Straits of Mackinac
2021 Trip Report

Days one & two: Piers Gorge and the drive to Iron Mountain

Days 1 & 2   Day 3   Day 4   Day 5   Day 6
Day 7   Day 8   Day 9   Day 10

Piers Gorge
Goldzone Cafe - Best Western Plus Longbranch Hotel in Cedar Rapids Iowa
Goldzone Cafe at Best Western Plus Longbranch Hotel
Our trip to Northern Michigan and the Straits of Mackinac began late Wednesday afternoon (June 16) with a quick drive from Lenexa, Kansas to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, making only brief stops for fuel and fast food. We spent the night at the Best Western Plus Longbranch Hotel & Convention Center. It is a nice, irregularly laid out hotel and we enjoyed a made to order breakfast Thursday morning at Goldzone Café in the atrium. Prior to Covid, the hotel offered a breakfast buffet.

On Thursday, we drove straight through to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, with our only stop being for lunch in Madison, Wisconsin, We dined at The Coopers Tavern, across the street from the Wisconsin Capitol Building. We had poutine (Belgian frites, melted cheese curds, peppercorn gravy & fresh scallions), Grilled Cheese (Wisconsin cheddar, whipped goat cheese & basil on grilled sourdough) and a Coopers Burger (Fox Heritage Farms ground beef, aged cheddar, bacon, lettuce, onion, mayonnaise & pickles on a brioche bun). The sandwiches were both good. but the poutine was the only dish I would make a point of having again. I wish there had been a little more of the rich, dark gravy on the fries.

Grilled Cheese, Poutine and Coopers Burger at Coopers Tavern in Madison, Wisconsin
Grilled Cheese, Poutine and Coopers Burger at Coopers Tavern

Wisconsin Capitol Building - Madison, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Capitol Building

We arrived on the Norway, Michigan side of Piers Gorge about 4:30PM, this is part of Menominee River State Recreation Area. One side of the river is in Wisconsin and one side in Michigan. After paying the $9 daily pass charge by leaving an envelope with the cash and a description of out car in a drop box, we hiked a short way up the river shore to the first of the four piers the gorge is named for. The piers are waterfalls over rock ledges, the most dramatic part of the rapids and swift water which make up this stretch of the Menominee River.

We arrived at the pier as a series of white water rafts passed by, some of them full of people waving to a photographer from Wildman Adventure Resort on the bank near us. The first few groups negotiated the rapids easily, but the next to last of them appeared to hang up on a rock, swing around and drop back into a hole where three of the four people on the raft went in the water. They all appeared to be fine.

We continued to walk upriver, near the bank on poorly marked and irregular trails to the second and third piers. about a quarter mile on the river, but longer weaving up and down slopes on land. The time went quickly and when we returned to our car, we were surprised to see that we had been there an hour.

Rafts on the Menominee River at Piers Gorge
Rafters waiting for the other rafts to come through Pier 1

Whitewater rafting in Menominee River State Recreation Area
A party of four going over Pier 1

The raft appears to hang up on a rock and slide back

Whitewater rafting on the Menominee River

White water faft with one passenger remaining out of four
All was fine

We drove through Norway, Michigan to Iron Mountain, where we had supper at a family restaurant called Holiday Kitchen. Linda had a chicken parmesan grinder on house bread and I had a fried perch dinner. This was my first lake perch since last summer and I enjoyed it, but the fish tasted like if had been frozen.

Holiday Kitchen - Iron Mountain, Michigan
Holiday Kitchen

Fried perch at Holiday Kitchen in Iron Mountain, Michigan
Deep fried perch and French fries

Although our hotel was just a couple of blocks away, after dinner we explored Iron Mountain and the adjacent community of Kingsford. After using our phones to consult several web sites, we located the former Ford Plant. Ford Motor Company once owned more than 300,000 acres of the Upper Peninsula including sawmills, factories and a wood chemical plant. The Kingsford plant made wood parts for Model Ts and it was here that Kingsford Briquettes were invented to make use of the waste wood.

Ford Kingsford Plant - Kingsford, Michigan
Ford Kingsford Plant

We also stopped at the Pine Mountain Ski Jump, which is one of the highest artificially created ski jumps in the world. The landing area looked long and narrow and I wondered if anyone ever went off to either side.

Pine Mountain Ski Jump - Iron Mountain, Michigan
Pine Mountain Ski Jump

We spent the night at the slightly dated, but comfortable and clean Mountain Host Motor Inn in Iron Mountain, which was only $54/night!

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Day 7    Day 8    Day 9    Day 10
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