Natural History

Natural Features

In an Alvar on the Niagara Escarpment in

Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Try meditating on pure darkness ... no perception ... no sensation ... floating ... only Being. Then, a very quiet and safe sensation of drifting downward; eager anticipation manifesting as sensation awakens. Warming sunshine embraces your body tempered by a cooling breeze from the water. At the same moment, the eyes become goblets to receive the pouring light. Darkness peels away revealing shape, color, dimension, smell, and the air so rich you can taste it. You realize yourself as form among form.

This was how I felt in this natural community. Perception and sensation were overwhelmed. Form upon form filled my perception and engaged sensation in such a way I found it difficult to focus on any one thing. I wanted to receive it all. 

The supporting substrate is solid rock; some places with a thin layer of soil and, in other places, the stone floor is exposed. Large boulders populate the woods and shoreline. Cracks break across the solid substrate in random fashion. Maidenhair Spleenwort thrive here.


White cedar and black spruce along with white and yellow birch grow here along with a few other tree species.

The limestone boulders, large and small, are natural communities unto themselves. The maidenhair spleenwort also thrives on the boulders.

Lichen are a major part of the natural community growing on the boulders. These ancient stone formations are host to old growth lichen communities reflecting species like the ramalina intermedia (rock bushy lichen) and anaptychia setifera (hanging fringe lichen). Hours can be spent just exploring the natural wonders one boulder reveals.

Rock Bushy Lichen

Hanging Fringe Lichen

Birds also become part of the boulder's natural community by nesting in the small cave-like openings. 

A Previous Season's Bird Nest Site

On this day, Common Mergansers, Canada Geese, Raven, Crow, Black-capped Chickadees, Brown Creeper, Herring and Ring-necked Gulls, were seen. A Pileated Woodpecker was drumming. Very soon any number of bird species will be back in the area. Both the migration and nesting seasons will be full of wonderful moments of observation and experience.

It was a privilege to experience this wonder evoking place. The moss, lichen, and fern draped majestic boulders manifest antiguity in such a way you just feel the ages pierce the soul toward weighty re-cognition.

Keith F. Saylor

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"Alvar is a grass- and sedge-dominated community, with scattered shrubs and sometimes trees. The community occurs on broad, flat expanses of calcareous bedrock (limestone or dolostone) covered by a thin veneer of mineral soil, often less than 25 cm deep. Alvars are only known from three areas of the world: the Basaltic region of northern Europe, Counties Clare and Galway of northwest Ireland, and the Great Lakes region south of the Canadian Shield. In Michigan, most of the sites occur in the Upper Peninsula along the shorelines of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, in a band from Drummond Island to Cedarville, west to Seul Choix Point on the Garden Peninsula. Alvar also occurs farther west and inland along the Escanaba River. In the Lower Peninsula, alvar occurs on Thunder Bay Island and along the Lake Huron shoreline near Rogers City, Alpena, and Thompson’s Harbor. The plant community is also referred to as alvar grassland."


Michigan Natural Features Inventory


The Niagara Escarpment

The Niagara Escarpment is a long escarpment, or cuesta, in the United States and Canada that runs westward from New York State, through OntarioMichiganWisconsin and Illinois. It is composed of the Lockport geological formation of Silurian age, and is similar to the Onondaga geological formation, which runs parallel to it and just to the south, through the western portion of New York and southern Ontario. The escarpment is most famous as the cliff over which the Niagara River plunges to form Niagara Falls, for which it is named.

The Niagara Escarpment is the most prominent of several escarpments formed in the bedrock of the Great Lakes. It is traceable from its easternmost point in New York State, starting well east of the Genesee River Valley near Rochester, creating one small and two large waterfalls on the Genesee River in that city, thence running westward to the Niagara River forming a deep gorge north of Niagara Falls, which itself cascades over the escarpment. In Southern Ontario it stretches along the Niagara Peninsula hugging close to the Lake Ontario shore near the cities of St. CatharinesHamilton and Milton where it takes a sharp turn north toward Georgian Bay. It then follows the Georgian Bay shore northwestwards to form the spine of the Bruce PeninsulaManitoulinSt. Joseph Island and other islands located in northern Lake Huron where it turns westwards into the Upper Peninsula of northern Michigan, south of Sault Ste. Marie. It then extends southwards into Wisconsin following the Door Peninsula and then more inland from the western coast of Lake Michigan and Milwaukee ending northwest of Chicago near the Wisconsin-Illinois border.

From: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Niagara Escarpment - Demarcation in Red


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All Rights Reserved - Keith F. Saylor