We've seen a lot of Michigan's natural beauty so far. We've seen forests and beaches, waterfalls and natural wonders enough to make eyes pop and jaws drop. Did you know, however, that Michigan's natural beauty even goes underground? Oh, it's true, and there are plenty of caves around here to this very day. Many of these are made by man, remnants of Michigan's extensive mining heritage. Some are naturally made. No matter how they got here, though, they're worth a closer look, so strap on your belaying line and cinch up your crampons, because it's time to run down the list of eight great Michigan caves!
Pictured Rocks near Munising offers expansive natural beauty in lakeshore and forest, but one thing a little less commonly known about is for the kayakers out there. Those who slip into a kayak will find an array of caves in which to enter, while still in the kayak, making for both a wholly unique experience and one that just adds to the natural beauty of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
In Greenland, there sits one of those man-made caves we told you about previously, a remnant of Michigan's glory days of mining. Adventure Mine, run by the Adventure Mining Company, offers a tour of this mine, part of a string of copper mines found throughout Michigan's Upper Peninsula, some of which are still in operation to this day. Adventure Mine represents what some call one of the best preserved copper mines in the entire state, and getting a look at this represents a step back to the early days of Michigan.
While admittedly a bit on the seasonal side, those who want to get in touch with Michigan's colder side can do so in ice caves, caves that particularly highlight, as the name suggests, ice. Found in the Rock River Wilderness area of the Hiawatha National Forest near Deerton, the Eben Ice Caves allow visitors to not only climb on ice in some cases, but even walk through ice to lurk behind a massive wall of the stuff.
Not far from Munising—where the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and its caves await—is a colder-weather version, the Grand Island Ice Cave. Getting there can be something of a challenge. If you're up for a better than a half-mile walk one way across Lake Superior itself, then you can be treated to the Grand Island Ice Caves, a magnificent sight of frozen water awaits. You'll have to be careful within—you'll be walking in, on and around ice—but the sights can be breathtaking.
Forget about calling the Commissioner on this one. Iron Mountain in the Upper Peninsula is home to the Millie Hill Bat Cave, a cave that is, as its name clearly indicates, full of bats. Though you'll need to visit in roughly April and September to take advantage of bat migration patterns, coming at the right time will treat you to a massive display of bats in flight, a sight few see outside of movies.
The Alger Underwater Preserve, not far from Munising, offers one of the strangest cave attractions in the state: Sea caves. Created by centuries of wave action which hollowed out sandstone cliffs, the result was a set of shallow caves that may only go down about 10 feet, but will offer snorkelers an impressive opportunity. Those looking for caves of a man-made sort can enjoy a substantial array of wreck diving opportunities in the area as well.
Mackinac Island may be best known for its fudge and refusal of most vehicles with engines, but it's also got one of Michigan's most notable caves: Skull Cave. A small, shallow cave, it's perhaps best known as not only a site for human remains, but it was also where fur trader Alexander Henry took refuge during the capture of Fort Michilimackinac during Pontiac's War. The cave itself may not be big, but it's got some impressive historical connections to accompany it.
Not a particularly large cave, Spider Cave—or Big Bluff Cave—near Fayette offers two key features for cavers to check out. Not only does it contain four pictographs, but it also was the site of some significant artifact collecting, including projectile points from the Middle Woodland period. Since the projectile points in question had shattered tips, it suggests that the projectiles in question were fired into the cave itself. A noteworthy point, and one that makes Spider Bluff one to check out.