Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kalamazoo River Oil Spill

A month after the oil spill, the Kalamazoo River remains closed and the clean-up efforts continue. The spill, which made national news, came from a pipeline running from Indiana to Canada. Unlike the Gulf oil spill, the rupture was stopped relatively quickly, but over 800,000 gallons leaked into Talmadge Creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River.

Further downstream, the Kalamazoo River is closed for another clean-up project: the removal of PCB-contaminated sediment.

update: Parts of the Kalamazoo River opened in 2010 and most of the river opened in 2012

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kellogg Forest

W.K. Kellogg Forest is about 15 miles from Kalamazoo. It's an experimental forest run by Michigan State University's Agricultural Experiment Station. If you visit, you can see plots where different species of trees have been planted and various treatments for managing woodlands. Most visitors simply enjoy a walk through the woods or a picnic along Augusta Creek. The loop road is open for mountain bikes and, in winter, skiing.

A section of the North Country Trail runs through Kellogg Forest.

7060 N. 42nd St. (<1 mile south of M-89)
Augusta, MI
Admission: free

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dow Gardens

Dow Gardens, in Midland, are about 3 hours from Kalamazoo. The gardens were planted by Herbert Dow, the founder of Dow Chemical, on the grounds of his estate. His son, architect Alden Dow, designed many of the garden's structures.

With over 100 acres open to the public, the gardens are a pleasant spot to spent an hour or so. Paths wind along streams, across bridges, and through woods. Most of the gardens have an informal, naturalistic style, inspired perhaps by Japanese gardens rather than the geometric arrangements of Europe. There are colorful annual and perennial beds, sculptures, ponds, a bright children's garden, and a circular yew maze.

Admission $5
Students $1
Annual pass $10

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Adventure Guide to Michigan

Adventure Guide to Michigan
by Kevin & Laurie Hillstrom

This guidebook is divided into three sections: Southern Lower Michigan, Northern Lower Michigan, and the Upper Peninsula. Each section features detailed descriptions of a few destinations that offer many different recreation possibilities. Following those are short descriptions of sport specific locations & recommendations for hotels and restaurants in that region.

Southern Lower Michigan Adventures

1. Warren Dunes State Park

"A beautiful park that is among the most popular in the entire Michigan system, Warren Dunes State Park is the southernmost jewel in a vast necklace of white sand dunes that adorn the Lower Peninsula's western shoreline."
Hang-gliding, hiking the dunes, x-country skiing, camping.

2. Waterloo-Pinckney Recreation Areas

"Southcentral Michigan's Pinckney and Waterloo state parks offer a wide range of outdoor recreation activities. Combined, the two parks encompass more than 30,000 acres of glacier-carved ridges, hardwood forest, lakes, and ponds that serve as an attractive playground for Lower Michigan anglers, backpackers, canoeists, mountain bikers, hunters, and equestrians."
Backpack the 35 mile Waterloo-Pinckney trail, dayhike, mountain bike the Potawatomi trail, canoe the "Chain of Lakes", horseback riding, x-country skiing, camping.

3. Huron-Clinton Metroparks

"The Huron-Clinton Metroparks comprise an immensely popular system that attracts all kinds of folks from Detroit's metropolitan area. Metropark visitors won't encounter elk roaming in sepia autumn fileds or black bears rooting around under vast canopies of green, but they will find an enormous array of scenic trails and waterways that are enjoyed by a large number of users during all four seasons." Nature trails, biking, canoeing the Huron River, camping.

See it at Google books, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ramona Park

Ramona Park is one of Portage's larger parks and one of the only ones with an admission charge. It features several sports fields for football, soccer, and softball, a playground, a fishing pier on Long Lake, and a swimming beach.

Ramona Park
8600 South Sprinkle Road
Portage, MI
(near the corner of Zylman and South Sprinkle Roads)

$5 admission.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lakeview Park

Lakeview Park in Portage has two fishing piers on Austin Lake, a playground, basketball and tennis courts, and a picnic shelter. There's no swimming area but you can launch a canoe on the channel between West Lake and Austin Lake. There is a DNR boat launch nearby (off Woodbine Ave).

Lakeview Park
9345 Portage Road
Portage, MI

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Central Route from Michigan Roadside Naturalist

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

This guide offers seven routes through Michigan. One route goes through Kalamazoo and two others are nearby. This post looks at the a section of their Central Route, near Kalamazoo. The complete route ends in Mackinaw City

The Central Route

Indiana Border to Lansing (I-69 to US 27)

Somewhat varied topography: low moraines, outwash plains, flat glacial lake plains. Second-growth forest & numerous small lakes.

1. Late Woodland Earthworks
Three miles north of the border and 7 miles west, "another horseshoe-shaped earthen enclosure was built about one thousand years ago." "This earthwork was on a low bluff overlooking water. A palisade of wood topped this earthwork in the upper reaches of the St. Joseph River."

2. Hunting Camp
A site on the Grand River south of Lansing seems to have been used as a winter hunting camp, as many of the stone artifacts were projectile points, and 89 percent of the abundant animal bones were from deer and other mammals." Late Woodland peoples.

3. Wetlands
"Lansing was built in a basically flat area supporting lots of marshes, bogs, and boggy ponds." Habitats for: salamanders, wood frogs, green frogs, Blanding's turtles, painted turtles, and snapping turtles. Remains of extinct Ice Age mammoths, mastodonts, and giant beavers were found near small bog ponds.

4. Nineteenth-Century Settlement
"A centennial farm (occupied by the same family for over one hundred years) near Lansing gave Michigan State University archeologists an opportunity to study the material record of settlement in this area."

5. Plank Roads
"An indication of the difficulties of transportation during the early years of Michigan's statehood came to light when road construction workers in East Lansing unearthed portions of a plank road that had been covered by several episodes of paving. Plank roads were popular in the middle of the nineteenth century. These roads were made of local lumber and were operated by private companies." Grand River Avenue, E. Lansing.

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or, perhaps, at your local library.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rattlesnake Master

Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) is a striking plant of tallgrass prairie. The spiky flowerheads hold their distinct shape after the blossoms dry. In Michigan, it is protected as a threatened species.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is currently in bloom. It's also known as Bee Balm and is a good source of nectar for bees and butterflies. I think of it as a tallgrass prairie wildflower but its native range is much wider.