Marquette’s version of Central Park isn’t exactly central — it’s north of town and sticks out into Lake Superior. But, for the locals, Presque Isle Park is everything you could want in a nearby recreation destination. And for visitors to Marquette, Presque Isle Park also deserves a visit — even if, like me, you’re just looking to stretch your legs for an hour or two before setting off to another destination.
Presque Isle Park is located north of downtown Marquette. From the US 41 roundabout, follow Front Street north through town, then turn right on Fair Avenue, left on Pine Street, and left on Lakeshore Boulevard. Once you can see the water, follow the coast north, past the ore dock, and continue into the park (it looks like you’re driving into an industrial area, but don’t worry, you’re in the right place).
On Day Four, I needed to make the 100-mile drive from Marquette to Houghton, Michigan. That’s not exactly a long drive, but on the two-lane roads of the U.P., and my sightseeing pace, it was enough to require half the day. That meant I had the other half to see more of Marquette before I left. And I knew I didn’t want to leave without seeing Presque Isle Park.
Presque Isle Park is not actually an island — which is actually what the name means. Presqu’île is French for “almost island”. It’s really a peninsula that feels like an island, sticking out into Lake Superior.
There’s a beautiful one-way scenic drive that loops around this almost-island…
… and fortunately for bikers and walkers, it’s closed to vehicular traffic during certain times of the day. It was fortunate for them, but not for me. I didn’t really want to walk around the entire loop of the island, but once I started, I resolved to go a bit further, and then a little more, and then it was just as short to finish the loop as it would have been to backtrack.
Not far from the parking lot, the trail goes up a small hill, then passes by the gravesite of Charley Kawbawgam, who lived from 1799 to 1903. He was the last chief of the local Chippewa Indians. Nearby, his wife, Charlotte Kawbawgam also rests. She outlived him by a year.
That loop road around the park is an idyllic spot to ride a bike. My visit was during the first week of October, and the leaves were already changing inland (you’ll see some color in my next stop, to the west), but I’m guessing everything happens a few weeks later here, thanks to the surrounding presence of Lake Superior.
On the counter-clockwise path out to the northern end of Presque Isle, there are a few places to catch a glimpse of the rocky cliffs.
At this little alcove, you’ve almost arrived at one of the park’s signature attractions, Black Rocks. I walked down to the water at first, then circled around onto the rocks to take this picture.
Black Rocks, in Presque Isle Park
The Black Rocks are, as you would expect, black, or at least very dark in color. You can hop around on these rocks and do a lot of exploring. I’ve also read that there’s a good spot for cliff diving into the lake, during the warmer months (does the U.P. actually have months that are warm enough for that?). I’m not sure where the best spot is, but if that’s what you want to do, I’d suggest asking a local.
Sunset Point, in Presque Isle Park
Marquette is better positioned on Lake Superior for sunrises, rather than sunsets. But, if you’d prefer the second golden hour of the day, you might want to head out to Sunset Point. If you’re heading counter-clockwise around the loop, it’s just past Black Rocks. Here you’ll find a decent view to the west, across the water, looking towards Partridge Island in the distance.
As I completed the loop, I reached the end of the one-way portion of the road. On the southwest side of this almost-island, there’s another parking area, and also this display of locally-mined copper (notice the big green metallic blob in the middle of the wall). A walking path near the road takes you the rest of the way around to the starting point.
Here’s a look at the drive around Marquette, and out to Presque Isle Park:
The Bottom Line
Presque Isle Park might be more for the locals than for tourists, but sometimes I’d rather pretend to be a local. If that’s the kind of mood you’re in, you’ll enjoy spending an hour or two at the park.