7 Things You Didn’t Know About the Blue Water Area

Are you looking for a new area to explore in Pure Michigan? The Blue Water Area is a getaway to be discovered along the eastern shores of the Great Lakes state. Guest blogger, Danielle Kreger from the Blue Water Convention & Visitors Bureau shares seven things you didn’t know about the Blue and its 140 miles of shoreline.

1) The Blue has six lighthouses to visit; some locations offer a guided tour and tower climb while others simply pose for great photo opportunities.  The nautical stories and current duties of each light station are different, however they have all stood their ground, placed for the purpose of guiding ships and their crew through rough waters.

Harbor Beach Lighthouse Tour, Blue Water Area CVB

Photo Courtesy of Danielle Kreger

2) The Blue has a nationally recognized water trail. The Island Loop Route National Water Trail, is a 10.2-mile looping water trail and is well suited to recreational paddlers, kayaks, canoes and paddle boards. It is the first nationally recognized water trail in Michigan and one of only 14 in the nation. The trail navigates through rivers, canals and lake and passes the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse amongst other favored locales.

3) The Blue has a dark sky preserve.  Port Crescent State Park, in Port Austin, has a designated area where no electric light exists for miles, giving star-gazers an unobstructed view of the night sky.  The dark sky preserve is located in the day-use area where there’s a charge for parking, but no overnight reservations are needed.  Sit back and enjoy the wonders of the universe right in the Blue.

4) The Blue hosts an incredible amount of festivals, free waterfront concerts and summertime events to enjoy like when 300 or more sailboats gather in the marinas of Port Huron to compete in the Port Huron to Mackinac Race.  On race day, it is a continuous flow of sailboats as they pilot into Lake Huron in a race to Mackinac Island.

Photo Courtesy of Danielle Kreger

Photo Courtesy of Danielle Kreger

5) The Blue has a 54-mile paved pedestrian/bike path that runs along the water’s edge as well as a bit inland, winding around parks and neighborhoods.  The Bridge to Bay Trail begins north of the Blue Water Bridge and extends to Anchor Bay in Algonac.  Where some of the trail links are still being developed, helpful signage will lead you to the next path.

6) The Blue has seven ADA accessible kayak launches.  These launches provide an easier and safer way for people with physical disabilities to launch a kayak.  They are located along waterways throughout the Blue.

St. Clair River, Blue Water Area CVB, credit Harry  Burkholder, Liaa

Photo Courtesy of Danielle Kreger

7) The Blue is the terminus of U.S. Bicycle Route 20, which is a cross-country bike trail that runs along M-29 into downtown Marine City. From there, riders have the ability to take the car/pedestrian ferry to Canada for a cross-continental journey.

Discover these things about the Blue Water Area and let them lead you on an experience you’ll treasure for a lifetime.  For more details and info about the Blue, visit the website and Facebook page.

Danielle Kreger lives and works in the Blue Water Area.  Though it is her home, she still sees the Blue as her getaway spot, loving the true-blue water and quaint hometown ambiance of each shoreline community.  She gets her kicks photographing her family as they make their own ventures every day.

Have you ever visited the Blue Water area? Comment with your experience below!

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.
Bonfire

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.

17 Ways To Use The Year’s First Vacation Days On A Pure Michigan Snow Day

New year, new you, right? Except it still feels the same. More Mondays, more meetings, more gazing out the window thinking, “I wish I was out there skiing right now. Have we even taken the kids sledding this season? Maybe they’ll cancel work tomorrow, like a snow day …”  Ha! Work is never cancelled (ever). 

But, psst! You’ve got vacation time, and you’ve worked hard to earn it! Don’t waste it waiting around.  Get out there and make those memories before the fluffy stuff is gone! Now’s the time to make your own #PureMichiganSnowDay happen when you Go Great Lakes Bay!

You + Yours

Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

“Honey, let’s get away together, just you and me.”

Say these magical words to your significant other, and watch how fast this #PureMichiganSnowDay can snowball! Live it up and cozy up, too – opportunities for snow day smiles and snuggles are just around the corner:

Let Nature Soothe You: The soft crunch of snow underfoot will put you and yours in sync on a free, guided snowshoe hike at Midland’s Chippewa Nature Center.

Feel Exhilarated: Ski or snowboard down the The Ski Slopes At Apple Mountain Resort together in Freeland, and yell it out together: “B’bye work meetings, hello snow day!”  Afterward, cozy up for a cup of hot cocoa and a bite to eat at Kathleen’s Apple Mountain, while you watch other skiiers hit the slopes!

Enjoy the Warmth: Stare into each other’s eyes while wine tasting at Frankenmuth’s St. Julian Winery, share good times during a free tour at Frankenmuth Brewery, or lounge in overstuffed leather chairs and play footsie by the roaring fire at Whine in Midland. You and yours will be rested and ready … for another #PureMichiganSnowDay!

Family Q Time 

Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

“School, work, dinner, baths, bed, repeat. There’s got to be more to family life than this!”

Oh, there’s more-so much more! Break the routine, and declare a #PureMichiganSnowDay! Then grab your phone to forever capture the look on the kids’ faces when you say: We’re going to …

Splash Village! Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark is 50,000 square-feet of “we needed this”! With a six-story, family raft ride and super loop, lazy river, indoor arcade, two spacious hot tubs (and, ahem, memorable Bloody Marys for the oh-so-deserving parents), and much more, the whole family is sure to have the BEST SNOW DAY EVER!

Toboggan together! Sled until little hearts are content at City Forest in Midland, rent a toboggan ($6/hour) for a whole new experience, or maybe even cross-country ski the .6 mile groomed trail. Pack a thermos of hot cocoa, and simply enjoy!

Aftershock! When you go to Midland’s new indoor trampoline extravaganza, please let us know one thing: Who had more fun, the kids or the adults?! (Psst! Aftershock runs daily specials, including Dollar Jump Night on the first Tuesday of each month.)

Go mini-golfing! The Family Fun Center at Bavarian Inn Lodge has an indoor, 18-hole miniature golf course, four indoor pools, two waterslides, and a 15-foot waterfall to play in! Family fun center, indeed!

See the stars! Winter stargazing sounds cool … like burr! But you can beat the winter chill at Delta College Planetarium and still discover astronomical fun on your snow day! Check out “Led Zeppelin”, January 23 – April 30, for rock sounds and laser lights.

Adventure Bound

Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

“The walls are closing in! Must. Get. Outside.”

Feeling suffocated, adventure enthusiasts? Outdoor-induced adrenaline and blood-pumping experiences await – just take a #PureMichiganSnowDay, and they’re all yours!

Hit The Trails: The rail trails, that is! Plans are in action to eventually connect the Saginaw Valley Rail Trail, Midland County Pere Marquette Rail Trail and Bay County Riverwalk and Rail Trail into The Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail, but each are currently multi-use meccas for walking, running, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and even fat tire biking! (Want to know more about fat tire winter biking? Go to the gurus at Jack’s Bicycle Shop in Bay City, and ask about their guided bike tours!)

Drop a Line: In the Saginaw Bay, of course! Local ice fisherman know that our freshwaters are full of hot spots for good eats of the walleye, perch, bass and catfish-kind! (Need gear? Little Forks Outfitters in Midland; staff might even have hints about lucky spots …) Before you get here, brush up on our recent Saginaw Bay Icefishing post from local guest blogger Tom Bennett for even more insider tips on uncovering those high-yield icefishing honeyholes.

Shred it Up: Strap on a set of skis or a snowboard, and hit The Ski Slopes at Apple Mountain! Check for their Cool Deals before you go!

Now that you’re well-versed in all the ways to sled, ski, snowshoe (and, yes, even swim!) your way past the winter blues with the perfect Pure Michigan Snow Day, be sure to share your adventures out into the fluffy white beyond using #PureMichiganSnowDay and #GoGreatLakesBay on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!  You can even enter Pure Michigan’s Show Us Your Snow Day Dance contest on Instagram using #MISnowDayDance!

Guest Blogger - Wainwright O'Deay

Guest Blogger: Jen Wainwright O’Deay

Jen is a freelance writer in Bridgeport, Mich. She specializes in creating effective connection through marketing communications copy, feature articles and content/blog posts. You can find her camping with her family or reading Thoreau.