Discover new territory; from rolling fields of farmland to sunrises and dark skies, tall virgin pines, crashing Lake Huron waves and historic relics from our lumbering days, the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes region offers plenty of low-key, relaxed adventures.
It is important during this time of physical distancing that we remain active to give our immune system strength. What better way to stay active than spending some time outdoors getting fresh air. As current recommendations suggest, keep at least 6 ft. of distance between you and anyone else you may encounter while out exploring. But don’t forget to wave, smile, and say hello. We all need an extra dose of kindness during this unusual time.
1. Start your day with a sunrise. It is a blessing to be able to wake up and experience another day. Multiple outdoor locations around the area offer breathtaking sunrise views. Blair St. Pier, Starlight Beach, Mich-e-Ke-Wis Park, Long Lake, Grand Lake, Fletchers Pond, Hubbard Lake, Thunder Bay River, and the list goes on.
2. Just north of Alpena, you’ll discover the welcoming waters of the Lower Peninsula’s largest waterfall, Ocqueoc Falls. “Waw-waugh-waugh-que-noc”, (meaning sacred waters), was the name given by Native Americans to this beautiful river that is now called Ocqueoc. This hidden gem contains four small rapids and a pool for splashing. Ocqueoc Falls is also the first truly universally accessible waterfall in the United States, making it an ideal destination for everyone. For the time being, the Michigan DNR has graciously waived the Recreation Passport requirement for DNR areas like this so everyone can take advantage of time spent in nature.
3. Minutes away in Presque Isle County you’ll find the beautiful and historic Presque Isle Range Light Park. Presque Isle Harbor was a routine stop for many vessels conducting trade along the Lake Huron shoreline. The New Presque Isle Light Tower alerted the mariners to impending dangers while the two smaller Range Lights guided them safely into harbor.
4. Take a walk on the Maritime Heritage Trail along Thunder Bay River and pause to check out Alpena’s Second Avenue Bridge, (once voted the most beautiful bridge in America). The beautiful and unusual construction of this bridge earned it an award from the American Institute of Steel Construction in 1939. The Maritime Heritage Trail also offers educational kiosks all along the route to learn more about Alpena’s early lumber and shipping days.
5. Take a leisurely stroll along the hand-hewn timbers of the Covered Wooden Bridge connecting Duck Park to the covered bridge and water tower at Duck Park/Island Park. Island Park and escape into the serene wildlife of this 17-acre nature preserve. Watch for migrating waterfowl this time of year. You may see some species of birds that we don’t normally see in this area.
6. Explore the Bruski & Stevens Twin Sinkholes and Cracks in the Earth. Just a short drive through the countryside, you’ll find geologic wonders at this karst preserve. The twin sinkholes are approximately 85 feet deep and 200 feet wide. The Bruski Sink features a drop of more than 100 feet. The unique environment inside provides a home to flora not found anywhere else in Northern Michigan.
7. Remote Wolf Creek Park will impress you with its newly constructed walking bridge and hiking trail. With all the amenities for an easy afternoon adventure, you can launch from their kayak pad and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy under the covered pavilion.
8. Find a simply stunning view of Hubbard Lake’s East Bay from the top of Hickey Hill in Hubbard Lake. This 80-acre undeveloped woodland park was once the homestead of Erie and Ella Jane Hickey in 1904 and is now preserved to promote wildlife.
9. Stop and take a stroll on the forest trails at Alpena’s Arthur E. Sytek Park, located on the Thunder Bay River. This 1/2-acre wildflower park has a small boat launch perfect for canoes and kayaks, a covered fishing platform, and a trailhead for Alpena’s beautiful 18.5 mile Bi-Path. You can’t go wrong spending a relaxing moment here, no matter what your interest.
10. Follow the path of lumber-era River Rats who followed the floating logs down the river toward the Alpena. Long Rapids Township Park offers seven acres of property and a small boat launch suitable for launching canoes and kayaks into Thunder Bay River for an afternoon paddle.
11. Escape to Maple Ridge Township Park, located on the North Branch of the Thunder Bay River, and take the picturesque wooden bridge over to a pristine trail area. Explore the 45 rustic acres that include a pavilion and playground, hiking trails, oxbow, and small river rapids.
12. Birdwatch from the unique Alvar Shoreline along the end of Partridge Point. The land was formed when the soil was scraped away by the wind, water, and ice, leaving the 400 million-year-old limestone bedrock exposed. This sparsely vegetated natural area is dominated by lichens, mosses grasses, and herbaceous vegetation.
13. Shin-ga-ba Shores Playground is a one-of-a-kind playground, designed with Ossineke’s Native American heritage in mind. Local elementary school students assisted in planning the park’s play structures, which includes a large wooden play fort decorated in art and colorful totem poles.
14. At Sanborn Township Park, you’ll find 4 acres of Lake Huron beachfront property just down the road from Ossineke State Forest Campground. With its crystal clear water, fine sand beach, and children’s playground, this park is a fantastic location for lakeside family fun.
15. Make sure to check out the legendary statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, standing tall in the heart of Ossineke. Babe the ox was built in 1938 by Walter Hayden and was originally placed on the hill across from the old Lookout Inn, following legend that a white cow on a hill signified good luck. In 1950 new owners purchased the hill and painted Babe blue. Babe’s companion Paul was built in 1953 by Paul Domke, creator of the nearby Dinosaur Gardens. The two were moved in 2006 to their new home at Ossineke’s blinking light, where they still stand today.
16. Considering that Alpena County is 66% water, our sunsets are just as spectacular as our sunrises with more than 1,000 miles of shoreline. End your perfect day with a sunset over one of our many bodies of water.