Kitch-iti-kipi: A Vibrant Freshwater Spring in Michigan’s UP

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12 miles outside the city of Manistique in Palms Book State Park, you’ll find Kitch-iti-kipi. Also known as the “Big Spring,” it’s a vibrant freshwater limestone spring where you can enjoy views of the beautiful turquoise waters.

We loved our stop at Kitch-iti-kipi while on our UP road trip. It was the perfect spot to get out and stretch our legs for a little bit before heading on north to Marquette. Those waters really are that color in person!

The spring measures about 200 feet in width and is around 40 feet deep, but the water is so clear that you can easily see to the bottom. These dimensions make it the largest freshwater spring in Michigan!

Kitch-iti-kipi translates to “big cold spring” in Ojibwe, which is fitting because the water remains 45 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The water temperature preserves the fallen trees, creating a time capsule of sorts at the bottom.

The water in the spring is continually exchanged, and that’s how the temperature remains so constant. Around 10,000 gallons of water per minute creep in from the cracks in the limestone below!

The raft at Kitch-iti-kipi follows a guide cable to take you to the center of the crystal clear turquoise waters.

How much does it cost to visit?

Kitch-iti-kipi is located in Palms Book State Park. As with all Michigan State Parks, there is an entrance fee. The fees are paid at the entrance to the parking lots and are per car.

For residents of Michigan, the price of an annual pass is $14 when purchased when renewing your license plate registration or $19 when purchased at a state park or customer service location in 2024.

For non-residents, both day passes and annual passes are an option. In 2024, the fee for daily visits is $11, and annual passes could be purchased for $40.

If you plan to visit any state parks in Michigan on 4 or more days during the year, the annual pass would save you some cash!

When can you visit Kitch-iti-kipi?

Palm Brook State Park is open year-round for day use.

With the spring’s constant temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit, you can visit any time of year and still experience the brilliant turquoise waters. It never freezes!

Park hours according to the Michigan DNR website are 8 am to 10 pm daily.

Can you swim or fish in Kitch-iti-kipi?

The short answer is NO!

The spring is owned and protected by the state of Michigan. Swimming, diving, boating, and fishing are all illegal here.

Swimming would be quite an experience and something we wouldn’t even think about in that water temperature! A constant 45 degrees, remember?

You might be a little more upset about the no-fishing rule, though; some of the trout swimming around these waters are trophies!

Check out the view of the fish below through the open center of the raft at Kitch-iti-kipi where large fish swim through turquoise waters.
The fish seem to effortlessly glide through the waters.

So, what can you do here?

Just a short walk from the parking lot, you will find an ADA-friendly pathway leading to the spring and a raft.

The large raft with a glass-bottom center will take you out to the center of the spring. The raft is propelled along guide cables by turning a giant wheel, so bring your muscles or a few friends to take turns!

The raft is on a guideline. There is a stop in the center, so you can relax and appreciate the views briefly before beginning the return trip to the dock.

Picnic areas and restroom facilities are also available here. A shop with souvenirs and necessities is typically open from late spring to early fall.

Turn the large wheel to propel the raft out to the center of the big spring.
Turn that wheel!

Is the park pet-friendly?

Yes! Well-mannered dogs must be kept on a leash here but can explore right alongside you. A few dogs rode out on the raft with us, and they seemed just as fascinated with the ride and the fish swimming below as we were!

What else is there to do near Kitch-iti-kipi?

We would consider Kitch-iti-kipi a quick stop on a road trip around the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, or a side trip from nearby areas.

About an hour was enough time to appreciate the spring. Here are a few ideas close by (within 15-20 minute drives) if you want to make a day of it:

Indian Lake State Park

While there is no swimming, boating, or camping at Palms Book State Park, nearby Indian Lake is quite the opposite.

As one of Michigan’s largest inland lakes, there is plenty of room here for boating, swimming, and hiking. There are also campsites with hookups for RVs, facilities, and primitive spots, depending on your preference.

Thompson State Fish Hatchery

Check out a location where fish, including steelhead and walleye, are raised to stock many fishing locations in the state.

Open daily from 7:30 am to 3:30 pm for self-guided tours where you can learn more about the processes of the hatchery.

Manistique Boardwalk & Riverwalk

Enjoy a 2-mile walk along the shores of Lake Michigan on this paved and wooden walk.

Signs posted along the way do provide some information about the area, but the real draws are the beautiful sunrises and sunsets!

Proximity to other UP Draws

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a great road trip destination, and Kitch-iti-kipi is a great spot to get out and stretch your legs for a bit! The beautiful, vibrant colors and natural beauty are worth a stop.

Some of the best spots and things to do as you continue on your Michigan Upper Peninsula road trip include:

Check out the “root beer falls” at Tahquamenon Falls State Park to the northeast of Kitch-iti-kipi.

From Tahquamenon Falls, travel to Pictured Rocks. There are outdoor adventures galore from kayaking to diving to hiking in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Hop on one of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Cruises to get different views of the colorful cliffs and rock formations.

Although Kitch-iti-kipi is a fairly quick stop compared to other spots in the Upper Peninsula, this park is worth the stop just to see the beautiful turquoise spring. It’s a great spot to get out and stretch your legs while on a road trip around the UP.