The endangered Kirtland's Warbler (Dendroica Kirtlandii) is one of the rarest members of the wood warbler (Parulidae) family. It is a bird of unusual interest for many reasons. It nests in just a few counties in Michigan's norothern Lower and Upper peninsulas, in Wisconsin and the province of Onario and, currently, nowhere else on Earth! Its nests generally are hidden in mixed vegetation of grasses and shrubs below the living branches of five-to twenty year-old jack pine forests.
Because the Kirtland Warbler has just a small range and unique habitat, it has probably always been a rare bird.
I am a birdwatcher, and any serious birdwatcher who lives in North America must eventually go to Michigan to participate in the Kirtland's warbler tours that are operated by the United States Forest Service. This rare and endangered bird, numbering only 200 pairs, nests solely in a small area in central Michigan dominated by jack pines.
The United States Forest Service manages the areas in which the warbler breeds by systematically burning portions of the forest to keep the jack pines at a certain height. The birds will not nest in mature pines, but will only breed where the pines are just a few feet tall.
The breeding areas are off limits to the public, and can only be visited by joining one of the guided tours run by the United States Forest Service. Before the tour, participants meet at either the Ramada Inn in Grayling or the United States Forest Service office in Mio to view an informative film which gives an overview of the steps taken to save the warbler. The group is then led to the breeding areas to try to catch a glimpse of the rare bird.
The day I went on the tour to look for the Kirtland's warbler was cold and rainy, not the best circumstances to look for birds. The forest ranger leading the tour even doubted whether we would get to see the warblers because of the weather. However, at our second stop, we heard a Kirtland's warbler singing about 200 yards (183 meters) off the road. I managed to get a quick glimpse of the elusive bird before it disappeared into the bushes. Fortunately, within about a minute, another bird appeared in a small jack pine a few feet away, and I was able to get an excellent view of the warbler, even without the aid of my binoculars. This was an exciting experience, because the Kirtland's warbler was my 500th species of bird seen in North America.
The small town of Mio has erected a monument to the Kirtland's Warbler (pictured here) in the local park. The town recognizes the importance of the Kirtland's warbler to its economy (many birdwatchers from all over the world visit each year, and they spend a lot of money on motels, restaurants, and other local businesses). Other towns within the range of the warbler also attract visitors with activities and events, such as the Kirtland's Warbler Festival held in Roscommon.
The monument was constructed of stone, and features a large model of the warbler behind glass panels and a plaque with information about the bird.
One of the oldest brick lighhouses on the Great Lakes, and one of the prettiest, this lonely tower stands 107 feet tall on the shore of Lake Michigan. On the afternoon of our visit a storm was brewing over Lake Michigan which made for a particularly dramatic picture.
Little Sable has the advantage of being part of Silver Lake State Park and is thereby protected. To find it, exit from US-31 at Shelby Road and head west away from the small town of Shelby. Follow that to 16th Avenue and head north, zigzagging over to 18th Avenue. Continue on Silver Lake Road to the lake and the Little Sable Lighthouse. There is a small admission fee to the state park. For a few dollars more you can get an annual permit to all Michigan state parks.
This was the first established National Lakeshore. Washed by the immense Lake Superior, main features are its colorful sandstone cliffs and sand dunes immersed in a pristine environment.
Close to Munising, Castle Rock stands in front of turquois waters and is easily accessible with a short walk. The gently sloping Bridalveil Fall is visible from this point although a boat ride would yield its best.
Near the tip of Michigan's thumb, on Hwy. 53, is the town of Bad Axe, Pop. 3,462, county seat of Huron County. In 1861, while surveying a road through here Capt. Rudolph Pabst made camp at an old hunters cabin where he found a worn out axe. The captain used the name on his survey, and later on his county map. The name stuck, although it was changed for a while to Huron, until the townspeople voted back the original name.
A favorite tourist attraction here is Pioneer Log Cabin Village, a replicated settlement of historical buildings. There is a log cabin home, blacksmith shop, chapel, general store, barn and a one-room schoolhouse. Each log building is furnished as it would have been in the 19th century.
So there you are driving along two lane Hwy 2 and watching the bumper of some neo-zone nitwit who thinks 45 is the maximum speed limit. You think you want to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. All of a sudden, the Cut River comes up! What an opportunity! 230 steps to the bottom and then back up! Guaranteed to stretch the legs and lungs of even the hardiest VTers. Once at the bottom, you find yourself on the scenic shore of Lake Michigan, soaking up the views and drifting on fresh Great Lake air. Can life get better? Sure it can. Have a few cold ones up in the well maintained park above.
In the Huron National Forest, west of Au Sable, on River Road Scenic Byway, is the Lumberman's Monument. Dedicated on July 16, 1936, the memorial was "Erected to perpetuate the memory of the pioneer lumbermen of Michigan through whose labors was made possible the development of the prairie states." Beside the monument is an interpretative center operated by the National Forest Service. The Lumberman's Monument is in an exceptionally beautiful area on the banks of the pristine Au Sable River (River of Sand), which was of great importance to 19th century logging. This is a popular area for hiking, canoeing, and other outdoor activities.
This 58-foot tower on the shore of Lake Superior, inactive since 1989, is one of the loneliest lighthouses in America - REALLY off the beaten path. To find it, turn north off of MI-123, just a short distance west of Tahquamenon Falls State Park, onto County Road 412. The road is unpaved, winding and narrow with many forks. However, we were able to follow it by going slowly and watching carefully for directional signs. After 18 long miles you will come to the end of the road at a small parking lot. From here you will see the lighthouse. We felt that it was a magical place, well worth the effort to find.
The beach at Crisp point is a great spot for collecting agates and other colorful stones, washed smooth by the waves of Lake Superior.
Point Iroquois gets its name from an Indian masacre which took place here in 1662. A war party sent westward by the Iroquois Confederation was set upon and slaughtered on this point by an army of Ojibwas.
The lighthouse was established in 1855 and the present sixty-five -foot tower and dwelling were built in 1871. This is a strategic point for Lake Superior ship traffic where the open lake funnels into Whitefish Bay and the St. Mary's River, toward the Soo Locks. The beacon is now a part of the Hiawatha National Forest and is maintained by the Bay Mills-Brimley Historical Research Society. There is also an interesting museum and a gift shop here.
Point Iroquois is 28 miles from Sault Ste. Marie. Take 1-75 south for 12 miles, then turn west on M-28 for eight miles to M-221. This will lead north through the small town of Brimley where M-221 dead ends into Lake Superior. Turn left onto six mile road which leads 7.5 miles to the lighthouse.
Of the dozens of lighthouses we have explored, this is our favorite. It is not as tall or as important as many other lights, but there is something about the character and charm of this one that we find particularly appealing. Built in 1840, The Old Presque Isle Light only saw service for about 30 years before the much taller New Presque Isle Light was built nearby. The old light is now maintained as a park and museum and may be toured for a small fee.
We were shown through the property by an elderly woman, Lorainne Parris. Her husband, George, had been the custodian and tour guide for many years before his death in 1992. We were spellbound as Lorainne told us of the dark night the old deactivated light mysteriously came on, even though it was not connected to any power source. She said her husband had told her that after his death he would find a way to signal her and let her know he had passed safely to the other side. Their story has been featured on the television series, "Unsolved Mysteries."
The light is in Northern Michigan on the shore of Lake Huron, north of Alpena. From US-23, turn right onto Hwy. 638, and follow it to the lighthouse. Watch carefully for the signs.
The Grand Traverse Light, built in 1858, rises as a cupola from the top a the 2 1/2 story keepers house. Today the restored light is a museum and gift shop operated as part of a Michigan State Park. The house replicates a keeper's home from the 1920's and 30's. There is also a working fog signal building which is occasionally demonstrated.
The light is located on Cat's Head Point, Leelanau State Park, at the tip of Leelanau Peninsula, 9 miles north of Northport. This is a beautiful drive with views of Lake Michigan and turn-outs to several secluded beaches along the way.
Admission: $2.00 - Adult, $1.00 - Child
Hours vary, so click the web site below for the current information.
L'Anse is located in a natural bay in Lake Superior where the largest Indian Reservation is located. Home to the Chippewa-Ojibwa tribe, this quiet corner features the typical beauty of the Upper Peninsula's frozen waters still at the end of April.
If you like a bird'seye view of the UP, you can stop here, just about two miles north of St. Ignace on I-75, easily visible from the freeway. These kind of rock formations really aren't all that uncommon aroudn the Great Lakes, but finding one you can climb is quite rare.
As you're walking around the base of the fort and thinking about a second helping of handmade ice cream from one of the shops you might want to drop into the wigwam chapel. The exterior might look like just a bunch of twigs held together with mud, but inside there is a diorama and some information posted about the early missionaries from France. It mihgt amuse you for five minutes.
At first glance this is a tribute to Pere Marquette, the most important of the early French explorers in the region, but by no means the only one. Also detailed on the plaque are a dozen or more names, ranging from the relatively well known Joliet to the almost unknown Le Sueur Cadillac.
84 E. Ferry St., Detroit, Michigan, 48202, United States
Good for: Families
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