Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for Kitch-iti-kipi

Yeah, don't ask me to pronounce that! 

Kitch-iti-kipi is Michigan's largest freshwater spring, located in da U.P.  It means "The Big Spring" in Chippewa.  That's a lot easier to say!

It is located within Palms Book State park and has a viewing raft on the fantastical sparkling clear water.  
The Big Spring is a pool about 300x176 feet and about 40 feet deep.  The bottom is the vibrant green you see above.  

The state of Michigan acquired the spring in 1926.  The owner of a local store discovered the spring near a logging dump and within a thick forest.  He saw enormous potential as a recreational area, and managed to get the owner of the land to sell to the state, instead of buying it himself.  The deed requires the land to be used forever as a public park. 

Of course there are a lot of Indian legends about the area.  Some say that they were actually made up by the store owner to draw attention to the park. 

One legend goes that Kitch-iti-kipi was a young chieftain of the area. He told his girlfriend that he loved her far more than the other dark-haired maidens dancing near his birchbark wigwam. She claimed she wanted to put him through a test of love and demanded, "Prove it!" The test of his devotion was that he must set sail in his canoe on this spring lake deep in the conifer swamp. She would then leap from an overhanging branch in an act of faith. He was to catch her from his canoe proving his love. He then took his fragile canoe onto the icy waters of the lake looking for her. Eventually his canoe tipped over in the endeavor. He drowned in the attempt to satisfy the vanity of his love for this Indian maid. It turned out she was back at her village meanwhile with other Indian maidens laughing her head off about his silly quest. The spring was then named in his memory

Another legend was that they took a drop of honey on a piece of birch bark and dipped it into the spring. This was then presented to a loved one to make them true forever.

Another legend talks about the tamarack trees growing on the banks of the spring. A small piece of the bark was ground in a mortar and pestle. The remnants were then placed in an individual's empty pockets and magically would be replaced by glittering gold at exactly midnight that night.

Other Indian legends tell of some Chippewa parents who came to the pool seeking names for their newborn sons or daughters. They supposedly found names like Satu (darling), Kakushika (big eye), Natukoro (lovely flower) and We-shi (little fish) in the sounds of the rippling waterStill other legends say the Chippewa Indians had even attributed special healing powers to the spring waters.

The name Kitch-iti-kipi is said to have many meanings in the Chippewa's language. Some were “The Great Water”, ”The Blue Sky I See”, and “Bubbling Spring”. Other Chippewa Indians called it “The Roaring“, "Drum Water”, and the “Sound of Thunder” - even though there is total silence coming from the spring!


  1. Although we visit Michigan every year I have only made it to the U.P. once. I find the American Indian legends a fascinating subject and you have introduced me to some more.

    1. It took me almost 40 years to get to the U.P - and I've lived in Michigan most of my life!!

  2. I had no idea there was a spring by Manistique! For a while, my hubby and I lived in Escanaba and drove through it when going to visit my parents. One day this summer we'll have to go check it out.

    ~Patricia Lynne~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, YA Author

    1. I'd like to go visit, too. That water is amazing!


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