for $10 (good for entry and re-entry to any state park for the day).

Directions to Kitch-iti-kipi

What better place to reflect on the Upper Peninsula’s beauty than the place where beauty is reflected all around you? Swing by Kitch-iti-Kipi. 

Palms Book State Park
M-149 (a mile north of the Co Rd 455 junction)
Manistique, MI 49854
Phone: 906-341-2355

Palms Book State Park is only a 15-minute drive from Manistique. It is north of US-2 at Thompson, at the northern terminus of M-149. The park is also an hour south of Munising via M-28 to M-94. Or nearly 2 hours from Menominee via M-35 to M-149.

Directions

small zoomed out map of the michigan area at a state level