Michigan DNR Pledges $8M to Asian Carp Barrier in Illinois
Recent eDNA findings in waters near Lake Michigan underscore need
15NOV19-Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Eichinger
today confirmed the commitment of $8 million in state funds for the
preconstruction, engineering and design phase of a multifaceted barrier
system to prevent invasive Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes.
In a Nov. 4, 2019
letter to Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, chief of the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers, Eichinger explained that the funds were appropriated
as non-federal match for design of a system of structural and
non-structural control measures at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in the
Chicago Area Waterway System near Joliet, Illinois. Brandon Road is a
critical pinch point for keeping bighead, silver and black carp – the
Asian carp species of greatest concern – out of the Great Lakes.
Taking action at Brandon Road took on added urgency with the Nov. 1
announcement that 76 of 414 water samples from waters connected to Lake
Michigan – and well beyond Brandon Road Lock and Dam – tested positive for
environmental DNA (eDNA) for invasive carp. Forty-nine of the water
samples from the South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River, also
known as Bubbly Creek, were positive for silver carp eDNA, while 27 were
positive for bighead carp eDNA.
Although no live invasive carp were found in the recent sampling, the
results showed far more invasive carp eDNA than had previously been
discovered in these waters, prompting the Illinois Department of Natural
Resources along with partner agencies to undertake additional surveillance
for the presence of invasive carp.
“Our economy and way of life in Michigan depends on the preservation of
our water, but right now, the threat of invasive species like Asian Carp
is putting the future of our Great Lakes, our economy, and Michiganders’
well-being at risk,” said Governor Whitmer. “The threat of Asian Carp is
not new. It has grown to the point where we cannot afford to delay action.
That’s why my administration has prioritized Great Lakes protection, and
I’m hopeful that we can continue to work with our partners across the
region to keep them safe from invasive species.”
Brandon Road project, currently awaiting congressional approval, would
install additional technologies -- including an electric barrier,
underwater sound, an air bubble curtain and a flushing lock -- in a newly
engineered channel designed to prevent invasive carp movement while
allowing shipping into and out of the Great Lakes.
Supporting Illinois’ role as non-federal sponsor of the Brandon Road
project, Eichinger’s letter expresses Michigan’s willingness to seek
collaboration from other Great Lakes states and aid communications with
these partners throughout the project.
“Stopping invasive carp from getting into the Great Lakes is one of the
most important things we can do to protect Michigan’s signature natural
resource,” said Eichinger. “The recent eDNA findings present one more
piece of evidence that we need to move the Brandon Road project from
concept to reality as soon as possible.”
Protecting the Great Lakes is a top priority for Michigan. With more
than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes coastline, 11,000 inland lakes and 36,000
miles of rivers and streams, Michigan faces the greatest risk and has the
most at stake if invasive carp infest the Great Lakes Basin.
Invasive bighead, silver and black carp can significantly alter the
Great Lakes ecosystem, affecting the $7 billion fishery, $16 billion
boating industry as well as other tourism-based industries, property
owners, recreationists and others dependent on the Great Lakes and its
‘Happy Little 5K’ News Creates Big
Excitement; While DNR Lifts Registration Cap
Michiganders clearly have a soft spot for state parks, Bob Ross and
running in the great outdoors! Recently, the DNR took to social media to
announce the first Happy Little 5K / Run for the Trees virtual race, and
the response was amazing. In less than a week, nearly 20,000 people signed
up to receive registration updates.
Participants will walk, run or hike their 5K, as long as it’s completed in
the outdoors (and your mailing address is located somewhere in the
continental U.S.) sometime between April 17th - 26th.
That’s 10 days including two full weekends and, for good measure, Earth
Day (April 22nd) and Arbor Day (April 24th).
The race is the latest offering from the Happy Little Trees program.
Through a partnership with Bob Ross Inc. and funding from the U.S. Forest
Service Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and a donation that stems from
Chateau Grand Traverse's "CGT Wines of the Great Outdoors" series, the
program helps state parks replant trees lost to invasive forest pests and
diseases, including emerald ash borer and oak wilt.
Inspired by this year’s Michigan state parks centennial, the DNR
partnered with Bob Ross Inc. to rename and help build awareness around the
state’s tree-planting program and new opportunities for people to help.
Volunteers received Happy Little Planting T-shirts featuring Bob Ross, the
iconic painter and nature fan who connected with millions of people
through his “Joy of Painting” public television show.
The partnership also included options to support the program through
donations and the purchase of T-shirts via the
These Goods are Good for Michigan platform.
Happy Little 5K registration opens January 1st. Each participant will get
a Happy Little T-shirt, a commemorative bib number and a finisher's medal.
All race proceeds support tree-planting efforts at Michigan state parks.
The virtual race originally had a cap of 1,000 participants. Now, with
elevated public interest, the DNR has lifted the cap and will establish a
new cap closer to registration opening. Anyone interested can
sign up for preregistration notification and other updates.
"We're so excited about the outpouring of interest for support of the
Happy Little Trees planting program,” said Michelle Coss, DNR parks and
recreation fund development coordinator. “We are working to make this
event available to as many people as possible."
Questions? Learn more about the
Happy Little Trees program online or contact
Michelle Coss at 517-881-5884.
Experience Beauty of Our State Parks -
‘Paint the Parks’ exhibit
13NOV19-This state parks centennial year has set the stage for
residents and other outdoor enthusiasts to look back at 100 years of
history and highlight many of these outdoor destinations through several
lenses: historical anecdotes, campfire storytelling, an interactive memory
map, bird's-eye-view videos, ambient nature sounds (Pure Sounds), Happy
Little Trees planting program and, now, paintbrush and canvas.
"Paint the Parks" is an artistic interpretation of Michigan’s vast
state parks system – from Tahquamenon Falls to Holland to Belle Isle and
more – as showcased through original artwork of the Great Lakes Plein Air
Painters Association. The group’s “open air” style of painting is an art
form created by French Impressionists that encourages the practice of
painting or drawing of landscapes outside the walls of a studio.
Over the last year, several painters set up easels in state parks,
capturing the colors, the majesty, the nature and the history of these
beautiful outdoor spaces. The "Paint the Parks” exhibit includes nearly 70
paintings, and people can experience it in two ways:
an online gallery, highlighting different regions of the state,
including the Upper, northern Lower, central Lower and southern Lower
Up close and in person at an exhibit at the Michigan History Center,
702 W. Kalamazoo St. in downtown Lansing, now through
“Painting nature has long been a mainstay of artists,” said Maia Turek,
DNR parks and recreation engagement development specialist. “Our
department partnered with the Great Lakes Plein Air Painters Association
to highlight the spirit and allure of these special places in a whole new
All original artwork is for sale though the online gallery, with 25% of
proceeds going to support historic interpretation in state parks.
Learn more about "Paint the Parks" and the Michigan state parks
Maia Turek at 989-225-8573.
Apply Now for July 2020 Conservation Officer
trucks, boats, off-road vehicles, snowmobiles and more – if you enjoy
being outdoors and would like to make a career of it, consider becoming a
Michigan conservation officer. The DNR is accepting applications right now
for its next conservation officer academy, which begins July 12, 2020, in
“There’s really no better law enforcement job in the state of Michigan,”
said Conservation Officer Shannon Kritz, who patrols Eaton County. “I love
hunting and fishing. Whether I’m teaching a hunter safety class,
patrolling the county or responding to an emergency situation, every day I
feel like I am really making a difference by protecting natural resources
and the people that utilize them.”
The DNR is seeking motivated people who are willing to learn. The 23-week
conservation officer academy will teach recruits about the fish, animals
and natural resources that conservation officers protect and how to safely
operate the many vehicles used every day.
Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers to locate a recruiter, review
eligibility requirements, see training videos and interviews with past
recruits, and learn more about the hiring process.
Lt. Jason Wicklund at 517-284-5996.
Public Invited to Review
Proposed Forest Road Changes, Share Feedback Through December 1st
Michigan Department of Natural Resources has proposed some changes to
off-road vehicle use on state forest roads. The public is welcome to share
comments on the proposed changes through Dec. 1.
The review is part of an annual effort to ensure that the DNR’s forest
road inventory is as accurate as possible, while meeting legislative
requirements outlined in Public Act 288 of 2016.
The proposed changes include:
Adding roads that previously were unmapped.
Deleting mapped roads that do not exist or no longer exist.
Closing roads to conventional vehicle use (including ORVs); closing
roads only to ORV use, and opening roads to ORV use.
View the specific locations of proposed changes by using the
interactive web map or by viewing printable maps available at
Public input will be accepted via email and online until Dec. 1. Send
emails to DNR-RoadInventoryProject@Michigan.gov or
comment via the online map at
Michigan.gov/ForestRoads. Instructions are available on the
Public comment also will be accepted at the January meeting of the
Michigan Natural Resources Commission, where the state forest road
proposals will be brought before the DNR director for information, and at
the February commission meeting, when the DNR director is expected to
decide. New maps showing state forest roads and whether they are open or
closed to ORV use will be published by April 1, 2019.
Developing Michigan’s Signature Iron Belle Trail
By DOUG DONNELLY - Michigan Department of Natural Resources
that has been building over the past couple of years to develop Michigan’s
Iron Belle Trail – The Trail State’s roughly 2,000-mile centerpiece trail
system – continued to gain steam over the summer months as nearly 30 miles
of the route were completed.
“The Iron Belle Trail continues to be a shining example for trails in
Michigan,” said Paul Yauk, state trails coordinator with the Michigan
Department of Natural Resources’ Parks and Recreation Division. “Through
partnerships, collaborations and trail champions across the state, the
trail has truly come alive the last couple of years. The planning that was
done two and three years ago is now leading to construction projects
The trail touches hundreds of cities, towns and smaller communities as it
winds through 48 of Michigan’s 83 counties. Using existing trails,
networks and new connections, the trail extends more than 2,000 miles from
Ironwood, at the far western tip of the Upper Peninsula, to Belle Isle
Park in Detroit. The trail includes two separate routes – one a designated
hiking route and the other a designated bicycle trail.
The concept to develop a signature trail – to help showcase Michigan as
The Trails State – was announced by former Gov. Rick Snyder at an economic
conference in 2012.
In his message on “Ensuring Our Future: Energy and the Environment,”
Snyder said Michigan has more total trail miles than just about any other
state, The Mining Journal reported.
“Much of the credit goes to volunteers who have shoveled, raked, trimmed
and groom these trails on their own time and often at their own expense,”
Snyder said. “This shows the real appetite Michiganders have for quality
trails and points to the opportunity we have to be the No. 1 trail state.”
Since then, the DNR has worked to build partnerships and to leverage state
and federal dollars against private funds to continue to develop the Iron
This past summer, new connections were celebrated in Jackson County, where
13 miles of the trail were developed, and near Gaylord, where 13 miles
were built, extending the North Central State Trail to a length of nearly
see users on that trail every single day,” said Rachel Frisch, Otsego
County administrator. “It really is a testament to how excited the
community is, not only for our residents but also for tourists that come
into our area.”
New trail segments also were dedicated in Washtenaw County by the Huron
Waterloo Pathways Initiative, along with projects announced in a dozen
“Where you really see the magic of it is when you look at the individual
pieces,” said Jeff Hardcastle, HWPI board chairman. “Within the trail
system, those individual pieces often are the neighborhoods, communities
Earlier this month, a mile-long segment of trail near the Wayne-Washtenaw
county line was opened in southeast Michigan. The extension was a small
piece of trail in the big picture, but another important connection, paid
for with a combination of public and private funding.“Our supporters want
to be part of the Iron Belle Trail,” said Susan Faulkner, executive
director of the HWPI. “They are making these investments locally.”
From 2015-2019, the DNR has awarded nearly $8 million in Iron Belle
Trail grants for various projects, many of which have been completed or
are nearing completion. The funds come from multiple sources and have
leveraged more than $12 million in matching funds from local, federal and
Projects like completion of the O Kun de Kun Falls trail, which is part of
the North Country National Scenic Trail and the Iron Belle Trail, were
funded through a collaboration of local, state and federal partners.
More than a mile of trail to the falls was improved to raised gravel, with
boardwalks constructed over wet and muddy areas, funded through nearly
$250,000 in grant money from the Iron Belle Trail and Michigan Natural
Resources Trust funds.
celebration of the completion of those trail improvements was held Oct. 26
at the falls route trailhead in Ontonagon County.
Attendees included U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, who praised the efforts of all
involved to get the work completed cooperatively. He also discussed the
importance of getting outdoors.
“This is about the physical health, but also the mental health it spawns
from the physical exertion and the sounds of the falls behind us and the
smell of the woods here in the fall,” Bergman said. “This is who we are as
Thirteen new miles of the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail State Park in
Jackson County, which is part of the Iron Belle Trail, opened this fall.
In fact, the inaugural Great Lake-to-Lake Route No. 1 ride in September
used the route as part of the event’s journey from South Haven to Port
Improvements on the Iron Belle Trail are also taking place in Detroit.
Projects such as construction of a new trailhead at Belle Isle Park are
being spurred, in part, by private contributions from the Ralph C. Wilson
Earlier this month, dozens of people gathered in the southwest part of
the Motor City to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Fort Street
Interpretive Park, a new park at the foot of the Fort Street Bridge. The
park will serve as an interpretive park for the Rouge River, as well as a
park commemorating the Hunger March of the 1930s, a significant historical
“This new park connects us to our industrial past, automotive history –
and serving as a hub – linking Detroit to the Iron Belle Trail, the
Downriver Linked Greenways and the Lower Rouge Water Trail,” said Maureen
McCormick, executive director of the Friends of the Rouge.
This summer, metro Detroit resident Ken Martinek embarked on a 14-day,
900-mile journey on the Iron Belle Trail, riding from the far northwest
iron ore and copper country in the Upper Peninsula, along the shores of
Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, into the northern Lower Peninsula and,
eventually, to Belle Isle Park.
start in Ironwood and ride through a beautiful, wildflower-filled linear
park to Bessemer,” Martinek said. “There are Iron Bell Trail signs
pointing the way. Then, you go past Lake Michigan and across the Mackinac
Bridge, until you find yourself 600 miles down the road, riding through
the dune-grass-covered rolling hills of Alabaster Arboretum. Now you’re
looking at scenic views of Lake Huron. One trail – practically
un-interrupted – for hundreds of miles.
“Whether it was a deer dancing down a tree-lined road and leaping off into
the forest, or a windswept vista along the Lake Michigan shoreline, there
was a beautiful surprise around every turn.”
Martinek said the beauty of the Iron Belle Trail is how it connects so
many places to each other.
“I’ve lived in Michigan most of my life and I’ve been all over the state,”
he said. “But the Iron Belle Trail took me to places I’ve never been
before, places I didn’t even know about – beautiful places I’d have never
seen from a car.”
Martinek said the Iron Belle Trail connects people as well as places,
like a canoe trip outfitter he met in Watersmeet, in the western Upper
“He gave me a brief rundown on the history of Michigan’s copper country,
covering the last 10,000 years,” Martinek said. “Then, on the far east
side of the Lower Peninsula in Oscoda, (I met) a guy who just happened to
know all about the history of the Au Sable River area. They were like next
door neighbors, only 400 miles apart.”
For more information on the Iron Belle Trail, including an interactive
Check out previous Showcasing the DNR
stories in our archive at
Michigan.gov/DNRStories. To subscribe to upcoming Showcasing
articles, sign up for free email delivery at
Like Elk, Fishing, Bird Watching? You'll Love This DNR
real estate listing is enough to make any nature lover swoon: “Secluded
2,103 acres of … woodland with cedar, pine and hardwood across Otsego and
Cheboygan counties … Private Storey Lake has a pavilion and his/her rustic
restrooms. Years of ownership and care of this property has landed it as a
prime location to find wildlife of all kinds.”
Now, the property in the northeastern Lower Peninsula – once owned by an
absentee owner from Switzerland – belongs to the people of Michigan.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources this week closed a deal to
acquire the Storey Lake property after nearly two decades of negotiating
to purchase the land.
The property – which includes the entire 8-acre Storey Lake and about a
mile of Stewart Creek – is in the core range of Michigan’s elk herd,
nestled between two other parcels of state forest land: the 106,000-acre
Pigeon River Country State Forest and another large tract of
state-managed forest land in the DNR's Gaylord Forest Management Unit.
the potential for designating an elk viewing area on the Storey Lake
property,” said Kerry Wieber, forest land administrator for the DNR. “This
property also offers abundant opportunities to view other wildlife and
Rare species that live there include the northern goshawk, bald eagle, the
red-shouldered hawk and the Massasauga rattlesnake, recently listed as
threatened due to loss of habitat. Stewart Creek is a designated brook
trout stream which feeds into the Sturgeon River. At 30 to 35 feet deep,
Storey Lake provides good conditions for trout.
The DNR completed the $3.8 million property purchase with a
$912,500 grant from the
Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, as well as money from the
state’s Land Exchange Facilitation and Management Fund generated by the
sale of surplus state forest land in Iosco County to United States Gypsum.
is going to offer the public many different recreational opportunities and
is a valuable addition to the state forest system,” said Deb Begalle,
chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division.
The Storey Lake property currently is accessible from Fontinalis and
Alexander roads. The North Central State Trail runs along its
The land is open for all legal hunting, fishing, trapping, camping,
hiking, wildlife viewing, bird-watching, berry-picking, snowshoeing,
cross-country skiing and outdoor pursuits. All nonmotorized use is
welcome. Motorized use is limited until the DNR completes an inventory of
the existing roads on the property and develops an access plan.
There will be an opportunity for public involvement in developing the
access plan to ensure the DNR is aware of public opinion related to access
and recreational opportunities on the Storey Lake property.
State's Forest Industry Yields Some
National Forest Products Week, and for just a minute we’d like you
to think outside the box. (Unless that box is cardboard, which is itself a
wood product made here in Michigan).
Michigan is home to hundreds of mills and manufacturers that create a wide
range of wood products as part of the state’s $20.8 billion forest
products industry. That industry includes more than 800 logging and
trucking firms, 300 primary manufacturers such as sawmills and paper
mills, and 1,000 secondary manufacturers that create finished goods.
What do those products include?
If you have a roof over your head, it's probably supported by wooden
trusses, made by a handful of Michigan firms.
Like games? Check to see if the burl oak foosball table where you while
away your free time with friends was made by the Carrom Sports Co. in
Hardwood basketball floors for high schools, colleges, universities and
even some NBA teams – not to mention portable floors used in the NCAA
Final Four – are made by Connor Sports in the Upper Peninsula town of
are you’re near some particleboard right now. The wood sheets are used in
subflooring, wall partitions and ceilings, and as a core material for
doors and in many types of furniture. In 2019, Arauco opened a Grayling
facility with the longest particleboard press in North America. The plant
employs more than 200.
Like music? Michigan manufacturers are creating drums and tambourines,
handcrafted guitars and more items that include wood components.
Hungry for a stack of pancakes? Maple syrup isn’t a wood product, but it
does come from trees! Remember that the next time you’re carb-loading at
Learn more about the state's forest products industry and how the
DNR supports it at
Kathleen Lavey, 517-284-5852.
Lake Michigan to Get Nearly 30% More Chinook
Salmon in 2020
next year, Michigan plans to increase chinook salmon stocking by 150,000,
increasing the total statewide stocking from 504,000 to 654,000 fish. This
move is in response to a recent recommendation of the Lake Michigan
Citizens Fishery Advisory Committee to boost lakewide stocking levels.
“The Lake Michigan predator and prey balance has improved in recent
years,” said Jay Wesley, the DNR’s Lake Michigan Basin coordinator. “The
size of the salmon has also improved, with hundreds weighing more than 30
pounds caught at multiple ports.”
This marks the first salmon-stocking increase in Lake Michigan since
1999. The committee has worked continuously with stakeholders and resource
agencies around the lake to bring balance to its ecosystem.
“Although some anglers would prefer a larger stocking increase,
biologists are still concerned with the uncertainty of alewife year-class
strength and how much wild reproduction of salmon to expect,” Wesley said.
“Alewife are the main diet of chinook salmon.”
Lake Michigan Citizens Fishery Advisory Committee and the DNR will
continue to monitor Lake Michigan conditions and adjust stocking
accordingly to sustain a healthy, diverse salmon and trout fishery. Visit
Michigan.gov/Fishing to learn more about
how the DNR manages the state’s fisheries.
Hunters: When You’re up a Tree, Put Safety
hunting requires meticulous preparation and a commitment to safety, but as
Michigan’s bow season enters its second full week, it’s a good time to
consider extra precautions when hunting from a tree stand.
The Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation, a nonprofit focused on
safety education and mindfulness, collected accident information from 12
states. Although Michigan wasn’t a participating state, the data provides
a good starting point for conversation.
When it comes to tree-stand incidents, the foundation found that:
The average fall victim’s age was 47.
Lock-on and climbing stands were the most common types involved.
The majority of people who fell did not use a harness.
Most falls occurred when people hunted with traditional firearms or
bows, followed by muzzleloaders and crossbows.
Most people fell because they slipped or lost their grip or balance.
“The DNR is in full support of the foundation’s effort to boost
tree-stand safety,” said Lt. Tom Wanless, the hunter education
administrator for the state of Michigan. “The more information hunters
have, the safer they can be.”
Wanless shared a few tips:
Use your hands and feet to maintain three points of contact when
ascending or descending a tree stand.
Use a full-body harness attached to a secure fall line positioned
above your head.
When lifting a crossbow or firearm (unloaded, safety on) into a tree
stand, use a secure pull system, such as a rope. Never attach anything
to a trigger or trigger guard.
The DNR teaches tree-stand safety, safe firearm handling, first aid and
other important life skills as part of its hunter education program. Read
more hunting safety tips or find a hunter safety education course near you
Questions? Contact Lt. Tom Wanless, 517-284-6026.
Lake Sturgeon Releases Add Nearly 20,000
Fish to Michigan Waters
summer and fall, the DNR and several partners released nearly 20,000
juvenile lake sturgeon in public waters, part of an ongoing effort to
rehabilitate this culturally significant fish species.
The locations, totals, dates and (partner agencies) include:
Kalamazoo River: 237 fish, Aug. 28 (DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, Gun Lake Tribe).
Lower Black River: 13,503 fish, June (DNR, Michigan State
Black Lake: 520 fish, Aug. 24 (DNR, MSU).
Mullett Lake: 521 fish, Aug. 24 (DNR, MSU).
Burt Lake/Sturgeon River: 1,000 fish (Little Traverse Bay Band of
Whitefish River: 230 fish, Aug. 22 (DNR).
Flint River: 471 fish, August and September (DNR, MSU, USFWS).
Cedar River: 182 fish, Aug. 23 (DNR).
Tittabawassee River: 470 fish, August and September (DNR, MSU, USFWS).
Ontonagon River: 1,499 fish, September and October (DNR, USFWS).
Cass River: 469 fish, August and September (DNR, MSU, USFWS).
Shiawassee River: 469 fish, August and September (DNR, MSU, USFWS).
Total lake sturgeon stocked: 19,571
Lake sturgeon eggs and larvae were collected from the wild in April and
May and then reared in streamside facilities until they were large enough
to tag. To allow for future evaluations of stocked fish, most fish were
tagged before being released into lakes and rivers.
“Many of these stocking efforts were public events that shined a
spotlight on how important lake sturgeon are to Michigan,” said DNR
Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter. “Our state has a long history with
this species, and working with our partners helps us protect them for
The lake sturgeon is on Michigan’s threatened species list. These
annual stocking efforts –
supported by several important partners who work to secure needed
funding and resources – are critical to restoring the state’s lake
For more information, visit
Michigan.gov/Sturgeon or contact Ed
Baker, 906-249-1611, ext. 309 or
Elyse Walter, 517-599-8532
Developing the Tahquamenon Falls
By THERESA NEAL - Michigan Department of Natural Resources
05NOV19-Prior to becoming the premier attraction at Michigan’s
second-largest state park, the Upper Tahquamenon Falls was known only to
Native Americans, missionaries and fur traders were the only people to
witness the 200-foot-wide, tannin-stained Tahquamenon River tumble over a
50-foot sandstone ledge north of Newberry.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow took creative license in describing the origin
of the amber color of the river in his famous 1855 poem “The Song of
According to Longfellow, the mighty Gitche Manito called a great peace
conference somewhere in the territory that is now northwestern Luce
Warriors from tribes of the whole country met and listened to Gitche
Manito, as he pled with them to forget tribal quarrels, throw away their
war hatchets and wash in the clear water, he said.
The warriors leapt into the river, washed the war paint from their
faces so that the stream was colored orange, brown, black and blue – and
the river runs with these colors to this day.
Michigan’s famed state geologist Douglass Houghton canoed up the
Tahquamenon River to the Upper Falls in 1840. He noted signs of native
life along the river, including well-worn portage trails and a large
clearing near the Lower Falls likely used for farming.
wrote in his journal, “the route bears evidence of being frequently
traversed … for the portage path is deeply worn and there are remains of
Indian lodges at both ends. The Indians residing upon the banks of the
Tahquamenon formerly numbered vastly more than at the present day.”
Survey work of the great swamp of the Tahquamenon began that same year.
William Austin Burt and his crew traversed the area throughout two
summers, marking the township and range lines. Clouds of mosquitoes
swarmed the men, who resorted to covering their skin with a mixture of
pulverized charcoal and grease.
“This is the best remedy that I can find against the flies,” Burt wrote in
This difficult work laid the foundation for the upcoming logging
operations that would continue for the next half-century.
Early timbering operations relied on hearty lumberjacks, swinging axes,
crosscut saws, teams of oxen and ice roads to haul the logs to the edge of
the Tahquamenon River.
Once the snow began to melt and the river swelled, logs were slid into the
water and floated toward the sawmill at Emerson – a small town situated
near the current state park’s river mouth boat launch, located 5 miles
south of Paradise.
Of several small communities – such as Deer Park, Shelldrake and
Dollarville –developed around sawmills and lumbering operations in the
Tahquamenon River area, Emerson was most notable.
The village was founded by Kurt Emerson, a lumberman from downstate
Michigan, around Saginaw Bay. Emerson built a sawmill, which he sold in
1884 to the Chesbrough Lumber Company.
The Chesbrough sawmill, which was powered by three steam engines, and
could cut up to 125,000 board feet of lumber per day. The timber used at
the Chesbrough mill contained a large percentage of big trees, which
produced high-grade timber that sold as far away as New York and Chicago.
Emerson consisted of 30 houses, a company store, post office, boarding
house, blacksmith shop and school. Emerson was isolated; all supplies came
in via boat once every two weeks.
In 1891, a 16-mile-long road was cut south, connecting Emerson to the
train station at Eckerman, which provided a connection to the rest of the
This road is now M-123, a paved state highway providing year-round access
to Tahquamenon Falls State Park for over 600,000 people each year.
In the early 1900s, the timber industry began to fade. Small
communities near the towns of Paradise and Newberry began searching for
another way to make a living. It was clear lumbering was no longer an
option, as most of the big pine was gone.
The milling and lumbering at Emerson stopped in 1912, with future economic
livelihoods there shifted to commercial fishing.
It wasn’t until a group of six men successfully snow shoed to the Upper
Falls in 1929, and published photographs with their story, that
Tahquamenon became better known.
group included outdoor writer and photographer Ben East, who spearheaded
“The party snow shoed approximately 50 miles, part of the trip being made
on the ice of the river,” reported an article from The Escanaba Daily
Press in 1929. “The photographs of the upper and lower falls being
the first newspaper pictures to be taken of the falls in wintertime.”
These images paved the way for public involvement to begin acquiring land
around the Tahquamenon River.
Newspaper articles from 1935 showed an interest by local community leaders
to set aside land for a state park. These small locales sought to prosper
from the beauty of the Tahquamenon Falls and tourism as the next economic
However, an article that year from The Escanaba Daily Press
detailed a concern expressed by some residents.
“Running a road in to the falls before a state park is established … is
likely to result in despoliation of one of the state’s most scenic areas,”
the newspaper said.
Community leaders held public meetings to rally support for driving
tourism to their areas through creation and development of a state park
that would be the key attraction.
An article in the Newberry News argued that “the people should
own the Falls and a large tract around it.” In a 1938 article, Carl Clarke
of Emerson was quoted as saying, “summer travel in Paradise can be largely
increased if we can provide better facilities.”
1936, 2,200 acres around and including the Upper and Lower falls, owned by
the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Co., was put up for sale. The State of Michigan
did not have the funds to purchase the land, so the U.S. Forest Service
agreed to buy it for $198,000.
The Forest Service then agreed to trade this coveted piece of property for
state-owned land within the Manistee and Huron national forests in Lower
In 1937, a prominent businessman from Detroit gifted over 2,000 acres of
land to the State of Michigan to be used for public recreation. This area,
now known as the Rivermouth, provides public access to the Tahquamenon
River and Whitefish Bay via a Michigan Department of Natural Resources
boating access site and campground.
Other lands were acquired through gifts, tax delinquency and exchanges. In
January 1947, the Michigan State Parks Commission officially dedicated
17,000 acres as Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
The park has since grown to over 49,000 acres and continues to attract
visitors from around the world.
Today’s Tahquamenon Falls State Park features accessible paved walkways,
four campgrounds (one of which stays open all winter), rowboat and kayak
rental, 35 miles of hiking trails and special events year-round.
The Tahquamenon Falls are among Michigan’s most photographed places.
While small improvements have been made over the years, the core concept
of keeping the falls wild and undeveloped has remained.
The views of the Upper and Lower falls are essentially the same as they
were generations ago, when those dark, tannin-stained waters were gazed
upon by local American Indians and early explorers.
Find out more about Tahquamenon Falls State Park at
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