When I am visiting areas away from home, I am always thankful for the opportunity to visit a designated "nature center" of that location. Such was the case recently when I was able to tour the Chippewa Nature Center in Michigan ( www.chippewanaturecenter.org ) . The round silo-type structure at the entrance pays homage to the many silos that punctuate the Michigan landscape.
Inside the spacious Visitor Center (which is free of charge to visit) one could spend hours exploring all there is to see and learn there.
The River Overlook area is a great place to unwind, by watching the river and surrounding countryside go about their life-sustaining patterns. The gentleman using his notebook computer is a reminder for me to mention that the facility has free WI-FI throughout.
With such a beautiful setting, protected from the elements, it is not surprising that the River Overlook is a popular year-round place for weddings. In fact, this and many other areas of the Chippewa Nature Center can be rented by individuals or groups for various private functions, such as weddings, birthday parties, classes, corporate retreats, etc. (For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org .
The comfortable furniture and abundance of reading material makes this area ideal for relaxing conversation or study. One can even purchase a cup of coffee in the building to enhance your "coffee house" experience!
The younger visitors can indulge their "inner scientist" by participating in the many nature-themed activities, crafts, and equipment that is available for them to use free of charge.
Visitors are able to stroll through the excellent exhibits of the Ecosystem Gallery to get a better understanding of all the components of nature that come together to make this such a beautiful part of the Great Lakes region.
You can also learn about the native American people that were the first inhabitants here. Not surprisingly, canoes were a very important part of their civilization.
This room was a unique "Wildlife Viewing Area" because the window wall on the left side of the room is of special construction to make it soundproof and "invisible" from the outside.
In spite of the window coating, however, I was able to not only see, but photograph, this black squirrel through the special glass. It was the first black squirrel I had ever seen!
The inter-active displays of the Ecosystem Gallery and Nature Discovery Area enable the curious individuals who so desire, to feel the fur of a skunk, without having to endure the awful smell of a skunk!
"Maple Syrup Day" occurs annually in March, and gives visitors an opportunity to actually observe and participate in the remarkable process of turning the sap that comes out of maple trees, into the delicious liquid we put on our pancakes. I think this is a great opportunity for folks who are curious about this sweet "farm to fork" process to experience it in the middle of the United States, without having to travel to one of the New England states where this activity is a major tourist attraction.
For those who think that no day is complete without a little "retail therapy", there is a well-stocked Nature Center Store where one can purchase a field guide, gift, or nature-themed toy.
I was really glad to see so many children taking advantage of educational areas in the nature center. There is a tremendous amount of programming that is specific to children (as well as many for adults), so I would encourage people to keep checking the nature center website to see what they can sign up for. For example, besides the Nature Preschool and Nature Day Camp for kids, there are kayak trips for adults, some of which are multi-day trips, such as the Voyageur Canoeing at Grand Island and Pictured Rocks, that was scheduled for August 16 - 19.
As fascinating as the interior of the Chippewa Nature Center is, there are even more wonders to be found beyond its wall. I think I am telling my age when I admit that I see "pac man" outlines in this lily pond, as well as the beautiful pink bloom!
The trails that go through the wetland areas of the park stay wheelchair accessible by the use of boardwalks.
The Chippewa Trail (which is paved and wheelchair accessible) is a convenient pathway linking the nature center with the TRIDGE in downtown Midland (www.MidlandOnline.com) . I am proud to write that "Tricia Trudged the Tridge" so that I could say I had crossed my first-ever, 3-way pedestrian footbridge!
One of the trails leads to this lovely pavilion where you could sit and reflect on the beauty of God's creation. It is appropriate that when I was visiting a city called "Midland", that the verse would come to mind that says "And God said, 'Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.' " (Genesis 1:6) If you would like to learn more about visiting this "expanse between the waters", just click on www.VisitGreatLakesBay.org to prepare for an experience that will bring you miles of smiles! Tricia