Having a couple of days in Manistique, one of those days should be spent the Seney Wildlife Refuge, a vast area of protected wetlands in the middle of the U.P. Like many places in Michigan, the place was devastated by the lumber industry I the late 19th century. With the fauna destroyed, the wildlife left, and the land was unable to support farming, which was a surprise to the many farmers who were convinced to move into the wilds of very northern Michigan.
What to do? Well, we have the Great Depression to thank for that. With millions of unemployed men in the country, there was a glut of workers, but no work. But part of that problem was solved by sending them to the land southwest of Seney, MI. With the work of several years and several hundred workers, the wasted timberland was converted into a wildlife refuge in the hopes of bringing back the wildlife that had left when the lumberman came in. It worked.
Seney is now home to around 200 species of birds as well as wolves, moose, and many other types of animals. It also home to hiking trails and a wildlife drive, a road that winds through the refuge so visitors can take in the eastern section of the park.
But we'll start where everyone does, the visitor's center. Accessed from M77, the visitors center provides interesting exhibits on the history of the park and the wildlife inside. This is a great spot for kinds, with all kinds of touchable exhibits. The animal sound exhibit was also a big hit. Hopefully you'll escape without spending too much on stuffed animals and kids' books. But if you don't, it's for a good cause.
My favorite part of the visitors center was the eagle nest-spotting telescope. Across the pond by which the visitor's center sits is a tree holding an enormous eagle's nest, and you can be an eagle voyageur if you so desire. We didn't see the eagle in its nest, but we did see it flying around high above later in the day. The bird was little more than a dot in the sky, but it was still exciting to see.
As I'm a hiker, I dragged the family onto the trail that loops around closest pool. It wasn't a long trail - only about 1.5 miles - but it was just about the right distance for our crowd. Maybe slightly longer than my 6-year old wanted to do. Ok, definitely longer than she wanted, but we survived.
The trail heads north from the visitors center across an earthen causeway, then takes a left and follows the edge of the pool. If you're there at the right time, wild blueberries will be in abundance. They were for us, and were a great snack along the way. Hopefully they weren't federally protected free-range gluten free blueberries - I don't want to get in trouble. If they were, maybe the statute of limitation has run out.
The trail continues to follow the pool, running along marshes and through small stands of pine. We saw some of the trumpeter swans that the refuge is known for. And they did trumpet. The land-bound wildlife eluded us, but we were still satisfied with the things we saw. I one day hope to see a moose in the wild, but that is a dream for another U.P. trip.
Seney is a wonderful spot to enjoy a few hours of wildlife and nature. There are far more trails to enjoy, both for hikers and bikers. The wildlife drive is an excellent option for those who want to get close to nature, but not too close.