The Yooper pilgrimage to Kitch-iti-kipi

Karen Wils photo My first trip to Big Springs in 1966. I am on the far right holding the borrowed doll.

ESCANABA — It is a must in almost every Yooper’s photo album.

Go get yours down from the closet. I’ll bet it’s in there — there right at the bottom of the page is a beautiful black and white snapshot of the family at Big Springs.

Almost every kid from Delta County got to go with their family on a day trip to Kitch-iti-kipi, Palms Book Park in Schoolcraft County.

Some kids even went on school field trips there.

This unique, scenic stop between the cedar trees and the cool green waters is a true gem in the U.P. wilderness.

Out past the rolling farm fields and hemmed in by forest land, Big Springs has bubbled artesian water for centuries. Natural springs occur throughout the Upper Peninsula, but Kitch-iti-kipi is the largest one in Michigan.

Fissures in the limestone and bedrock leak forth with cold clear water creating a huge bowl of water in the woods.

Fortunately, this natural wonder has been preserved for us. The area was logged over, used as a dump, and finally in 1926 was purchased from the Palms Book Land Company. John I. Bellaire was instrumental in creating this recreation spot.

The native people years ago thought this spot to be mysterious. The early settlers in the area sold the sand and water from Big Springs because they claimed it was magical!

One thing is for sure, the springs and surrounding woods are beautiful!

Kitch-iti-kipi means “Mirror of heaven.”

Rafts have been crossing the pond there for decades. People have snapped millions of photos above the cold, green, 45-degree waters of Big Springs.

I remember my first trip to Big Springs in the mid-1960. Mom planned the day with six kids in Dad’s 1959 Ford sedan (no seat belts, or air conditioning, and no cell phones).

I took along a soft stuffed doll that I borrowed from my cousin. “Baby Olga” we called the treasured toy because she had kind of an old country look.

It was a great day, warm sunshine; my brothers got to help work the cables to pull the raft across the pond and Dad teased about catching the big trout below us. We had a nice picnic lunch at Indian Lake and when were on our way home, I remembered Baby Olga!

I had left it on the Palms Book State Park sign when I stopped to use the restroom. I cried the last few miles until home. It has become a standing family joke that when anyone says they are going to Big Springs, we tell them to look for “Olga!”

If it has been years since you and your family last visited Kitchi-iti-kipi, it is time for you to plan a trip there. It is always peaceful there by the bubbling waters. A newer raft with a center viewing window makes seeing the churning springs and the lost-in-time trout so easy.

Step away from the ducks, birds and squirrels and there is a nice rest area, gift shop and ice cream.

Don’t forget to take a group picture! Smile summer is here.


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.