Decoy Burial on Crowfoot Island

Off the eastern coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a yacht-sized clump of rocks protrudes from Lake Huron, almost densely covered in scratchy vegetation. The plants remain untouched by deer — who browse the tree lines of the larger peninsulas nearby. The uninhabited piece of land is called called Crowfoot Island, and is one of the smallest officially named islands in the state.

satellite view of Crowfoot Island and neighboring island “Pindive Island” (the wind was picking up and we never made it out to Pindive)

In late August of 2016, my mother, my youngest brother, and I underestimated how far away Crowfoot Island was, and decided to kayak to it. We packed sandwiches in plastic bags and filled up our water bottles in the bay as we went.

old tourism map of area, found in a 19th cent. cabin, long since abandoned

When we got to Crowfoot Island after about two hours, we found it to be not much of an island at all, with no trails or signs of animal life — no recent animal life anyway. A few brittle skeletons disassembled on the rocks implied gulls used the island as a place to die.

If a treasure map doesn’t need a treasure, a grave does not need a body. Why not fabricate a mystery for others? 

Without planning or much communication, and half as a joke, I made a small cross out of dry sticks, tying them together at their centers with green stems pulled from the nearby vegetation. I stuck the cross in the ground, and the three of us piled stones around and in front of it, forming the shape of a small body.

the makeshift decoy burial

The makeshift grave looked like a pet burial, or perhaps a child, but there’s no sensible reason anyone would bury anything or hopefully not anyone on such a remote island and give the grave any sort of marker. Still, the odds of someone eventually finding it are high. I wondered if they would try to dig it up just to satisfy their curiosity or fear. I knew I would have certainly felt uneasy finding something like that, so we chose to leave the joke grave where it was hopefully undisturbed, as a decoy, for the vicarious mystery of it all.

kayaking in shallows not too far from Crowfoot Island


“I’m not optimistic or pessimistic, just mystic.”

-me and cousin Amy in agreement.


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