Capture Amazing Photos on Pictured Rocks Cruises

Lovers' Leap

Growing up in Michigan, you get accustomed to seeing beautiful scenes in nature, especially if you visit the Upper Peninsula. But, nothing compares to getting out on Lake Superior on the Pictured Rocks Cruises. These boat cruises give you an upfront view of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising that you can’t get by staying on land. And to get the best photos of where Lake Superior meets the sandstone cliffs of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, you need to go on a Pictured Rocks Sunset Cruise.

Lovers' Leap

Cruising the Pictured Rocks in Munising

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Pictured Rocks Cruises

The Pictured Rocks Cruises depart from the City Dock in Munising, Michigan and run from mid-May to mid-October. They offer three types of boat cruises, Classic, Spray Falls, and the Sunset Cruise. Most of the journeys last two and a half hours and take you past the 15 miles of natural forming sandstone cliffs towering above Lake Superior.Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - Pictured Rocks Cruises I would recommend reserving a spot on the Sunset Cruise. This cruise will give you the best opportunity to capture the sun setting on Lake Superior and casting its glow on the cliffs. You will be able to see the many beaches, coves, and waterfalls (depending on recent rainfall) during the cruise that makes up the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along with seeing some kayakers sharing the water. If you choose to kayak be careful how close you get to the cliffs as evidence recently captured when a portion of a cliff fell apart and nearly missed a bunch of kayakers. Kayaking by Pictured Rocks National Lakeshorekayaks on Lake Superior

Why are they called the Pictured Rocks?

The name Pictured Rocks come from the mineral stains of groundwater that leaks out of the sandstone cliffs. These stains create beautiful renditions of art paintings that even professionals try to capture on canvas. Each particular color represents a specific mineral. Such as Iron produces a red and orange color, the copper turns blue and green, manganese shows as brown and black, and limonite comes out as white. You will be able to capture all of these magnificent colors with your camera and with the sun setting these colors pop even more than during the daytime.

Mineral stains on Pictured Rocks

The Landmarks

Miners Castle

Miners Castle - Pictured Rocks Cruises

Miners Castle is probably the most famous landmark along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The landmark has significantly changed over the years. One of the turrets fell into the lake in 2006. It is a shame that people can’t abide by the rules and stay off the natural landmarks so, they will last for the rest of us to enjoy.

Painted Coves

Painted Coves

Painted Coves close up

The Painted Coves are where you will see the most abundant of colors toward the bottom of the sandstone cliffs. Plus, if the water is calm, you can even see the marvelous color reflections. I am fascinated by the blending of all the minerals in these cliffs to make unique paintings by Mother Nature.

Caves of All Colors

Caves of All Colors

The Caves of All Colors are hollows at the base of the sandstone cliffs that you will see while on the Pictured Rocks Cruises. Each cavern has been painted in detail with minerals leaking out layer by layer to create colorful masterpieces. Seeing these caverns and remembering the kayakers from earlier, make me want to return to get a closer view of these caves.

Lovers’ Leap

Lovers' Leap

Lovers’ Leap is another iconic landmark on the Pictured Rocks Cruises. Legend has it that a couple displayed their love for each other by jumping off the arch together. Don’t know if this is true, but I don’t think it would have ended well since the water under the arch is only a few feet deep.

Rainbow Cave

Rainbow Cave

The Rainbow Cave is unique with its moss-covered cracks high on the walls and having the forest stop right at the peak of the cave. This cave is one of the most massive caverns in the Pictured Rocks. You can see the multitude of colors that have evolved, layer by layer, giving this cave its name.

Indian Head

Indian HeadOn one of the points of Pictured Rocks, the vertical cliffs are said to resemble an Indian Head. Do you see it?

Grand Portal

Grand Portal

The Grand Portal is aptly named for its impressive size jutting out into Lake Superior. With its numerous caverns, suspended archway, and unique rock formations, it truly makes you realize how small you are as you go past it. I see a horses head drinking water in the rock formation but, that could just be me. What do you see?

Chapel Cove

Battleship Rocks

On the Sunset Cruise, we were excited to be taken inside Chapel Cove. Three colorful vertical walls surround you to allow you to capture some fascinating photos. We were so close to the cliffs; you could almost reach out and touch the cliff walls.

Chapel Rock

Chapel Rock - Pictured Rocks Cruises

Chapel Rock is probably the most photographed landmark on the Pictured Rocks Cruises. It’s a fantastic photo with its lone tree at the top of the impressive rock formation even with all of its holes. No wonder it is a must-have on your photo list of the Pictured Rocks.

How to Capture These Photos

The first thing is to make sure you get to the dock early so; you are one of the first people in line. They usually have two boats running, but everyone wants to sit on the top deck. The earlier you are, the better options for seats you will have. Pick a position on the top deck toward the back. You will be able to shoot photos behind the boat without having people in the way, and you can use the railing to help stabilize your camera if needed. Plus, if you sit in the back, it won’t matter which side of the boat you are on.

I used my Canon 7D camera with an 18-200mm lens (ISO 100, Aperture Priority). There were other photographers on the boat with a larger zoom lens that I was slightly envious. I still was able to capture these photos and a bunch more even caught a bald eagle in a tree.Pictured Rocks Rock FormationsPictured Rocks MosaicEagles on the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Sunsets on Lake Superior

Sunset on Lake Superior

I love sunsets, and any sunset is a good one. But, on the water, and more specifically, on Lake Superior it is magnificent! And with Munising right on the banks of Lake Superior, Mother Nature puts on some fantastic sunsets. Remember to bring a jacket for the return trip back to the dock as it does get chilly on the water when the sun goes down.

The Pictured Rocks Cruises and especially the Sunset Cruise is a great way to capture some amazing photos of a lesser-visited National Park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Have you been on any Pictured Rocks Cruises before? What did you think about them? Erosion and time will change the landscape of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, so you might want to come and see them before it changes forever.

Pictured Rocks Cruises Sunsets

Do you need a place to stay in Munising, Michigan?  Check out these options for places to stay in Munising.

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Further Reading

If you are visiting U.S. National Parks for a visit, check out these posts for further travel inspiration:


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