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U-M Summer Camps: Isolated UP Area Serves As Geography Classroom

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Geographers At Work

Prof. Kenneth C. McMurry (left), director of Camp Cusino, the University of Michigan’s geography camp near Shingleton in the Upper Peninsula, instructs John Arazian of Belpre, O., a University graduate student, in some surveying techniques used to study geographical conditions in a certain area.

U-M Summer Camps:

Isolated UP Area Serves As Geography Classroom

(Editor’s Note: An important but little known enterprise of the University of Michigan is the operation of six summer camps throughout the state. This is the third in a series of articles describing these camps.)

By Tom Dickinson

SHINGLETON, Mich. — An isolated, forested region in the northern part of the Upper Peninsula furnishes the setting for Camp Cusino, the University of Michigan’s geography summer field station.

Here, in a spot fully 10 miles from the nearest telephone and where electricity is generated by a gasoline engine, 22 graduate students are studying the effects of natural environment on man.

Specifically, Camp Cusino is located about 25 miles east of Munising and is 18 miles north of Shingleton. The nearest town, 10 miles west of here, is Melstrand—which is scarcely more than a general store and a few scattered houses.

Study Land

"We study here in the field the physical condition of the land,” explains Prof. Kenneth C. McMurry, chairman of Michigan’s geography department and camp director.

“And we define the word ‘land’ in terms of the whole group of things people think of as natural resources,” he adds.

Surface features of the area, drainage, water resources, soils, vegetation and wild life are considered by the geographer in the field—all with the view towards the relationship these factors exert on the society and industry of the region.

“The major job is to teach the students to analyze and map the physical elements so they can not only make such appraisals themselves, but so they can utilize information on those matters available through state and federal resource surveys," Prof. McMurry says.

Called 'The Chief'

“Without actual field study it would be impossible to interpret these surveys,” explains “The Chief,” as his students call him.

Several specific studies are made here. One is a mapping project in which the roads (what few there are) are registered on a map which also designates the major topographical phenomenon.

Another project entails an appraisal of the significance of recreational facilities of this area as a quantitative part of the total economy of the area.

Agriculture, industry, and in some degree the mining activity and mineral deposits will be reckoned in the over-all evaluation of this area—sparsely settled but rich in natural resources.

Students Sent Into Field

“By the time they get through the students have a good notion of the' resources here, and how to measure, map and appraise them,” Prof. McMurry points out.

“Up here the problem is one of wild land management,” the Michigan geographer notes. “That’s the interest that has been dominant. Most of the physical elements are unchanged. It is a simple economy. But there is enough agriculture and industry to study, and the geographical relationships are obvious,” he says.

To accomplish these aims, Prof. McMurry and his colleague, Prof. Fred Foster of the University of Illinois, which cooperates with Michigan in the camp operation, send the students into the field almost every day.

After a briefing period following breakfast, they pile into cars and drive off into the veritable wilderness, as far as 40 miles away with their surveying equipment to record the terrain.

Gift Of State

Prof. McMurry and Prof. Foster shuttle from group to group, keeping tabs on their progress, answering questions and supervising generally.

Camp Cusino was a gift of the Michigan Conservation Department three summers ago. The 15-acre tract includes a lodge, a barn and huge garage overlooking a lake.

Geography field study is nothing new at Michigan. The first instruction was given about 1920 in conjunction with the geology department at a camp in Kentucky.

Michigan has the longest history of such field training of any institution in the nation, Prof. McMurry says.

Since about 1935 the department has utilized facilities of the Conservation Department, cooperating in many projects of common interest both to the state and to the University.

Of the 22 students here, all are on the graduate level, most working towards doctorates in geography.

Prof. McMurry says the plan to cooperate with Illinois in the camp will continue indefinitely, with each school contributing a proportionate share to the camp’s support.