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Nature Walking Minimize

With so many parks and natural areas Mackinaw City is a nature watchers paradise. There are assortment of checklists available, some are complete lists and some are of just of the showy species.

Click the following links:

Bird Checklist for Emmet County
Checklist for Wilderness State Park
Bird Checklist for Hiawatha National Forest


Headlands, Cecil Bay and French Farm contain a variety of habitats. Click below for a habitat map of Headlands and Heritage Village.

Headlands Plant List
Wilderness State Park Plants

These include large areas of flat, poorly drained sand lake plain that are dominated by lowland conifer forests. Northern white cedars are dominant in the areas of active water movement and they form dense stands at the limestone margins of the Great Lakes. Tamarack is also a common dominant tree often found growing with cedar. Other wetland vegetation in the area includes balsam fir, black spruce, eastern hemlock, white pine, balsam poplar, trembling aspen, paper birch, speckled alder and shrub willows. There are also many high quality fens, grasslands with waterlogged soil part of the year, that support a unique plant habitat.

Sand ridges:
White and red pine are common on the well-drained sandy dune ridges of the lake plain. If the drainage is slightly poorer white pines mingle with hemlock. Paper birch and trembling aspen also grow on the flat to rolling parts of the dunes. There are some tracts of northern hardwoods with species such as sugar maple, beech, red oak, basswood, white ash, black walnut, and butternut hickory.

Disturbed areas:
The areas along roads and some trails are being populated by pioneer and invasive species. Pioneer species such as trembling aspen, bigtooth aspen, white birch, sassafras, and cherry shrubs can be found at the field edges. Many invasive plants are found on the immediate edges of trails and form a thick, uncharacteristic trail edge vegetation. Also on the more open trail edges are thick patches of poison ivy.

Rare, threatened, and endangered species: Headlands has many birds and plants that fall into each of these categories. Please protect our wildlife.


Bird Watching

There is a wide variety of habitats for watching birds in the Mackinaw City area. We are also on a north-south flyway and birds kettle over town before crossing the Straits, often passing directly over the updrafts from the warm Mackinac Bridge.

  1. The Headlands for spring migration, forest birds, and shorebirds
  2. French Farm Lake for “interior” wetland birding and forest birds including loons and eagles
  3. The waters of the Straits for ducks in the fall
  4. Hawk watching in April anywhere on the west side of town
  5. The drive to Wilderness State Park for waterfowl, shorebirds, and many migrating song birds in May
  6. Heritage Village for open field and wooded edge community species
  7. Wilderness State Park for a wide variety of birds and one of the few remaining nesting locations of the Piping Plover
  8. Dingman’s Marsh from March to November with eagles, osprey, loons, and black terns all nesting here. It is a great all round area for a variety of birds, including water birds, edge species, open country birds, and forest birds.

Directions to the Dingman Marsh from Mackinaw City:

From the north end of Nicolet Avenue, go south on Nicolet Ave (which turns in to Mackinaw Highway) approximately 3 miles. After stopping at U.S. 31, continue south on Mackinaw Highway approx. one-half mile more, then turn east (left) onto Potter Road. Almost immediately Potter Road crosses over I-75, and turns to gravel.

Continue east on Potter Road for approx. 2 miles, then begin looking for small two-track roads on the right (south). Take the second two-track south, and within 200 yards you should see the vast flooding area of Dingman Marsh. Park here and continue walking the two-track southward, and follow the two-track as it bends westward and then northward, leading you back to Potter Road, approximately one-half mile west of where you left Potter Road when you were driving.

NOTE: This two-track is drivable most of the year, but walking it is more conducive to birding.


You can read the history of the Great Lakes basin at Alexander Henry Park but in Headlands you can actually see this history and its effect. You can stand on the very prominent shore bluff of the Nipissing Lakes, lapping at this beach some 5,000 years ago, and hike down the subsequent shorelines to the present one. You can see the climatic influence of the lakes when some plants are in full bloom at the top of the bluff, still in tight bud next to the cold shore, while the same species is two weeks or more past blooming still farther inland. The mature beech-maple-ash woods on the upland (an island 5,000 years ago) presents, in fact, one of the finest displays of spring wildflowers anywhere around, in one of the most beautiful tracts of forest.

The southern part of the tract is mostly lowland, with the wetland forest including a little open sedge fen. The shoreline is mostly gravel and boulders with some bedrock, ornamented with the fossils of past inhabitants. The tract is big enough, wild enough, and sufficiently undisturbed to provide homes for bald eagles, osprey, white tail deer, wild turkeys, coyotes, porcupine, and occasionally a black bear. In a warm, moist season, autumn produces an extraordinary display of varied colorful mushrooms.


Heritage Village

This 43-acre park is being developed as a Heritage Village. However the open fields surrounded by woods make a great place to watch soaring raptors, to see resting large birds such as Sandhill Cranes, and to find bird species that enjoy the forest edge. Plant life is mainly limited to old field species although a small woodlot across from the school features early spring wildflowers. The maple-aspen upland, on very sandy soil, offers some wildflower sites. This is a fantastic location for young kids with butterfly nets to run through the tall fields. They will see a variety of insects, spiders, and some small mammals.


French Farm Lake

French Farm is an inland lake in the process of eutrophication. This is a gem of an area with just enough open water for small boats. The lake is edged with a gradient of wet habitats from submerged plant zones to soggy fields on the eastern and southern ends. The lake drains through a wetland and creek to Lake Michigan. The western edge of the lake offers sand dune ridges and upland forests.


Fish Hatchery and Fish Aquarium

If you are interested in fish but not fishing there are two opportunities to see and learn about our native fish. In Jim Wehr’s Mackinaw Outfitters is a habitat aquarium constituting an entire wall. The tank contains large mouth bass, perch, walleye, pike, rainbow trout, and blue gill to name a few of the native species you can inspect up close.


Or you can venture to one of the State’s fish hatcheries, at Oden just 28 miles south of Mackinaw City. This location has interpretive displays of the State’s fish planting history told inside one of the old fingerling railroad transport cars. In an interpretive center you can watch several old videos on habitats reconstruction and other fish related activities. And best of all this hatchery has the State’s only underwater viewing window, where you can watch fish at a riffle in a real creek. The hatchery also offers tours of their current fish rearing process. it is well worth a visit and everything is free.



Village of Mackinaw City
102 South Huron - PO Box 580 Mackinaw City, MI 49701
Phone: 231-436-5351 - Fax: 231-436-4166 

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