Over fall break my family and I camped in the Porcupine Mountains State Park. The park is located in Ontonagon in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. On a rainy Friday afternoon we explored the park’s visitor’s center. The center included a small exhibit on the park’s geological and historical background as well as the animals that are prevalent in the area. The first display you see as you walk in is a quote defining the word wilderness “…where humans are visitors who do not remain”. To me that quote is a very good hook into the exhibit, it made me want to see what else the exhibit said.
My picture from my hike on the Overlook Trail
Geological and Historical Background
After the opening panel there are smaller panels, which describe how the main geological formations of the park were formed. This information was useful because it helped to explain the parks unique landscape. In white letters on a black panel with a picture of a volcano the panel describes how the volcano erupted and created the main escarpment ridge and how glaciers carved out the rest of the park. There is also a panel on the creation and importance of copper in the region. It discusses how copper-rich lava was pressurized by Lake Superior and solidified between rock fissures. It also gave information on the different miners the area has had in the past. Under the panel there is a sizable rocked infused with copper as an example of what was explained. The next section has a display case of what miners in the area would have used such as; a lantern, washbasin and mining tools along with pictures. As well as a small diorama of a logging site. I found the information to be interesting and it helped me appreciate my surroundings more.
My picture of The Union River next to my cabin
Several animals are featured in the small exhibit. As one might guess from the name of the park, one of the exhibits was, of course, the porcupine. Other animals presented in the exhibit include, the fisher (a large weasel), ruffed grouse, northern goshawk, wolf, coyote, and bear. The displays for each animal had life-sized dioramas with small informational name plaques underneath. The wolf and the bear had additional parts. For example, each had a skull and paw print as well as a small patch of fur you could touch so you could feel what each animal’s coat would feel like. The bear display also had a video portion. The video is clearly old and is in need of updating. It features research and techniques that are most definitely not used today. Such as tracking black bears in the region. For example, to track the bears they placed big collars around their neck. They also showed researchers drugging and collaring bears as well as taking tooth samples, which to be honest was just gross and slightly disturbing to watch. It was not something I think young children should watch, it is not only outdated but also, as I said, inappropriate for that age range. Besides the video, I found the displays on the animals to be informative. Having a life-sized representation of the animal right in front of me gave a better understanding of the featured animal.
At the end of the exhibit there is a display that discusses the activities visitors can partake in at the park during different seasons. In spring, for example, is the best time to see wildlife. In the winter visitors can enjoy both downhill and cross-country skiing. Summer is a good time for hiking and swimming, but be aware that is when the bugs are out and it can be miserable. For that reason, my favorite time to camp in the park is fall when the area is bug free and full of beautiful fall colors.
The exhibit in the visitor’s center of the Porcupine Mountains State Park gives a nice overview of the history and wildlife of the area. It also provides information on the park itself, which is extremely useful for any visitor. The one complaint I have, is that it is slightly outdated with the bear video and the use of dioramas. The research in the bear video is old, it should be updated to discuss what research is currently taking place within the park. Also, as we discussed in class, dioramas are being phased out for newer and more accurate display methods; but overall I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit.