Spring is a beautiful time of year in the Mackinaw City area, as the winter melts away and nature comes out of its deep slumber. Plenty of seasonal activities are planned to celebrate the arrival of spring and all its beauty—from the flora to fauna to astronomy to aviary.
Savoring Michigan’s sweet treat…maple syrup
The longer, warmer days means sap begins to flow in the maple trees that dot the landscape around the miles of woodland trails. In the furthest reaches of Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park visitors can find the Maple Sugar Shack, nestled along one of the hiking trails. While the sugaring season will have wrapped up by the time the interpretive season begins at here in May, guests can still find the shack and interpretive panels detailing the history of sugaring in this area and the process of doing it.
Beauty from the ground…wildflowers abound!
One of the surest signs that spring has arrived in the north woods is the appearance of an abundance of beautiful wildflowers covering the forest floor, including the Yellow Trout-lily, Spring-beauty, the Large-flowered Trillium and the smaller Nodding Trillium, Marsh Marigold or Cowslip and Jack-in -the-Pulpit. Head out along the hiking trails at Wilderness State Park, The Headlands International Dark Sky Park, at Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park and along sections of the North Country Trail. Please remember that trillium are protected in Michigan and that picking them is illegal (but photographing them is recommended).
Foraging from the forest floor…morels, ramps and fiddleheads!
In addition to an abundance of wildflowers, spring means the arrival of wild edibles – such as morels, ramps and fiddleheads – the most hunted spring treasures. May is morel month in Michigan but depending on the weather these illusive fungi can be found as early as April and as late as mid-June, especially the further north you go. Morels begin to pop up along the woodland floor when the daytime temps reach around 60–65 degrees while the evening temps stay above 50 degrees. As you search, look along southwest facing hills where the sun’s rays warm the ground around tree groves mixed with living, dead and dying ash, elm, oak and aspen trees. Given there are a lot of “false morels” and other poisonous mushrooms, it is advised to take a guide (either a person or a printed book) to help you identify a true morel. If you can’t find them in the woods, look for them on the menu of area restaurants during the spring season – topping fish, chicken or steak, fried to a crispy goodness or cooked into a creamy bisque.
Mackinaw City…for the birds!
The 2018 Mackinaw Raptor Fest, April 6-8, provides an entertaining and educational showcase to promote public awareness and knowledge of raptors and waterbirds and the significance of the Straits area during migration. Located at the junction of two peninsulas and two Great Lakes, Mackinaw City creates a unique confluence of migrating birds every spring and fall. A variety of activities are planned throughout the weekend, including field trips, bird counts, watches, banding, star gazing, live raptor presentations and special programs focused on identification, photography and ecology, among other activities. For the complete schedule of events, please click here.
Cast a hook, line and sinker!
Fishing really is a four-season activity here in the Great Lakes State, but as the ice melts and the temperatures rise, the rivers, streams and lakes become a hotbed for a variety of species. The Straits area offers opportunities for migratory steelhead and salmon, as well as other freshwater fish. Spring fishing begins in April when the smelt begin to run, followed by trout season in late April and walleye season which opens mid-May. As we move into summer, look for lake perch and bass off the coast of Wilderness State Park or head to Paradise Lake, just five miles south of Mackinaw City, where bass, pike, walleye and panfish are plentiful. Be sure to check the Michigan Department of Natural Resourcest for specific season dates and licensing information.
Hunting Michigan’s beloved Petoskey Stone!
Many people think that Petoskey Stones can only be found in Petoskey. Yet this hexagon fossilized coral (Hexagonaria pericarnata) from a coral reef that existed during the Devonian era 350 million years ago, can be found along the Lake Michigan shoreline from the Sleeping Bear Dunes area as far north as the Straits of Mackinac. Spring is the ideal time to scour the beaches for rocks that have been churned up over the winter, before the thousands of tourists have had the time begin their search. Established as Michigan’s state stone in 1965, the Petoskey Stones were formed as a result of glaciation, in which sheets of ice plucked stones from the bedrock, grinding off their rough edges and depositing them in the northwestern portion of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
Look to the skies…and beyond!
Although there is no way to predict when Northern Lights (aurora borealis) will light up the sky, the Straits area provides the perfect night sky conditions for viewing this unique phenomenon. Northern Lights are collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere, creating dancing color of lights such as green, pink and purple. Located along the Lake Michigan shoreline just south of Mackinaw City, the Headlands International Dark Sky Park is a popular place for settling in for the sky show. Mark your calendar for April 20 to attend a special program on Statewide Astronomy Night under the Lyrid Meteor Shower and a waxing crescent moon. Spring full moons will grace the sky March 31 (a blue moon – the second full moon of the month), April 29 and May 29.
For list of events taking place in the Straits of Mackinac during the spring season (such as the Spring Meltdown, Spring Break Splash, Taste of Mackinac and Mackinac International Bridal Expo), click here.
Those wanting to venture over to historic Mackinac Island during the pre-season should note that ferry service begins April 1. Mackinac State Historic Parks (Colonial Michilimackinac, Historic Mill Creek and Fort Mackinac) open in early May.
For spring travel ideas and lodging options, visit MackinawCity.com.