Visiting Kitch-iti-kipi, The Big Spring

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Nestled on the southeastern edge of the Hiawatha National Forest, down a few back roads is a little place called Kitch-iti-kipi Spring. This stunning Natural Spring is unique to the area and unlike any other place in Michigan. When I first visited the Spring located in Palm Book State Park I thought:

“How cool would it be to own this place? To have my own spring to enjoy freely.”

Shortly after that thought, I learned that an individual by the name of John I. Bellaire had this very opportunity but altruism prevailed. He purchased this property with a deed that required the Spring along with the 90 acres around it to be permanently designated as a public park for all to enjoy! So thankfully Mr. Bellaire came along before I did because I may have established a private oasis complete with a tiki bar, string lights, a fog machine, zip lines, maybe lasers and a killer sound system opposed to sharing this gem with the general public. Do I feel a little guilty about my initial feeling? I sure do!

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Before Europeans made their way over and “discovered” this Spring, it was a well known location by Native Americans who gave this Spring the name of Kitch-iti-kipi, which of course still remains today. It seems unclear what this name means but the most common translations I’ve come across are “Big Cold Water” and “Mirror to Heaven.” I think the latter sounds WAY better – so let’s go with that!

Crystal clear bottom of Kitch-iti-kipi Spring

The day I visited was in January and the temperature was hovering right around 39 degrees, it was incredibly foggy and raining on and off. We almost skipped the spring but had it on the agenda, so we made the decision to push forward. Upon arrival, we couldn’t have been happier – my friend Marcus and I were literally the only two people there and had it to ourselves for almost 2-hours before the rain came back and forced us to move on. There was a dull fog hovering over the Spring and a couple swans floating at the mouth of the canal leading out to Indian Lake. The whole experience was straight out of a fantasy novel, it was eerie and magical at the same time and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way!

Swans swimming on Kitch-iti-kipi Spring

Now, you’re probably asking yourself, “How does this Spring work? Where does the water come from? Why does it never freeze? Why are the fish so darn big?”

Realistically, you’re probably not asking yourself these things but I’m going to answer your hypothetical questions anyhow – because that’s the kinda guy I am! At an elevation higher than the Spring, as snow melts and rain falls it seeps into the Earth. As the water builds up, it creates pressure that forces the water through the bedrock below. As the water moves through the bedrock toward the bottom of the Spring, it carves tunnels and caves below the Earth before eventually being forced through cracked formations below the Spring. As the water is pushed through the bottom of the Spring, it causes the sand below to bubble.

My initial thought was that water periodically seeped through but what I learned is that the volume is quite a bit larger than your typical leaky toilet. We’re talking 10,000 gallons per minute (GPM)! To put this into perspective, fire hydrants typically produce between 500 and 2500 GPM, so for easy numbers let’s suppose your every day fire hydrant sprays 1,000 GPM. Now imagine opening 10 of these at the bottom of a swimming pool and just letting them run for a few hundred years – pretty cool, right?

Crystal clear waters at Kitch-iti-kipi Spring

Kitch-iti-kipi Spring is 200 feet wide, 45 feet deep, or about as deep as the trees bordering the Spring are tall, as the DNR sign points out. The water never dips below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, which provides year round enjoyment no matter how cold the outside temperature gets. As for the inhabitants, the most common fish are a combination of lake trout, brook trout and brown trout (the fish, not the…well, you know). A few other species have been spotted from time to time because they move freely between Kitch-iti-kipi Spring and Indian Lake, which is attached via the canal. Luckily for the fish, the Spring is off limits to fisherman so as long as they don’t venture off to Indian Lake, they’ll grow big and old in a protected environment.

The floating dock at Kitch-iti-kipi Spring
The floating dock at Kitch-iti-kipi Spring.

So if you’re anywhere within the vicinity of Kitch-iti-kipi Spring, I highly recommend swinging by to take a peek. This Spring is an incredible aqua-blue color, crystal clear, beautiful and it’s made in Michigan! As you walk away feeling peaceful, relaxed and ready to move on to the next adventure, be sure to hang a right before walking to the parking lot to check out the Prayer of the Woods – it’s so fitting for the location.

Prayer of the Woods

“I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun and my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on. I am the beam that holds your house, the board of your table, the bed on which you lie, and the timber that builds your boat. I am the handle of your hoe, the door of your homestead, the wood of your cradle, and the shell of your coffin. I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty. Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer : Harm me not.” – Author Unknown

Have you been to Kitch-iti-kipi Spring? If so, please share your experience in the comments below.

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