Meltdown at Pier Cove Beach — A Photo Essay
Lately, I've been torn between two passions; writing and photography. So, naturally, I resolved my curious dilemma by combining the two. Therefore, after snapping quite a few photos of a quaint Lake Michigan beach five minutes from my home, I followed through with this photo/essay. The following is a brief history as well as a recent development caused by an unusual March snow melt. First, let me just say, I've lived in the area for almost twenty years, but have failed to fully credit this small pocket of the community for its beauty, albeit stopping the car to glimpse at a sunset. All that has changed. Here's hoping you enjoy a story of this cozy Southwestern Michigan beach called Pier Cove!
History of a Quaint Michigan Beach Community called Pier Cove
The Southwestern Lake Michigan shoreline forms a long steep curve inland at the point of Pier Cove where a small creek empties into the big lake. In the early 1800’s, Pier Cove's ravines and plateaus bordering the creek flourished with white pine, beech, hemlock and maple trees. By the 1840’s, lumber was in great demand prompting the construction of a steam sawmill and wood shop down stream. The timber there helped support the build-up of Chicago and Milwaukee. Adding to the lumber demands, before the advent of big coal markets, the hardwoods were also used to provide cord woods as the major power source in steam driven vessels navigating on Lake Michigan. The wood shop was later made into a grist mill for grinding both flour and feed which was powered by the small creek. A secondary product in demand was tanbark derived from hemlock used to yield leather. Accordingly, in the 1850’s a tanning mill was also built along the creek turning out fancy leather works.
Two piers were constructed at opposite sides of the creek and the bustling small community hosted a major distribution point! Ships departed daily until the the late 1860’s when the lumber supply began to dwindle from heavy harvesting and then from a major fire in 1871. Soon, competition from a new railroad line through a nearby village surpassed the need for the waterway port. Pier Cove’s prosperity phased out; however, in the 1880's peaches and other fruit became a major shipping commodity and the site revived the village’s economy! Tragically, in 1899 a freeze killed much of the local harvest and shipping was reduced to passenger traffic. By 1919, both piers were destroyed from ice and storms, never to be restored again.
O.C. Simonds, the last owner of the mill and large plot of the creek valley, planted many unusual plants and the area became quite well known by naturalists for its many varieties of trillium. The land currently has been declared a nature and wildlife sanctuary!
A Tale of the First Settler
In the 1800’s, before the area was settled by European Americans, Pottawatomie Native Americans were the main people living off the land. At that point in time, fur trading practices had long been established as the local Pottawatomie had always been very friendly and accommodating toward the tradesmen. The very first arrivals to take up roots and settle down in the area was the Crawford family who witnessed a terrain thick with white pines as far as the eye could see.
One interesting story documented about the new settlers describes how the family toiled to cut down the trees and grub out the land in order to plant their corn, wheat and vegetables. But sometimes they got lost in the forest; even their cow got lost trying to find its way home when it was time to be milked and fed. One particular occasion, a band of Pottawatomie nearby allowed the Crawfords to camp out in their village while they looked for their lost cow! They were fed by the friendly tribe and a kind native american woman even sewed them each a pair of moccasins.
- Solid Shoreline and the Polar Vortex of 2014
A photographic odyssey and essay explaining the progression and formation of ice shelves on The Great Lakes before and after the 2014 historic polar vortex event; includes the hidden dangers!
Amazingly, only a few days before the photo below was taken at Pier Cove's beach on Lake Michigan, the last snow mound standing (shown in the photo) reached over 25 ft high. But it was mostly colored white with a top layer of snow and ice. It was part of the solid ice sheet called the ice shelf which forms over Lake Michigan's shorelines most winters. Also, from that same vantage point, the ice sheet pretty much obliterated the view of the lake water! The day the photo was taken, the last standing big mound was colored brown due to layers of sand underneath exposed by a sudden and unusual early March melt down. Then, by the following day, whatever remained of the ice shelf was practically demolished as a result of the continuing warm spell multiplied by strong winds and waves.
What Wonders Lying On The Beach
Photographs of rocks often go unappreciated so I've made sure to include a handful in this photo review. For some reason, rocks, shells and fossils are much more accessible for discovery at Pier Cove compared to other beaches in the area, such as the popular tourist site of Oval Beach! It's a phenomenon seen especially in the spring when rivers of melting snow rush by erasing the sand off the many hidden treasures.
- Pier Cove Rare Rocks and Sand Formations
A description of the rare Septarium rocks found only in one other place in the world and more photos of unique sand formations and meltdown at Pier Cove Beach on Lake Michigan!
A Closer View Of Pier Cove Creek
The crystal clear rushing water is a result of melting snow off the steep ravines bordering the creek through Pier Cove Forest Sanctuary. The creek no longer supporting transportation for the former industries is taken over by the ensuing forest.
The black and white photo below offers an idea of the erosion along the north side of the creek cliff. It's estimated to be about a 40 foot drop. Just below the mangled roots there is a fallen tree trunk that's suspended across to the opposite bank of the creek. The base of the trunk can just barley be seen in the right-hand bottom corner of the photo. The close-up driftwood photos below entitled "Orange Fungus" and "Peek-a-Boo" were captured from that piece. Also, a large section of the tree's root system dislodged and drifted to the opposite side of the creek. I've captured a few close-ups from that large chunk of "Driftwood Maze" as well!
All About Michigan Sunsets
I've been lucky with sunsets. One day while I was literally standing in the shallows of the creek admiring smooth dried rocks lying on the wet sand, two deer came strolling by. One stopped for just a second before she saw me and ran off. But her fawn didn't. I had just enough time to adjust my camera and push the shutter button at the last second. I was in such a hurry and didn't know if I held the camera steady enough to get a clear shot. I'm so pleased it turned out to be a perfect silhouette with a backdrop of glimmering water, sunset colored sky and all!!! I think of it as a good sign for things to come and nature's spirit casting her love light upon me!
Under the Setting Sun
Sun no longer high in the sky
Past midday on a downward slide
Under the golden radiance
Souls rush to catch a glimpse
And arrest the passing moments
Of the Sun’s intensifying tints
Within body’s yearning to unwind
The splendor inspires soul’s confined
To merge with the miraculous light
Encompassing a love unmatched in this temporary life
Fossillady aka Kathi Mirto Photography
- Kathi Mirto - Artwork Collections
Artwork collections for sale by Kathi Mirto. Nature is in us all shinning our life lights a little brighter; so naturally, nature inspires me to capture its essence through the lens, especially from my Lake Michigan surroundings and with just a step
A children's photo story-verse book also inspired by winter's flight, by fossillady . . . aka Kathi L. Mirto
© 2011 Kathi