Sunday, March 13, 2011

Natural Wonders of Michigan

Natural Wonders of Michigan: A Guide to Parks, Preserves, & Wild Places
by Tom Carney 1995

This guide suggests several dozen natural places to visit throughout the State, divided into 5 sections: Southeast, Southwest, Northeast, Northwest, and Upper Peninsula. The Southwest section has seven natural areas close to Kalamazoo.

Southwest Michigan Natural Wonders

1. E. Genevieve Gillette Nature Center
"Nestled among the sand dunes the Gillete Nature Center is a wonderful attraction, offering both education and entertainment. Situated as it is in the middle of the P. J. Hoffmaster State Park, which adjoins over two miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, and three other state parks within easy striking distances, there is a temptation to treat it as an overnight destination and stick around for a legendary Lake Michigan sunset."

recommended activities:beach, Dune Climb Staircase, Sand Dune Interpretive Center, hiking, camping, spring wildflowers, cross-country skiing
how to get there: From US 31, take exit 4 west on Pontaluna Rd, 3 miles to state park entrance.
general information: open year round, state park fee
P. J. Hoffmaster State Park

2. Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery
"What makes Wolf Lake a special attraction, however, is the fact that the hatchery houses the Michigan Fisheries Interpretive Center. This is one of those spots you wouldn't drive out of your way to visit but you don't want to pass up if you are in the area. The center is well worth the ten-minute drive from Kalamazoo and the hour or so that you'll spend there."

recommended activities: view exhibits, show pond, hatchery
how to get there: From US 131 exit 38-B onto M-43. Take M-43 west 6 miles to Hatchery.
general information: Free. Hours vary.
Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery

3. Warren Dunes State Park
"This is the busiest state park, probably because it offers the complete package: lake, beach, and 'dunal' experience all within a couple of miles of the interstate highway. Easy access also makes this park a desirable stopping spot for visitors from other states who enter at Michigan's southwestern corner."

recommended activities: climb Great Warren Dune, hike, beach
how to get there: From I-94 exit 16 onto Red Arrow Highway, two miles to park entrance
general information: camping & mini-cabins available, state park fee, Warren Woods Natural Area is nearby.
Warren Dunes State Park

4. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary
"In the mid-1920s, influenced by some of the pioneers in the emerging field of wildlife conservation and game management, Kellogg established his own project on beautiful Wintergreen Lake, fourteen miles northwest of Battle Creek. He bought the neglected farmland and had it restored and developed as a bird sanctuary, primarily for waterfowl. This proved to be a fortuitous move, for research eventually showed that Wintergreen Lake sits at the crossroads of three major bird migration routes. By 1928, Kellogg had deeded the the Sanctuary and Experimental Farm to what is now Michigan State University."

recommended activities: bird exhibits, self-guided trail, Birds of Prey display
how to get there: From I-94, exit 95 north to Dickman Rd. West on Dickman/M-96 to village of Augusta. In Augusta, turn north on Webster/42nd street to M-89. West on 89 to 40th street. North on 40th to C Ave. "The route is well marked with signs for the sanctuary." [From Kalamazoo, it would be quicker to take I-94 to 35th street north to M-96, then east to Augusta.]
general information: open daily. admission.
Kellogg Bird Sanctuary

5. Bernard W. Baker Sanctuary
"Encompassing about 900 acres, the Bernard W. Baker Sanctuary is one of the two top spots for viewing sandhill cranes in southern Michigan. Even in 1941, at the time Bernard W. Baker donated the original 491 acres to the Michigan Audubon Society, this spot was a primary nesting areas for sandhill cranes. Much of the development of the sanctuary has been undertaken in an effort to benefit these large, storklike birds."

recommended activities: view sandhill cranes from Kiwanis land (October, November), walk Doty Trail.
how to get there: From I-69 take exit 42 North Drive. Turn west on North Drive, then right on 16 Mile Rd for about 2 miles. Stay left at the split to Junction Rd. Driveway is 1/4 mile on the left.
general information: open year round. no charge.
Baker Sanctuary

6. Yankee Springs Recreation Area
"Currently the Yankee Springs Recreation Area covers over 5,000 acres and adjoins the 15,000-acre Barry State Game Area, creating over 20,000 acres of possibility. As with most places in Michigan, much of the natural appeal of Yankee Springs can be attributed to the 'facelift' the land was given by glaciers thousands of years ago."

recommended activities
:Graves Hill overlook, Devil's Soupbowl, hiking, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, North Country Trail, horseback riding, camping, boat on Gun Lake, canoe Fish Lake, Lime, Horseshoe & Tamarack Lakes.
how to get there: From US 131 take exit 61. East 8 miles to park.
general information: state park fee
Yankee Springs Recreation Area

7. Maple River Game Area

"It's easy to catch a glimpse of migrating birds, if you are in the right place at the right time, and the Maple River flooding along US 27 is a prime place. Spring, when birds are in their most colorful breeding plumage, and fall, when the sun's descent in the southern sky urges them on, are the times."
recommended activities: Spring migration (March-May), Fall migration (September-November), observation deck to heron rookery, float the river
how to get there: In Gratiot County, 8 mile north of St Johns. Parking where US 27 crosses the Maple River.
general information: no fees
Maple River Game Area

Available from local libraries, and perhaps from Amazon or other booksellers.

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