18 Sep 2015
This summer, Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes (OGL) released its draft Water Strategy for the State of Michigan – and has been holding review sessions throughout the Summer to discuss it. The Strategy discusses a number of ideas and sets goals including: protecting and restoring aquatic ecosystems, ensuring clean and safe waters, supporting water-based recreation, promoting water-based economies and investing in water infrastructure.
While there are many worthwhile goals and ideas, today, I’m going to focus on the goal of supporting water-based recreation. Michigan is a water paradise with more boats than just about any other state, the longest freshwater coastline in the Country, nice beaches (see here) and you’re never more than 6 miles from a Great Lake, an inland lake or a river or stream.
As the summer drew to a close,my family spent a weekend in the quad cities area of Michigan and we spent a morning at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge contains more than 9,800 acres of marsh, bottomland hardwood forest, and grasslands. It’s known locally as the Shiawassee Flats and includes a number of rivers which flow into the Shiawassee River which meets the Tittabawassee River to form the Saginaw River.
We spent our morning with Captain Wil Hufton of Johnny Panther Quests. He runs an “eco-tour” business and took us up and down the Refuge and it was a lot of fun and very interesting. We saw hawks, egrets, herons and many other birds. The highlights were definitely seeing bald eagles in the wild as well as deer running along the river bank. Wil told us about the history of the area from the logging days through Michigan’s industrial era all the way to today. He educated us about changes in the river system and the challenges the system faces and has overcome.
Jon Allan, the Director of the OGL, has spoken a lot about getting back in touch with our aquatic roots. Now, I can see what he’s talking about. I know my family enjoyed our eco-tour t and I would highly recommend taking a Johnny Panther eco-tour if you have plans to be in the Saginaw area some early morning or late evening.