This entire class was centered on discovering the true definition of the Northwoods; an area so ambiguous, people reared outside of the Upper Mid-West have often never heard of it. Without a definition how will others ever discover the Northwoods? So it is our job as students of Geography of the Northwoods, to define the criterion that determines the Northwoods.
While our classmates mainly focused on producing products that helped to define the Northwoods, this group focused tourism and illuminating what happened during the trip. The type of tourism researched for this project is the middle class, mom, dad, three kids and the dog in a minivan going “up north” type of tourism. We’ve decided on this sub-category of tourism because of the history of tourism in the area. Tourism expanded in the Upper Mid-West after World War II, when the growing middle class travelled expanded highway systems for vacations. According to Stephen Williams, “mass forms of tourism became possible only with the development of efficient and affordable systems of transportation” (2009, 28). The expansion of two lane highways into Northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan in the first half of the twentieth century opened the Northwoods to easier access by the public. Even today, this allows people that live close to the Northwoods to enjoy an inexpensive weekend vacation. According to 50% of the Midwestern travel agencies surveyed by this group, people are vacationing closer to home due to the sagging economy. This makes the Northwoods an even more attractive destination. This large mass of people with expendable incomes and a lust for leisure supplemented the economies of small towns in the North. There are several other geographers who have studied the way that tourism has impacted the environment around them, some of the sources referenced for this project were by the following authors, Hall (2002), Kopler (1993), and Nepser (2003). One facet of the Northwoods tourism economy is camping. Part of our project explores this popular middle class form of recreation to determine if the frequency of campgrounds and State Parks helps distinguish the Northwoods from the rest of the Midwest.
The other part of our project focused on the trip itself. This objective was fulfilled by utilizing Google Earth ™ and Adobe Premier Elements ™. To fulfill this objective a trip map and documentary videos were created; Hampe’s guide for documentary film making was helpful in this area (Hampe, 1997). These products will provide a great deal of support to the website, and will also draw people to the site since the products are posted on several different web based communities, including YouTube and Google.
There are several products created by this group. The first of which is a set of maps showing the concentrations of campgrounds and state parks in counties in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. These were created by first researching and collecting data on each published campground or state park in the three states. From the data collected the names of the parks and the counties they are in were transferred into an Excel ™ document, which helped to organize the data. After the data had been culled together, it was sorted by county. Next it was transferred to ArcGIS ™ where the county data was used to provide a count of how many State Parks were in each county.
This data was combined with ESRI data, which is data that is standardized to provide ease in spatial analysis, to create the maps. After that it was exported to Adobe Illustrator ™, where titles and a delineation line were added.
The next product that this group created was a thematic map detailing the 10 day Northwoods trip. Using Google Earth ™, a recreation of the route was pinpointed. Small anecdotes, jokes, or weather readings were added to nearly every point. Also included were photographs taken by the class. Then it was exported to the Google community; from where others around the world can access it and explore along with the class.
Another product the team produced was a listing of Wisconsin travel agencies, and how they handle the Northwoods. A table was created that broke down the information received from the agencies. Also a Google Earth ™ file was created that showed the locations of all of these travel agencies; this file was also exported to the Google Community.
The last product produced by the Tourism team was a collection of videos. The footage was taken during the trip during many different outings. Once back on campus, the video editing lab was used to first watch, inventory, edit, and then share the videos on YouTube. There was a channel created specifically for the videos from the class.
Figure One. This is a flow chart of the work compiled by this group. The first section is of the steps taken to create the maps. Following from left to right are the steps for the trip recreation, the trip videos, and the travel agencies data. The last step is the creation of the flow chart. The squares represent the data collected, while the rhombuses are the action taken, the last step are the ovals which are the end product.
Figure Two. A map of the number of campgrounds per county in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Data from 2009. (Accessed Nov. 13th, 2009)
Figure Three. This map is similar to the one above showing the locations of campgrounds. However this one includes a line delineating the heaviest concentrations of campgrounds. Data from 2009. (Accessed Nov. 13th, 2009)
Figure Four. This is a map of the State Parks by County in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Although there is a heavy concentration of State Parks in the Northern counties, there is no delineation line for this map because of several other small clusters State Parks throughout the rest of the states. This map is inconclusive. (Data accessed Dec. 1, 2009)
The products created for Google Earth ™ can be found in the Google Earth Community, located in the “student” section. Our group felt that these videos belonged there because the interest created in other students or teachers may lead them to clicking on and viewing the class website. The table created about the travel agencies is found on another document since the page had to be formatted differently to contain all of the information. The final part of the project, the videos, are all found on YouTube, but here is a synopsis of each.
- Waterways: A look at the way the water geography has influenced the Northwoods in industry and in recreation.
- Geographers: Satirical expos of the trip.
- Pasty Love: A video documenting the creation of pasties.
- Weather Report: A re-creation of the weather report for the stormiest day of the trip.
- Big: A tribute to all of the oversized items found along our trip.
- Crossing the Bridge to Canada: Simply a video of the drive across the bridge.
- Ouimet Canyon: A video of the drop from the top of the canyon.
- Au Sable Dunes: The students climbing around on the dunes along the shore of Lake Superior.
- Fire: A montage of the attempts to create fire.
- Canoe: A video of our professors beaching themselves on a sandbar
- Oswalds: Our trip to the UP’s bear ranch.
- Cold Hearted Mama Superior: Getting the Frisbee out of the lake.
Through the use of several different types of software, this group hoped to create something that would help clarify and finally nail down an exact description of the Northwoods. Unfortunately our data is ambiguous at best; with State Parks being no help, and campgrounds only hinting at the possibility. It is obvious that the Northwoods cannot be defined simply by one thing. It is only through the merging of a various data, cultural, geological, meteorological, forestry, and more, that a true definition could ever be achieved. Or perhaps, what makes the Northwoods, can only be defined within one’s own mind.
Hall, Colin M. The geography of tourism and recreation. London/New York: Routledge, 2002. Web.
Hampe, Barry. Making documentary films and reality videos a practical guide to planning, filming, and editing documentaries of real events. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997. Print.
Kotler, Philip. Marketing places attracting investment, industry, and tourism to cities, states, and nations. New York: Free, Maxwell Macmillan Canada, Maxwell Macmillan International, 1993. Print.
Krygier, John, and Denis Wood. Making Maps A Visual Guide to Map Design for GIS. New York: The Guilford, 2005. Print.
Nepser, Larry. "Simulating Culture: Being Indian for Tourists in Lac du Flambeau's Wa-Saw-Gon Indian Bowl." Ethnohistory 50.3 (2003): 447-72. EBSCO. Web. 25 Oct. 2009.
Williams, Stephen. Tourism Geography: A new Synthesis. London and New York: Routledge, 2009.