Thursday, April 1, 2010

Michigan Roadside Naturalist

The Michigan Roadside Naturalist
by J. Alan Holman and Margaret B. Holman
University of Michigan Press

This guide to Michigan is rooted in science. Both authors were associated with MSU's musuem; he was a herpetologist and she an archeologist. The first half of their book presents an overview of Michigan's geology, wildlife, and archeology. The second half identifies natural, archeological, and geological sites along seven routes that cross the state.

I learned a lot from this book. For example, Kalamazoo is south of the Mason-Quimby line, which means mammoth and mastodont (or mastodon) fossils are found in this region, as are fluted spear points of Paleoindians. Humans arrived in the area about 12,000 years ago, after the glaciers of the Ice Age had receded. Later area residents (about 2000 years ago) were part of the Hopewell culture of mound builders.

Kalamazoo is also in the Carolinian Biotic Province, while northern Michigan is in the Canadian Biotic Province, with a transition zone starting just north of Grand Rapids. (From the highway, the number of white birches signals this transition.)

"In geological terms, Michigan is a mass of unconsolidated Ice Age sediment, averaging about 25 to one hundred feet thick and several thousand years old, lying on consolidated layers of ancient bedrock thousands of feet thick and many millions to more than a billion years old." Geological uplift and subsequent erosion, erased about 290 million years of Michigan's fossil record, which means while ancient corals like the Petosky Stone and comparatively recent Ice age fossils are found in Michigan, the dinosaur fossils are missing.

Michigan Highway Trips
1. The Lake Michigan Route
Indiana Border to Mackinaw City (I-94 to US 31)

2. The West-Central Route
Indiana border to Petoskey (US 131)

3. The Central Route
Indiana Border to Mackinaw City (I-69 to US 27 to I-75)

4. The East-Central and Northern Lake Huron Route
Ohio Border to Mackinaw City (US 23)

5. Southeastern Michigan and the Thumb
Ohio Border to Bay City (I-75 to I-94 to M-25)

6. Upper Peninsula, Lower Route
Mackinaw City to Ironwood (US 2)

7. Upper Peninsula, Upper Route
St Ignace to Wakefield (I-75 to M-28)

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many libraries.

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