Autumn is the perfect time to get outdoors in Detroit. In addition to traditional favorites such as color tours, pumpkin patches and apple cider, fall also provides a wide variety of outdoor recreation opportunities.
“Anyone who has had the chance to walk in the woods or catch a fish or camp under the stars in Michigan knows just how wonderful it is to be outside,” said Matt Pedigo, chair of the Michigan Wildlife Council. “We’re so lucky to have our natural resources and are thankful for the people who work so hard to manage them.”
Created in 2013, the Michigan Wildlife Council seeks to educate the public about how Michigan’s wildlife and natural resources are managed and how those activities are funded.
“Our recent research found that many people believe that management of our forests, waters and wildlife is provided by state taxes, but in reality, the primary source of funding for conservation work is hunting and fishing license dollars,” said Pedigo. “So while you may not hunt or fish, there is a chance you are benefiting from this great work.”
Luckily there are plenty of fun activities, programs and events to get you outside this fall – and learn something about Michigan’s great outdoors, too.
Bringing "Up North" to downtown Detroit
The Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC), located in the heart of downtown Detroit along the riverfront, is the perfect location to introduce people to Michigan’s great outdoors. Here, visitors can experience “Up North” with hands-on activities, exhibits and simulators.
“So many people want to get outside but are unsure what to do when they get there,” said Linda Walter, OAC director. “It’s our job to inspire you to try something new outdoors, educate you on how to do it, and then connect you with a place to do it. We have a lot of special programming this fall to help families get outside.”
Learn how the Michigan Department of Natural Resources manages state parks, forests and wildlife as you “reel” in a big fish, “hit the trail” on a mountain bike or touch a waterfall. There is always something new and exciting to experience. Family-friendly weekend programs include archery, fossils, bike rides, turkeys and nature exploration at nearby Milliken State Park.
On the last Wednesday of each month, the OAC offers Wild Over Wednesday, including special programming and free admission from 6-8 p.m. This fall, the free event will be harvest-themed, including harvest games and activities, complete with free cider and doughnuts.
On Oct. 14, the OAC will host a special program about Michigan’s state mammal – the white-tailed deer. So whether you’re gearing up for deer season or just interested in learning more about the white-tailed deer, the DNR has a fun and interactive lesson for you. This program will explore the basic biology of white-tailed deer and the finer points of deer aging. Entrance to this event is included with the price of regular admission.
Experience Michigan's great outdoors at Metroparks
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Huron-Clinton Metroparks – one of the largest regional park systems in the nation. The system consists of 13 parks covering 25,000 acres throughout Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw and Livingston counties. So you’re never far away from great recreational opportunities.
Since their creation in 1942, the Metroparks have served as spots for southeast Michigan residents to get away from it all.
This fall, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks offer a full calendar of events, including trail tours, hayrides, birding, hiking and special programs.
Another great way to get outdoors is volunteering. The Huron-Clinton Metroparks offer opportunities to plant native vegetation, remove invasive plants or collect seeds to be sown at restoration sites within the Metroparks.
On Oct. 26, Stony Creek Metropark will host volunteers to help remove invasive shrubs such as autumn olive, buckthorn and honeysuckle. Volunteers are essential to the fight against invasive species, which will help restore and conserve Michigan’s natural areas for future generations to enjoy. All necessary tools and equipment will be provided, including water and snacks. Volunteers will also receive free park entry.
It's a bird, it's a plane - it's a bird of prey!
Get your cameras and binoculars ready.
Every autumn, birds of prey descend from across the Great Lakes region. In fact, thousands of species – such as the American kestrel, bald eagle and turkey vulture – cross the Detroit River each day.
Many of these unique species either nest in or migrate through the Detroit area as they begin their winter migrations south from northern Michigan and parts of Canada. Because of Detroit’s juxtaposition near Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, it is quite possibly the best location for bird-watching in North America.
In addition to location, Michigan’s autumn weather provides the perfect conditions for migration through Detroit. For example, “thermals” – rising pockets of warm air – allow the species to gain altitude without burning a lot of energy.
From September through early November, people will have the chance to catch a glimpse of many birds of prey. Experts say the best places to watch are Lake Erie Metropark and Pointe Mouillee State Game Area. Species recorded here include ospreys, Mississippi kites, northern harriers, sharp-shinned hawks, northern goshawks, red-shouldered hawks, broad-winged hawks, Swainson’s hawks, rough-legged hawks and golden eagles.
This year, Detroit River Hawk Watch (DRHW) celebrates it 35th year of monitoring this annual migration. According to DRHW, upward of 250,000 birds of prey are expected to travel through the watch site this year.
DRHW is a citizen science initiative of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance, Huron Clinton Metro Parks and the Detroit River Hawk Watch Advisory Committee.
“Every day great care is taken by so many, from scientists to volunteers, to ensure that Michigan’s great outdoors will be enjoyed for generations to come,” said Pedigo.