About 3 hours north of the Fox Cities, across the Wisconsin-Michigan northern border, Kitch-iti-Kipi, or the “Big Spring,” is a must-see beauty! Also known as the “Mirror of Heaven” to indigenous Ojibwe, the first caretakers of the land, the spring is located 11 miles north of Manistique at Palms Book State Park in Michigan.
It was worth a short detour on our way to Pictured Rocks in Munising during our UP Michigan Summer Family Road Trip! It was about 45 minutes to Munisingwhere we stayed.
When arriving, you will take a short walking pathway to the raft to see the spring from the parking lot. The raft is self-operated by passengers. Our whole family took turns spinning the wheel that moves the raft slowly across the water and back along a path. The raft is O-shaped with a glass bottom in the center of the deck for underwater viewing. The kids loved counting the lake trout fish swimming below. We also pointed out ancient tree trunks, roots, sand, limestone, and bubbling sand. Visit no matter the weather—the raft’s cover offers protection from the sun or rain.
The natural freshwater spring is the largest in Michigan at 40 feet deep and 200 feet across and offers spectacular views across the water and down to the bottom. At a constant temperature of 45 degrees, the water rarely freezes in winter. The continuous flow also helps maintain the crystal clear water—10,000 gallons of water pumps from the springs on the sandy ground each minute.
Our family spent about an hour at the park. We visited on a rainy weekday and only waited a couple of minutes for the raft to return. Our total ride time on the raft boat was just 11 minutes.
Snacks, Ice Cream & Souvenirs
Stop in the Big Spring Souvenir shop for tee shirts, mugs, postcards, stickers, and other mementos. Hand scooped ice cream, bottled drinks, coffee, popcorn, and snacks are also available. The shop is open from early May to mid-October.
Right outside of the shop is a penny machine. I remember making these when I was a kid! For just 51 cents, the kids enjoyed collecting the flattened pennies from all of our stops in the UP. Books are available in the shop to hold new collections!
Picnic tables and benches are also available.
Other Things to Know
- Bathrooms are available.
- Swimming, fishing, kayaking, paddling, or other recreation is not allowed. If you want to do these things, head nearby to Indian Lake State Park.
- ADA-accessible: The paved path from the parking lot to the observation deck and dock is ADA-accessible, as well as the raft and dock.
- Pet-friendly: Dogs are welcome on a short leash at the park and the raft. If the raft is busy or crowded, you may consider keeping them on the shore.
Upon arrival, there is plenty of parking in the parking lot next to the visitor’s center, bathrooms, and adjacent to the path leading to the raft.
Kitch-iti-kipi at Palms Book State Park is open daily year-round, from 10 am to 8 pm. The park reports the summer months are the busiest and suggests weekdays and arriving before 10:30 am or after 5 pm. Plan to spend 1 to 2 hours at the park. Reminder: Michigan is on Eastern time, 1 hour ahead of Wisconsin on Central time.
Wisconsin Non-Residents can purchase a Michigan State Park Day Pass for $10 (good for entry and re-entry to any state park for the day). If you plan to visit more Michigan State Parks, consider an annual pass for $36. There is no additional cost to ride the water raft.
- Palms Book State Parka State of Michigan State Park, Thompson, Manistique, MI