This past August, we took a brief family vacation up to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. We debated for a while on where to go for a quick trip. The choices were to stay in Canada and head up to Algonquin Provincial Park or to cross the border and explore northern Michigan. Michigan ultimately won because we didn’t want to have to contend with the Hwy 400 holiday weekend traffic. It was was the right choice.
We left on the Friday night after work and drove about half way. The trip to where we were staying in Newberry Michigan would be about 6 hours total. Probably less than it would have taken to fight the traffic to get to Algonquin. We got up early on Saturday morning and finished the drive up. The drive itself was incredibly smooth. The roads are in great shape and it’s a lot more scenic than driving the 401. Traffic was reasonably light until we hit the Mackinaw Bridge that connects lower Michigan to the UP.
We stayed at the Newberry KOA Kampground. It’s a quaint little campground and it’s centrally located, which is what we were going for. We splurged and rented a small ‘Kabin’ for the weekend. It was perfect and Emily loved it. The campground, as I said is quaint, but had trees, firewood delivered to your site, hot showers and a wood-fired heated pool. What more do you need? Oh and it had recently fledged Broad-winged Hawks. Pretty cool!
Since this wasn’t going to be a long trip because of work commitments, we decided to see as much as we could to see if this would be a place we would want to revisit. I can easily say we’ll be back. The habitat in the UP reminded us of areas much further north in Ontario. You would pass through areas that reminded you of Algonquin, a bit further north like Temagami, and even some scenes from places like the coast of James Bay. The wildlife sightings potential is incredible for only being a short drive from home. The facilities are fantastic and the prices were very reasonable, even with a high US dollar. Some of the parks we visited were free or close to free which was incredible.
We packed in a lot of exploring for the little time we had up there. The exploring started at Seney National Wildlife Refuge, which offers a lot to visitors including a great visitor centre, well maintained boardwalks, backcountry hiking trails, and even a self-guided driving tour. You could spend days checking out this park. We also stopped in at Oswald’s Bear Ranch which allows you to safely get up close to rescued bears. The next day trip was a boat cruise to view the pictured rocks at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The colours on the rocks here are due to different minerals leaching out through the layers of sandstone, making them look like paintings. We felt the mist on our faces at the upper and lower falls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Our feet got wet at Muskallong Lake State Park as we explored the beach on . We felt the wind in our hair at Whitefish Point (ok I’m bald but you get the idea). Birders out there know how much of incredible trap Whitefish Point can be for vagrant birds. Unfortunately nothing rare showed up while we were there but is a place I will definitely go back to. I could have stayed up in the UP for weeks but unfortunately all good things come to an end.
From a birding perspective, I ended up with a respectful 63 species without really trying. If we would have had more time, we could have easily picked up many more species. It’s a nice little start to my Michigan bird list though.
Seney National Wildlife Refuge – http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S24461391
Pictured Rocks NL–Sand Point Marsh Trail – http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S24526469
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S24499141
Muskallonge Lake S.P. – http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S24472926