If I had to pick a single word to describe this area as a place, I would pick the word water. It’s all around us and informs our lives in several ways. Some people live on the water, even more recreate on the water – even if it’s just gazing our over the water. Many of us travel past any of a number of water bodies on our way to work or elsewhere and some even pay attention to it as they travel by (unfortunately many do not; as indication of how much we live with water is the fact that it's easy to take for granted). And all of us benefit from the abundance of water available for our use. I read in a recent edition of Sault Star that Sault Ontario has a bylaw to restrict water use when needed, but the restrictions don’t reflect a shortage of supply as they do in the Great Plains but rather a shortage of processing capacity. So, for example, when use approaches a given percentage of pumping capacity, watering of lawns is restricted to stated days by address in Sault, Ontario.
In addition to the Great Lakes themselves, our abundance of water (more technically the combination of precipitation and temperature regimes)leads to several other features our area is known for such as wetlands, lakes and streams, and more.
The flat water of a lake or the low gradient streams we have here in the eastern UP is serene. Live water, tumbling over rapids or overa a waterfall, is fascinating. There’s just something about seeing the water tumble and hearing the white noise that people really appreciate. One can see flat water is many parts of the country, but live water is unusual enough to be a tourist attraction. We have 100+ waterfalls here in the UP, lower Michigan has only a few, so waterfalls often form the theme of a visit to the UP.
Our waterfalls are mostly in the central and western UP but here on the east side we have Tahquamenon Falls. The upper fall, one large freefall, is the most famous but the lower falls, more a series of rapids, have a charm of their own, including the ability to play in them. And of course here on the eastern UP, we have the remnants of the St. Marys rapids. ‘Though less than 10% of the original flow of the rapids and restricted to a narrow strip surrounded by industrial and transportation development, the rapids are still good to see and fish in.
So, our place in a word? Water.
Not everything about our water is pleasant. We don't have floods or other really dangerous consequences of being around water. We do have biting insects.
The black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies, stable flies, and other biting insects aren’t everyone’s favorite part of living by water. The first black fly bite of the season (mine was last week) isn’t as much fun as seeing the first, say, trilliums, of the season. Ever the optimist, though, I’m happy that our biting insects don’t include chiggers, the mite larvae that burrow into your skin and leave a terrible itch and a swollen nodule. Both the itch and the nodule last several days. Chiggers find the warmest part of your skin to burrow into, which adds to the discomfort. Some people don’t smell right to chiggers so don’t get attacked and some that are attacked are less allergic to chigger saliva or whatever it is that makes one itch so severely. Chiggers do like me, though. What positive spin can I put on that? At least I can’t say I’m never appreciated. I’m always good for a blood meal for a chigger when I’m in Kansas for a summertime visit. .