Kitch-Iti-Kipi (Big Springs), Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Palms Book State Park is a publicly owned nature preserve encompassing 388 acres in Thompson Township, Schoolcraft County, in the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The state park is noted for Kitch-iti-kipi, the “Big Spring” of the Upper Peninsula.

Kitch-iti-kipi Water

Two hundred feet across, the 40-foot deep Kitch-iti-kipi is Michigan’s largest freshwater spring. Over 10,000 gallons a minute gush from fissures in the underlying limestone. The flow continues throughout the year at a constant 45 degree Fahrenheit. To the Anishinaabe people that were the original inhabitants of much of the Upper Peninsula, this site was a place of mystery and wonder.

Since the days of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, the state has operated a manually propelled observation raft on which visitors can ride. The raft, which is fixed by cables, pulls out into the spring pond and allows the depths of the pond to be seen from above. The pond is stocked with trout.

The legend of Kitch-iti-kipi is said to be about a young chieftain whose girlfriend got the best of him. He told her he loved her far above the other dark-haired maidens dancing near his birch bark wigwam. Prove it, she insisted. As a test of his devotion, she declared that he must set sail in his canoe on the pool deep in the conifer swamp. He was to catch her from his canoe as she leaped from an overhanging bough. His canoe overturned in the icy waters and he drowned. It turns out that the maiden was back at the village laughing at his foolish quest. According to legend, the Spring was named Kitch-itikipi in memory of the young chieftain who went to his death in the icy waters in an attempt to satisfy the vain caprice of his ladylove.

Kitch-iti-kipi Fish

Other legends tell of Chippewa parents who came to the pool seeking names for their newborn. They supposedly found names like Satu (darling), Kakushika (big eye), Natukoro (lovely flower) and We-shi (little fish) scribed in the sounds of the rippling water. They attributed healing powers to the waters.

A drop of honey on a piece of birch bark dipped into Kitch-iti-kipi and presented to a loved one was to make them true forever. Another legend concerned the tamarack growing on the banks of Kitch-iti-kipi. A small piece of the bark ground in a mortar and pestle and placed in an individual’s empty pockets would be replaced by glittering gold at exactly midnight. Whatever the legends, visitors to the spring loved them. Kitch-iti-kipi is said to have many meanings in the Chippewa language-The Great Water; The Blue Sky I See; The Roaring, Bubbling Spring. Others called it the Sound of Thunder and Drum Water, even though the quiet is eerie. Whatever its name and legend, Palms Book State Park continues to draw curious visitors.

Kitch-iti-kipi

Location: Palms Book State Park is located at the northern terminus of state highway M-149, a 15-minute drive north of US-2 at Thompson.