How to Have the Ultimate Outdoor Adventure in Michigan This Summer

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources offers a number of programs to help outdoor enthusiasts take advantage of all that the great outdoors in Pure Michigan have to offer – including Recreation 101 and 202, Summer Free Fishing Weekend, Michigan Boating Week and much more! Today, the DNR’s Maia Turek describes the many ways to have an outdoor adventure in Michigan this summer. 

Recreation 101

recreation 101Michigan is rich in recreation opportunities, and for those looking to explore those activities, the Department of Natural Resources’ Recreation 101 program at Michigan state parks is the perfect way to get started.

The beauty of the four seasons in Michigan is that we have almost every recreational opportunity available to us. In the warmer months, Michiganders can choose to ease down the river on a paddleboard, channel their inner marksmen with archery, or search the skies for a rare, treasured species while birdwatching.  The winter months offer just as much variety, with snowboarding, snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing and so much more.

The only challenges with having so many options is choosing what to try and where to start. There are a lot of things to take into account when picking up a new activity; buying the right equipment, learning the techniques, taking safety precautions and finding the space to actually get started. It can be overwhelming!

Recreation 101 class at Sleepy Hollow State Park.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources

But the good news is that you don’t have to figure it out on your own. The Department of Natural Resources’ Recreation 101 program provides all of the gear, guides and good times so that people can try out something new in Michigan’s woods and waters, and the best part – it’s completely free!

Recreation 101, also known as “Rec 101,” is a series of hands-on introductory classes taught by DNR staff and expert volunteers from organizations, guide services, outfitters and more. These volunteers offer their time and knowledge to introduce novice recreation enthusiasts to all the great activities available in Michigan. Programs cover almost any imaginable recreational pursuit available in Michigan, including kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, archery, geocaching, birding, mushroom hunting, to name a few.

If you’re a bit more experienced with an activity, the DNR also offers a Recreation 202 series which provides more advanced instruction and in-depth experiences. Instructors offer these classes at a reduced rate from what you might find elsewhere, making Rec 202 classes a fun and affordable way to explore Michigan’s great outdoors.

Whether you’re just getting started or are an experienced recreation enthusiast, the Recreation 101 and 202 programs offer fun and interesting classes for everyone. For a full schedule of programs, visit www.michigan.gov/rec101, and enjoy a new activity this summer!

For more information on Recreation 101, check out the video below:

Free Fishing, ORVing and State Park Entry – June 7 – 8, 2014

Family-fishing-in-Michigan-300x199

Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources

To kick off the summer season, the DNR coordinates a Summer Free Fishing Weekend each year (and has since 1986) to showcase the great angling opportunities available in Michigan, while easing some of the financial investment needed to get involved. It’s the perfect time to discover the state’s world-class resources.  The 2014 Summer Free Fishing Weekend is Saturday, June 7 and Sunday, June 8. During these two days anyone – residents and non-residents alike – can fish all waters without purchasing a license, although all other regulations still apply.

In addition to free fishing, the DNR will also waive the requirement for an ORV license and trails permit for the weekend – a great opportunity for those who might prefer to navigate Michigan’s 3,000+ miles of ORV trails. 

Also on June 8th,  the DNR will waive the Recreation Passport requirement for entry into state parks as part of this summer outdoor recreation kick-off.

If you’d like to learn more about Summer Free Fishing Weekend, watch the video below.

Michigan Boating Week – June 7 – 14, 2014

Photo courtesy of Michigan Boating Industries Association

Photo courtesy of Michigan Boating Industries Association

Michigan Boating Week  also kicks off June 7-14.  Michigan Boating Week is a partnership between the DNR, Michigan Waterways Commission and the Michigan Boating Industries Association. This weeklong campaign offers many opportunities to get started with boating, get back onboard or learn some new skills to use on the water, including free on-water boat demos!

Michigan Boating Week also aims to help protect Michigan’s waters, and that starts with the same people who love and enjoy them. June 6-7, staff from the DNR, DEQ and MDARD will be on-hand at selected boating access sites for the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Landing Blitz. These events will educate boaters about how they can become stewards of the water by sharing information about how to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Check these event listings to find a Michigan Boating Week event near you.

How do you like to spend time outdoors in Michigan? 

photoMaia Turek is the DNR Recreation Programmer for state parks.  She and her team of regional programmers put together hundreds of events every year – from Rec 101 and Fresh Air Fit classes, to family reunions, church campouts, and volunteer events – they work hard to provide every Michigan resident and visitor a reason to come to a state park and make a lifelong memory in Michigan’s woods and waters.

Before You Hit the Water, Cross These Items Off Your Summer Boating Checklist

With 3,200-miles of freshwater coastline, Michigan is a boater’s delight! Today, guest blogger Nicki Polan from Michigan Boating Industries Association provides some helpful reminders for prepping your boat for summer boating season in Pure Michigan. 

Even though I am grateful for this year’s snow and ice (because they are going to further improve our water levels), I’m still very happy to see it all go.  Clearing the deck of snow was number one on my spring checklist to start preparing for warmer weather.  It is done!  Choosing our boat launch day is usually number two.  With water level predictions up and warmer weather on the way, I hope to get through our checklist quickly.

Despite my rush to start the summer fun, I’ve added two new items to the list this year for a few reasons. Because we have a 13 year old son who is anxious to drive a PWC when he turns 14, we can save some money on our boat insurance, and I don’t want to worry about random safety inspections,  every boater should consider  adding these items to their summer boating checklist as well. The benefits are well worth the time invested, and will allow you to enjoy Michigan’s great waters worry-free.

1. Get a free safety inspection and become free from random boat stops for safety inspection.

20080712_Cherry_Festival_0137On February 23, 2012, Michigan’s Public Act 62 became law and clarifies conditions under which a peace officer may stop and inspect a vessel.  The new law states that boaters who have a “Safety Check Decal” displayed on their boat are free from random stops by marine patrol boats.  Decals are available to those who voluntarily participate in a U.S. Coast Guard Safety Check.  Lake associations and marinas can arrange for free inspection days with the Coast Guard or a boater can arrange for a free inspection directly with the Coast Guard on their website.  This new law helps both law enforcement and boaters.

2. Take a Boating Safety Class to save money and better enjoy your time on the water.

tubingThe more you know, the more you will enjoy your chosen recreation.  Even though in many cases it is not required, it is a good idea for everyone to take a boating safety class.  Plus, some insurance companies offer a discount to boaters who have a certificate.  Classes are usually held at convenient locations and can be as short as six hours for the basics or several days for those who really want to take it all in.  Depending on your age and what type of watercraft you are operating, you may be required by law. To understand who must take a boating safety class by law, and to find a class near you, visit the website.

Hopefully your list is short enough to add these two easy steps.  Additionally, if discovering Michigan boating is on your spring check list, everything you need to know can be found on at www.discoverboating.com.

See you on the water!

Where do you like to go boating in Michigan? 

Nicki PolanNicki Polan is the Executive Director of the Michigan Boating Industries Association and a Michigan State Waterways Commissioner.  Nicki is a working mother and lifelong boater, whose family enjoys boating in both Oakland and Branch counties.  Nicki enjoys sharing information about the benefits of the boating lifestyle, legislative issues affecting the boating industry, and the incredible and diverse boating and fishing opportunities available in our Great Lakes state.

Out On the Water in Traverse City

Maybe it was his landlubberly upbringing, but it took writer Mike Norton quite a while to stop thinking of the water as “forbidden territory” and start thinking of it as a big blue playground. Now, after 35 years as a resident of Traverse City, he loves to get out on Grand Traverse Bay in almost any way he can.

I first came to Traverse City to be near the water. That’s not surprising, I guess; so do thousands of other people.

Water, after all, is what defines this place. It’s the beautiful backdrop for our family photos, the sparkling blue boundary to our beaches, the ever-changing spectacle that mesmerizes us at sunrise and sunset and all the hours in between.

Pretty? Of course it is. But beauty is really only half the story — because I’ve learned that once you venture out on its shimmering surface, the water becomes more than part of the scenery. It becomes a highway to adventure.

With more than 150 inland lakes and hundreds of miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, Traverse City has always attracted active vacationers who enjoy interacting with water – whether that means sailing, boating, kayaking, fishing, or high-speed sports from waterskiing to kiteboarding. The reason?  Grand Traverse Bay, a two-pronged “freshwater fjord” that’s sheltered on three sides from the wind and waves that can make the open waters of Lake Michigan too intimidating for many novices.

Kayaking Lake Michigan near the Sleeping Bear Dunes

Probably the quickest way to get out on the water is in a canoe or kayak. Long a favorite canoe destination, the area has become hugely popular with kayakers in recent years. Today almost every coastal community in the Traverse City area has at least one canoe/kayak rental outlet, and there are several full-service outfitters who offer instruction and guiding services. (And take it from me, it doesn’t take long to learn!)

I love paddling effortlessly down a tree-shaded river without a care in the world, or heading out along the beach in a sturdy kayak. Most of our rivers are tame enough for novice paddlers, with just enough current to keep things interesting, and today’s kayaks are made for people of every age and aptitude. Just pack some sunscreen and a shore lunch — and don’t forget your camera!

Jet-skiing on Grand Traverse Bay

For those who are looking for something a bit different, stand-up paddleboarding is one of the recent crazes on our lakes and harbors. Instead of sitting on a board, you stand up – getting great views of your surroundings, including the watery depths beneath your feet! SUP’ing is great fun, wonderful exercise, and easy to learn, and there are plenty of places to rent a board if you don’t already own one.

As long as we’re on the subject of boards, Traverse City has long been a major destination for kiteboarding, where you harness the wind to pull you across the water on a small surfboard. This takes some instruction– which can fortunately be acquired in a few hours – but using a special kite and a control harness, you can really move, skimming across the lake and launching 30-foot jumps over the waves!

There are easier ways to speed across the water of course. Jet skis and other personal watercraft can be rented at several location around Traverse City – and although they’re faster than ever, they’re a far cry from the noisy, smelly, uncomfortable machines of the past. Today’s personal watercraft are actually more like small speedboats, a useful way to get from one place to another. (And yes, to have a lot of fun buzzing up and down the shore.)

Sailboats on Grand Traverse Bay

Of course, the proliferation of all these boards and machines doesn’t mean there aren’t still lots of regular boats on the water in Traverse City. Flocks of sailboats are always winging up and down the Bay in breezy weather, and there are plenty of powerboats, too – usually towing water-skiers or heading out to do a little fishing. If fishing is your private passion, this is the perfect place – whether it’s battling a high-powered salmon from the deck of a charter boat or outwitting the wily walleye and smallmouth bass of our inland lakes.

And for those who prefer their excitement a little more organized, how about a sunset cruise in a 19th-century “tall ship” or an exhilarating ride over the waves aboard a giant catamaran?

Undoubtedly, the most easily recognized vessel in the Traverse City fleet is the Tall Ship Manitou, a 114-foot, 62-passenger schooner that offers three two-hour cruises across the bay each day of the week, as well as a number of specialty cruises (a Microbrew & Pizza Cruise, a Wine Tasting Cruise, musical cruises and “ice cream sails”). And now the Manitou has a little brother, the cutter Scout, that’s available for small-group cruises of up to six people.

An even livelier sailing experience can be had aboard the Nauti-Cat, a 47-foot catamaran based near the mouth of the Boardman River. Measuring 29 feet from side to side, it offers up to four cruises per day during the summer months, often cruising as fast as 14 knots on a breezy day.

Can you tell how eager I am to get back out on the water?

Mike Norton, a native of Grand Rapids, spent 25 years as newspaper writer and columnist before starting a second career as media relations director at the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau. An avid kayaker and an enthusiastic (if somewhat clumsy) small-boat sailor, he lives in the village of Old Mission.