Snowshoe Your Way Through a Pure Michigan Snow Day

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is an ideal destination to snowshoe, whether you are trying it for the first time or are looking for someplace new to explore. Theresa Neal with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, sells readers on why snowshoeing is a great way to get outside this winter season.

Winter can be a tough time for people to stay active. It’s cold outside, it gets dark early, and curling up in a blanket with a tablet or book sounds SO good! But if you are feeling a bit dreary, maybe gained a few pounds over the holidays, or find yourself in a routine that is getting a bit old, I would suggest giving snowshoeing a try. Many people are intimidated to strap giant paddles to their feet and try walking around, understandably so. I find that once people are outfitted correctly, and given a few pointers, the majority are amazed at how easy it is to snowshoe.

Photo Courtesy of D. Kenyon

Photo Courtesy of D. Kenyon

Snowshoeing Tips:

  1. If you can walk, you can snowshoe! You may need to adjust your stride slightly, and many people find poles helpful in the beginning.
  2. Aluminum snowshoes are best for icy or hard-packed snow conditions. The crampons (pokey-grips on the bottom) will give you traction, but can trip you up if you drag your feet.
  3. Traditional wooden snowshoes are great for deep, fluffy snow conditions. They are very quiet (no squeaky noises) compared to aluminum, and they leave beautiful tracks in the snow where you have walked!
  4. Used cross-country ski poles from a second-hand store or garage sale work great for snowshoeing.
  5. Expect to sweat! Avoid cotton base layers, as they soak up moisture and can make you cold. Fleece, polyester and wool are good options. Dress in thin layers so you can easily adjust your body temperature while snowshoeing.
Photo Courtesy of T. Neal

Photo Courtesy of T. Neal

Benefits of snowshoeing:

  1. You burn twice as many calories snowshoeing versus walking!
  2. You can be outside WITHOUT getting cold!
  3. After the initial investment of purchasing snowshoes, it’s free! Many state parks offer free snowshoe rental, including Tahquamenon Falls, Ludington, Hartwick Pines and Porcupine Mountains.
  4. You can explore places that are inaccessible during the summer. At Tahquamenon we hike ‘off-trail’, across marshes and through forests that are usually too wet or thick with vegetation to get through.
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Photo Courtesy of Michigan DNR

My favorite part of winter is snowshoeing at night. The cold, crisp air seems so clean and refreshing, forcing the fog from my head and waking up my senses. The light from my headlamp glistens off the snow, and I enjoy scanning the trail for animal tracks to see who has been out since my last hike. Red fox, coyote, snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse and deer mouse tracks are most common. The best nights are those without cloud cover, when the moon is shining and the sky is filled with stars, lighting my path without needing a headlamp.

With an average annual snowfall of over 15 feet, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a great place to explore winter on snowshoes. The park is open year-round, with two main destinations for snowshoeing (Upper Falls and Lower Falls). Check our website to print winter maps and join us on Facebook or Twitter to stay up to date on current conditions and events.

Have you ever been snowshoeing? Comment on your experience below!

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Theresa has served as the park interpreter at Tahquamenon Falls since 2005. She began her career as a naturalist with the DNR at Holland State Park as an Adventure Ranger, delivering nature programs and leading hikes for park visitors. She was then hired as a naturalist for DeGraaf Nature Center in Holland, designing and presenting programs for children and school groups. During the summer of 2005, she again worked for the DNR Explorer Program as a mentor for the Explorer Guides in southeast Michigan. Theresa is a proud graduate of Michigan State University.

Bundle Up and Fish For Free This Weekend in Pure Michigan

Michigan offers wonderful outdoor opportunities throughout the year, including world-class fishing. While some anglers head for the indoors when the temperatures dip, others look forward to winter’s most popular angling activity – ice fishing.

 Need an incentive to head outdoors? How about fishing for free? February 13 and 14 is the 2016 Winter Free Fishing Weekend in Michigan, which means residents and visitors alike can fish without a license (all other fishing regulations still apply). Experience the state’s fisheries in winter, we promise you won’t be disappointed.

Photo Courtesy of the Michigan DNR

Photo Courtesy of the Michigan DNR

If you’ve never been ice fishing there are a few things to think about so you’re prepared to have a fun and safe experience. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources often recommends anglers follow these six simple rules:

  1. Never fish alone.
  2. Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  3. Always test the ice with a spud (a long shank with a chisel-like end).
  4. Take the appropriate emergency items, such as ice picks and a life jacket.
  5. Take a cell phone (enclosed in a plastic bag) in case you need to call for help.
  6. Lakes tend to be a safer choice during the early winter as streams or rivers have flow which makes them less safe at times.
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Photo Courtesy of the Michigan DNR

After you round up your gear you’ll want to think about which species to fish for and which areas you might find them in. Check out these location suggestions!

Southwest Lower Peninsula

Coldwater-Marble Chain of Lakes (Branch County): This is one of the most popular ice fishing destinations in southwest Michigan. The chain consists of several interconnected lakes with a combined area of around 2,700 acres. These lakes produce a variety of game species; including bluegill, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, black crappie and redear sunfish.

Northeast Lower Peninsula

Fletcher Floodwaters (Alpena/Montmorency counties): This 8,000 plus acre shallow impoundment often freezes fairly early in the winter and is an extremely popular winter fishing location. Anglers can target northern pike, yellow perch, bluegill, pumpkinseed and black crappie.

Southeast Lower Peninsula

Saginaw Bay: Anglers should fish early and late ice near shore for yellow perch and deeper areas for walleye at this popular destination. The best walleye fishing is miles offshore.

Lake St. Clair: This lake provides ample access with opportunities to catch many different species, including yellow perch, walleye, northern pike, bluegill and pumpkinseed.

Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @xmissqueenx.

Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @xmissqueenx.

Northwest Lower Peninsula

Higgins Lake (Roscommon County): This is a 9,900 acres ice fishing bonanza and offers excellent fishing opportunities for yellow perch, northern pike, lake trout, herring, whitefish, rainbow trout and smelt.

Eastern Upper Peninsula

Munising Bay (Alger County): When ice is established in Munising Bay, the fishery is comprised of splake, coho salmon, lake whitefish and cisco. Also available are smelt, yellow perch, lake trout and burbot.

Southern Upper Peninsula

Big Manistique Lake (Luce/Mackinac counties): This 10,000 acre lake has a maximum depth of about 20 feet. The primary winter sport fisheries revolve around walleye, yellow perch and northern pike.

Western Upper Peninsula

Lake Gogebic (Gogebic County): This 13,000 acre inland lake offers anglers good opportunities for walleye, northern pike, black crappie and yellow perch.

Don’t miss your chance to experience Michigan’s outstanding winter fishing opportunities and to get your family outdoors. Start planning your next fishing trip at michigan.gov/fishing

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Elyse Walter is a communication specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Elyse works specifically with the DNR’s Fisheries Division to help educate and promote the state’s fishing opportunities and aquatic resources.

Go Back in Time with the Michigan Historical Museum

If you’re one of the many Michigan hunters or outdoor enthusiasts hitting the  woods this season – likely decked out in scent-control clothing and equipped with a smart phone, GPS unit and other gadgets – can you imagine a time when outdoor gear meant simple survival necessities like a reliable compass, a well-designed knife or a waterproof matchbox? 

The Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing takes a trip back to that time with a new exhibit about the Upper Peninsula’s greatest inventor you’ve probably never heard of – Webster Marble – and the outdoor products he perfected and manufactured right here in Pure Michigan.

The “Inventing the Outdoors” series takes us back to the start of the last century, when people started to see the outdoors as a place to relax and enjoy themselves. At the same time, Webster Marble started a company in Gladstone, Michigan, that would eventually outfit hunters, anglers, campers and hikers around the world.

Photo Courtesy of Michigan DNR

Take an up-close look at artifacts including safety folding axes, many models of unique hunting knives, automatic fish gaffs, and the famous Game Getter gun in this exhibit that explores Marble’s genius for innovation. Marble owned more than 60 patents, and his designs set the standard for the 20th century in outdoor products such as knives, compasses, match boxes, axes and gun sights. His Michigan-made products became known worldwide and were even used on Teddy Roosevelt’s hunting trips, Robert Peary’s expeditions and Charles Lindbergh’s flights.

Photo Courtesy of Michigan DNR

Inventing the Outdoors” also gives you a chance to examine your own outdoor experiences and lets children experience life in the Michigan woods 100 years ago. You can get creative by building a lean-to, singing songs or telling stories around a fire pit, giving shape to your ideas at a “makers” innovation table, and sharing your outdoor experiences through drawing or writing.

Photo Courtesy of Michigan DNR

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The second Saturday of every month, the Michigan Historical Museum will feature family activities related to innovation. For more information on the popular “Second Saturdays” program, go to www.michigan.gov/museum.

And be sure to visit the Michigan Historical Museum on Facebook for behind-the-scenes exhibit and artifact photos, and personal stories of outdoor life.

Have you ever visited the Michigan Historical Museum? Share your experience with us below!