My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Allegan State Game area

On Sunday, June 30th, 2013, I visited the Allegan State Game area for the first time, on foot that is. The Kalamazoo River flows through the state game area, and I’ve floated that stretch of river a few times, but I’ve never hiked there before today.

I should start by explaining what a state game area is here in Michigan. It’s state land, much like a state forest or even state park, the difference is in how the land was purchased, and its primary intended use.

The lands for state game areas were purchased mainly with money that the state collected from the sales of hunting and fishing licences, and from Federal grants from the taxes on hunting and fishing equipment. The primary intended use is for hunting, hence the name game area.

State Game areas are managed for habitat improvement for game animals, such as deer, small game, and/or waterfowl, depending on the land. Some environmentalists have a real problem with that, but the truth is that all wildlife benefits from the way that state game areas are managed.

Allegan State Game area has been a huge success. Back when the numbers of Canada geese were plummeting, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began managing this area for geese. Several parts of the area are refuges, and the public is not allowed in those parts. Since geese have multiplied in such great numbers that they are now considered a nuisance by many, I would say that the DNR did an outstanding job. That’s not all due to the Allegan State Game area, but that was a large piece of the whole.

But, hunting seasons in Michigan are fairly short, and the state is always looking for ways to expand the outdoor recreational opportunities, so the DNR has been adding hiking and cross-country ski trails to some of the state game areas, to be used between hunting seasons. I won’t go into the friction between users that has arisen here, I’ve done so in the past though.

My plan had been to hike part of the cross-country ski trails there, but they didn’t have any maps of the trails available at the game area headquarters for starters. Then, I didn’t see the trail when I parked in the designated parking area, everything was too overgrown. So, I started walking north on 46th Street, a dirt road that the headquarters is located on, until I came to a two-track, where I turned and followed that. I did find the cross-country trail where it crossed the two-track, but it was overgrown there as well, and in a third place where I crossed it. I would say that it would be a great trail from October to the end of April, but it isn’t mowed in the summer from what I could see. In a way, that’s too bad, for from what I could see of the trail and where it went, it would be a great summer hiking trail as well.

I don’t think that the Allegan State Game area gets much use in the summer, I saw three vehicles all day while I was there. One of those was a United States Fish and Wildlife truck, and they were lost, asking me how to find their way out, more on that later. That’s a good thing in a way, I had the place to myself for the most part, however, since the trails don’t get any use, they become overgrown. It worked out OK for me, I just walked the two tracks all day, which is about the same as a trail anyway.

I’ve read that the Allegan State Game area is one of the premier birding sites in the West Michigan region, and it lived up to its reputation. However due to a number of factors , the number of photos of birds that I have for this post is limited, but I managed a few, and there were many other things to photograph, as you will see.

A quick rundown on why not many bird photos. One, some idiot left the metering mode of my camera set to center weighted, and the same idiot didn’t have enough sense to check it before starting a trip like today. So, the exposure was off on any of the photos I shot of birds with the sky for a background. The sky itself was a problem, the day started mostly sunny, but early on in the day, the same milky white sky that has plagued me all week returned. Then there were the birds themselves. I can’t say that they didn’t cooperate, many of them perched right out in the open for me, but against that milky white sky. For example, I saw more eastern towhees today than I have ever seen in one day before. However, they were all perched in the tops of trees singing, and if you’re familiar with towhees, they’re known as ground hugging birds.

Male eastern towhee

Male eastern towhee

Fortunately, the new to me species for this trip posed nicely for me!

Chestnut-sided warbler

Chestnut-sided warbler

Chestnut-sided warbler

Chestnut-sided warbler

As did yet another male scarlet tanager.

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

And this eastern wood pewee.

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

Other birds were more shy, like this wood thrush.

Wood thrush hiding

Wood thrush hiding

I would say that as far as song birds, the Allegan State Game area is as good or better than the Muskegon area, and that is high praise indeed!

And, just as in the Muskegon area, there are many other things to see, such as my first look at a five lined skink, one of only two species of lizard native to Michigan.

Five lined skink

Five lined skink

Five lined skink

Five lined skink

Five lined skink

Five lined skink

I heard that little guy scurrying through the brush to reach the tree, and was quite surprised at what was making all the noise.

Something else that surprised me, cactus in bloom!

Flowering cactus

Flowering cactus

Flowering cactus

Flowering cactus

I don’t think that cactus is native to Michigan, but there was a good-sized patch of it blooming in one spot.

Here’s a few of the other things that I photographed today.

Spiderwort

Spiderwort

Fungus

Fungus

Black eyed Susan

Black eyed Susan

Orange wildflower

Butterfly weed

Butterflies

Butterflies

Butterflies

Butterflies

Orange wildflower and Butterfly

Butterfly weed and Butterfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Butterfly

Butterfly

Squawroot

Squawroot

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Colombine

Columbine

Butterfly

Butterfly

Odd wildflower

Heal all or self heal

Odd wildflower

Heal all or self heal

That’s just a sampling, as I’m sure that I will be returning soon, despite the fact that the trails are overgrown this time of year. I may even go there often in an attempt to keep the trails from getting so overgrown.

But, that doesn’t really matter, as there are a few two-tracks that meander through at least the section of the game area that I was in today, and they serve very well as hiking trails. I know from looking for access sites to the Kalamazoo River that there are a few two-tracks through much of the game area.

I’m not exactly sure how far I went today. I didn’t bring my GPS unit, as I had planned on picking up a map, and following trails. From my mapping software, it looks like I went  two and a half miles out, and the same distance back, of course, for a total of five miles or so. After I started on the two-tracks, I thought that I would be able to do a loop, and the map shows me that I could have. However, the U.S. FWS truck that passed me once, came back and stopped, and they asked me how they could get out of there. I told them it was my first time there, so I wasn’t sure.

They took off, and I continued the same direction I had been going, until I came to a couple of cross trails close together. During the time that it took me to walk that far, I saw the FWS truck driving back and forth on several of those trails, so I had no idea if any of them went through to other roads, or what the deal was. Since they were driving all over creation, and I didn’t really want to walk that far, I decided to turn around and go back to my vehicle the way that I had come.

I should have brought my GPS unit, but the DNR has been doing an excellent jobs with the trails everywhere else that I’ve gone the last few years, so I didn’t think that I would need it, wrong, it always pays to be over prepared.

I also came up with an idea that I think is a winner. I’m going to purchase an expandable file folder to keep in my Subaru to hold trail maps in an organized manner, so whenever I pick up or print out a map, I can store it, and have it available the next time I go to the same place.

I wonder if those guys from the FWS ever found their way out, or if they’re still driving around out there?

I know I should include more information about the Allegan State Game area, like that it is over 50,000 acres in size, and maybe a few links as well, but I’ll be going back many times in the future, so I can do that later on.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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19 responses

  1. some beautiful shots in here- I love the cheeky look of the peewee!

    July 1, 2013 at 12:54 am

    • Thank you!

      July 1, 2013 at 1:25 am

  2. I’d say you had a great day, photo wise, but I’m partial to wild flowers. I’m fairly certain that the orange flower is butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and the odd blue/purple one is called heal all or self heal (Prunella vulgaris.) The squaw root was quite a find and the butterflies are beautiful.

    July 1, 2013 at 6:37 am

    • Thanks once again! The name butterfly popped into my head for the orange flowers, but the only thing that I could think of was butterfly bush, but it’s obviously not a bush. There were several patches of squaw root, some very large, but as always, it grows in the darkest areas.

      July 1, 2013 at 9:38 am

  3. Nice catch on that skink!! You’ve got some great flower and insect shots in this batch. Beautiful butterfly pics! Looks like a great place to hike!

    July 1, 2013 at 10:17 am

    • Thanks, I think that I’m going back this weekend to see what else I can find.

      July 2, 2013 at 2:56 am

  4. plantsamazeme

    Beautiful butterflies, birds, and Five lined skink!
    Allegan State Game Area is a fun place. Swan Creek Pond trail I would definitely recommend, just park off 118th Ave near the dam – north side of the road, trail is on the south side of this road. I’ve been on that trail several times but it has been a few years, about 6 mile loop.
    Also the Ottawa Marsh area is very interesting, Highbanks Dam at the end of 121st Place, a two-track dirt road (this goes east off 46th Street Allegan County Michigan).
    🙂

    July 1, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    • Thanks for the info! I was on that two-track, but got sidetracked by a cut-over area that was full of birds. I’ve paddled a little of the Ottawa Marsh, and I really want to hit that spot on foot soon.

      July 2, 2013 at 2:58 am

  5. A splendidly varied set of pictures. Sorry about the unco-operative sky.

    July 1, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    • Thanks Tom.

      July 2, 2013 at 2:55 am

  6. Sounds like you had more fun without the map! Thanks for letting us tag along. Oh, and tell that idiot to start taking better care of your camera! 😉

    July 2, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    • Thanks! The idiot takes very good care of the camera, but he’s forgetful about returning the settings back to normal at times.

      July 3, 2013 at 1:17 am

  7. Pingback: My Week, Scruffy | Quiet Solo Pursuits

  8. Great shots of the Chestnut-Sided Warbler! It looked like he was checking you out!

    The Skink was interesting too.

    July 6, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    • Thanks! I got both of them while walking down a gravel road.

      July 7, 2013 at 7:07 am

  9. I am officially jealous ! Not only a Chesnut sided warbler, but also a scarlet tanager???!!! I spent three hours yesterday trying to find one of those with no luck. Sigh…

    July 8, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    • Thanks Emily! I was blessed with excellent eyesight, so I can spot the little devils at a distance, and sneak up on them. I’ve also found that once I get a good photo or two of a species that the rest of them come over to pose for me. I tried for twenty plus years for a good photo of a scarlet tanager, once I got a few this spring, I see them out in the open everywhere, well almost everywhere. 😉

      July 9, 2013 at 3:20 am

  10. John Davis and Marybeth Pritschet

    Just now ran across this site. The yellow-flowering cactus is definitely native, and I believe it is listed as federally endangered; can’t recall the name at this moment. I’m quite sure one of the butterflys is the Great Spangled Frittilary. Are you aware that MDNR has leased over 10,000 acres of the Allegan State Game Area to oil/gas companies, that the federal government owns most of the rest of the subsurface mineral rights, that the BLM sold oil/gas leases last year on 7,000 acres and plans an auction of an additional 27,000 acres on Sept 12, 2013? Mich Land Air Water Defense, a citizens group, filed suit to try to vacate the state leases. We learned of the federal leasing only in late July. The federal leasing will not go unchallenged. We live on 40 acres contiguous with the east boundry of the Allegan State Game Area and have loved it for 38 years. Please consider doing an entry on this. Whether or not the fracking will contaminate the water, it is certain that QUIET pursuits will be only a memory. Please also consider posting a link to Mich Land Air Water Defense which badly needs more financial support from Michigan citizens for attorney fees and litigation costs.
    John and Marybeth

    September 1, 2013 at 7:40 am

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment, and for the information. In general, I am not opposed to oil and/or gas drilling. I drive a vehicle with an internal combustion engine, as do most of us. They require oil, that oil has to come from somewhere. Just because leases have been let does not mean that there will be drilling. Even if there is, it can be done in an environmentally friendly way, as much as is possible. I wish that what I have just typed wasn’t true, but it is. I would also prefer drilling for oil or gas over any method of extracting coal from the earth.

      As I have learned from many years of camping and fishing in the Pigeon River Country that oil and/or gas wells aren’t as obtrusive as you would think, once the wells have been drilled. I’m sure that you and your neighbors won’t like it if there is drilling near you, I know that I wouldn’t. But until we all give up our cars and trucks, there’s going to be drilling somewhere. That may sound cold hearted, I’m sorry, but we have to face facts.

      September 1, 2013 at 2:34 pm