Those in the know consider the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park the jewel in Michigan’s crown of state parks. And the numbers well support that notion: 22 miles of Lake Superior shore, nearly 60,000 acres of wilderness, including 35,000 acres of some of the most remarkable old-growth hemlock and hardwood forest in all of North America, Michigan’s second-largest waterfall, and ancient mountains that rise about 1,300 feet above Lake Superior. The much-photographed Lake of the Clouds (pictured below) is not to be missed and can be seen from a spectacular overlook that’s ADA-accessible.

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Photographer Ron Strong shares his memories from a trip to the Porcupine Mountains. All photos were taken by Ron. This article was featured in the October 2009 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Get your copy for more travel ideas!

Back in 2007 I had the honor of being selected to photograph the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park as part of the inaugural Artist in Residence program there, sponsored by The Friends of the Porkies. The program is in memory of Dan Urbanski, a wonderful photographer who loved and captured thousands of beautiful images of the Porkies.

My two-week residency started in late September and went through the first week of October. Peak color! Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year in Michigan, especially in the Porkies.

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I could see why Dan fell in love with these mountains. The hills themselves and all the other pieces of this landscape are magical. Lake Superior, the Presque Isle River, Big Carp and Little Carp Rivers, Lake of the Clouds, the escarpment, old growth hemlock, I could go on and on. There is so much beauty to discover, there was just not enough time to photograph it all.

Fortunately for me, my adventure with the Porkies continued. The Friends of the Porkies—my friends, whom I met and came to admire during my first residency—invited me back for the fall residency in 2008. They told me they loved the way I captured the Porkies and thought I brought passion to the creation of my images.

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And so, there I was again in the fall of 2008, tossing and turning in the bunk of my wilderness rustic cabin, looking at the clock and waiting for 3 a.m. I had to get an early start to capture the best light, and I was just plain excited. The Porkies can do that to you. Thinking about the new images, new trails, new friends, my mind just kept spinning.

Sometime in the future, you have to visit the Porkies and discover the same feeling I experienced. Drop by the Artist In Residence cabin, Dan’s Cabin. It’s in the Union Springs camp area. You will feel his spirit and his energy when you are there. You’ll lose your heart to the Porkies just as I did. It is such a special place you just have to go there to see for yourself! I hope these images will inspire you to visit.

Ron Strong is a commercial photographer who works from his home in Cedar, Michigan., [email protected]

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Want to Go? Here’re some places to start:

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Get a  list of trails, campgrounds, backcountry cabins and yurts:, 906-885-5275

Regional Chamber of Commerce
Lists of local lodging, activities and events at, 906-884-2047

Friends of the Porkies
Park background info and festival dates:

Porcupine Mountains

porcupine mountains

Heading to the Upper Peninsula? Here are more ideas!