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News Digest – Week of Aug. 28, 2023

An aerial view of Fort Wilkins Historic State Park is shown.

Fort Wilkins, in Copper Harbor, is open daily through Oct. 14.

Here are just a few of this week’s stories from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, aimed at helping you safely enjoy this holiday weekend while looking forward to fall fun!

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom.

PHOTO FOLDER: Larger, higher-res versions of some of the images used in this email, and others, are available in this folder.

Reminder: Mackinac Bridge closed Labor Day morning

long view of a huge, beige and pale green, gently arced suspension bridge over deep blue water, and blue sky and pale clouds behindHoliday travel plans include crossing the Mackinac Bridge? Remember that the Mackinac Bridge Authority will close the bridge Monday, Sept. 4, from 6:30 a.m. to noon for the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk.

If you’re looking for ways to fill your time, participating in the Mackinac Bridge Walk is free (and no registration is needed). There’s also lots to do on both sides of the bridge, such as visiting Mackinaw City or Ocqueoc Falls in the Lower Peninsula or exploring St. Ignace or Fayette Historic State Park in the Upper Peninsula – just to name a few.

For more state parks, campgrounds and outdoor recreation opportunities, contact Ami Van Antwerp at 517-927-5059.

ORV riders, let’s keep it safe all season long

a black, topped off-road vehicle leaves ruts in the dirt as it climbs up a sloped trail surrounded by mature treesA friendly reminder to off-road vehicle operators not just this holiday weekend but into the colder season, too: Ride Right to ensure you ride home safely to family and friends.

“Conservation officers see an increase in riders during holidays and on the weekends. Riders should keep that extra traffic in mind, especially when going around bends or over hills,” said the DNR’s Cpl. Mike Hearn. “ORV accidents are usually avoidable, but happen when people get caught up in the moment, keep increasing their speed, aren’t familiar with the terrain or their machine’s capabilities, or take a turn, hill or jump too fast without knowing what’s on the other side.”

Speed and rider inexperience are the primary contributing factors for ORV accidents, serious injuries and death. Make sure to Ride Right and keep these tips in mind:

  • If you are the leader of the group, ride to the newest operator’s abilities.
  • Understand and operate within the limits of your ORV and your own capabilities and experience.
  • Ride on the right side of the trail.
  • Keep lights on when riding.
  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Ride sober.

Get more ORV safety and trail etiquette information at Michigan.gov/RideRight. Find places to ride, rules and regulations, ORV events and more at Michigan.gov/ORVinfo.

Questions? Email Cpl. Mike Hearn at [email protected].

Get moving, exploring during Michigan Trails Week Sept. 17-24

small group of girls and boys in T-shirts, shorts and jeans smile as they run down a dirt trail lined with green treesWhen it comes to trails, there’s no place like home. Michigan offers more than 13,000 miles of designated state-managed trails, plus thousands of miles of local, county and federally managed trails and pathways.

This fall, celebrate your favorite kind of trail – your go-to paved path in your neighborhood, that oh-so-peaceful tree-lined switchback in your community, the deep-in-the-woods ORV two-track, the quiet horse-friendly trail, maybe even a serene water route at a nearby lake or river – during Michigan Trails Week Sept. 17-24.

Whether you prefer to bike, run, hike, ride or paddle these beautiful trails, consider ways to make the most of Michigan Trails Week (and a fall filled with fabulous outdoor exploration) in the Trails State:

  • Invite a friend or family member to join you.
  • Bring your favorite four-legged friend along for the adventure.
  • Try a new-to-you trail.
  • Take time to really notice the sights and scents around you – and how amazing it is to call the Great Lakes State home (or your home away from home if you’re visiting).
  • Pack a trash bag along with your water bottle (need to stay hydrated!) and pick up litter along the way.
  • Make a day of it and bring a picnic lunch or visit a locally owned restaurant for mid- or post-activity food and drink.

Learn more about routes to check out, trail etiquette, pet-friendly recreation spots, track chair availability, and the latest closure and detour information (and trail improvement projects underway) at Michigan.gov/DNRTrails.

For more information about state trails and recreation opportunities, contact Heather Durocher at 231-463-3512.

Use water safety smarts at beaches, breakwalls and piers

A red beach warning flag in the foreground, with people and umbrellas dotting the sandy beach behind. It's a sunny, blue sky day.If your plans include swimming at state parks, especially along the Great Lakes, be sure to brush up on beach safety before anyone goes in or near the water.

Many, but not all, state parks on the Great Lakes offer designated swimming areas that have additional safety measures and visual cautions. These areas are identified by buoys or buoys and markers, a beach flag warning system, and water depth less than 5 feet at the time of buoy/marker installation. You may also find other designated swim areas in places other than state parks.

It’s important to visit Michigan.gov/BeachSafety for details on state-designated swim beach locations, the beach flag warning system, tips on escaping Great Lakes currents, and more. If you’re at a beach with a flag warning system, check the color upon arrival and recheck throughout the day because conditions can change rapidly.

  • Green flag = low hazard. Calm conditions. Enter the water, but exercise caution.
  • Yellow flag = medium hazard. Moderate surf and/or currents. Watch for dangerous currents and high waves.
  • Red flag = high hazard. High surf and/or strong currents. It’s recommended that you stay on the beach.
  • Double red flags = water access closed. Dangerous conditions. Respect the new law that prohibits water access and do not enter the water.
several people outlined in shadow stand on a sandy beach during a golden sunset, as waves roll in. A red beach warning flag is postedBuoys and markers typically are installed before the Memorial Day holiday weekend and come down after Labor Day. After swim buoys are removed, that stretch of beach is no longer a designated swim area, and swimmers should use the same caution entering the water as they would any other nondesignated swim beach along the Great Lakes.

A few other cautions:

  • There are no beach guards at state parks, so never swim alone, always keep close watch of children and bring U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets, especially for new and inexperienced swimmers.
  • Water currents near piers, breakwalls and outlets of rivers can be extremely hazardous.
  • Visitors in areas without designated swim beaches should use extreme caution because they will not have the benefit of the beach flag warning system or other visual cautions.
  • Check local weather reports and lake conditions and learn about different Great Lakes currents and how to escape them.

For more information, contact Pat Whalen at 269-838-1196.

Shoreline horseback riding, fat-tire biking at Silver Lake

two women in riding gear sit atop two cream-colored horses walking along a sandy beach next to a huge, calm, blue lakeHorseback riders and fat-tire bikers can explore one of Michigan’s most unique and popular destinations – Silver Lake State Park in Oceana County – with shoreline horseback riding and fat-tire biking this fall and winter.

The park is home to 450 acres of motorized dune riding. Each summer, thousands of motorcycles, quads, four-wheelers and other ORVs descend on these sugar-sand dunes, the only sand dune riding opportunity east of the Mississippi River.

The new shoreline and dune opportunities are part of the DNR’s ongoing efforts to expand off-season outdoor recreation in the Silver Lake ORV Area.

Equestrians can ride a predetermined route along Lake Michigan during the shoreline horseback riding season Nov. 1-30. The registration fee is $10 per horse per day, and 125 slots are available each day. Registration opens 8 a.m. Friday, Sept. 1.

During the fat-tire biking season Dec. 15-March 15, cyclists on the sand dunes will enjoy elevation changes of 80-100 feet, access to Lake Michigan and sunsets over the lake from the top of the dunes. There is no cost or registration.

two people on fat-tire bikes are outlined in shadow, sitting atop tall sand dunes as sand swirls around them, backed by blue sky and clouds“Just as ORV season ends Oct. 31, Silver Lake’s ORV area begins opening up to nonmotorized uses as part of two distinct seasons,” said Jody Johnston, Silver Lake State Park manager. “It’s an incredible opportunity for both equestrians and bicyclists to ride the sandy shoreline and catch spectacular views of Lake Michigan.”

Johnston attributed much of the success in bringing these seasonal opportunities to the public to the Michigan Horse Council, the Shoreline Cycling Club, the Equine Trails Subcommittee and Michigan’s Edge Mountain Biking Association – groups the DNR worked hand in hand with to hold pilot programs to determine feasibility and interest. These are the second official seasons for both horseback and fat-tire riding at Silver Lake.

For details on both opportunities, including a registration link (horseback riding only), rules, maps, tips and other information, visit Michigan.gov/SilverLake.

Questions? Contact Jody Johnston at 231-721-5858.

Last chance for safe boaters to earn free McDonald’s treats

a man in a DNR conservation officer uniform with a young boy and girl wearing life jackets stand on the grassy shore of a lakeEnd the summer boating season in safe style by wearing your life jacket! It might just nab youth boaters McDonald’s vouchers for ice cream and apple slices, but this is the last weekend Michigan conservation officers are handing out the vouchers.

“Partnering with McDonald’s of Michigan is a fun way to bring attention to the importance of wearing a life jacket,” said Lt. Tom Wanless, state boating law administrator. “Wearing a life jacket is the easiest way to prevent drowning.”

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that in 2022, drowning was the reported cause of death in 75% of boating-related fatalities, and 85% of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

But boating safety is about more than wearing a life jacket. Always check your boat before going out on the water, leave a float plan with someone staying on shore, boat sober and only ride with an operator who has an approved boater safety certificate.

For more safety tips, visit the DNR’s boating safety page. Get your boating safety certificate, check closures and find boat launches at Michigan.gov/Boating.

Questions? Email Cpl. Jill Miller at [email protected].

Don’t take a break from fighting invasive species

Looking up at the bottom of a man's hiking shoe, with dirt and crushed leaves on the treaded soleNo matter how you spend the long weekend, please remember that you have a big impact on where and how invasive species spread – or don’t – to our land and water.

Whether you’re boating, fishing, camping, hunting, enjoying the trails or working on your home landscape, understand what you can do to limit the spread of these species. There are simple steps you can take, such as cleaning your shoes after a hike in the woods, removing aquatic plants from your watercraft and not moving firewood. Learn more at Michigan.gov/Invasives.


Time is running out to visit several of the  state’s coolest historic sites and museums! Some sites close after Labor Day or later in fall, so don’t miss your chance to soak up rich Michigan history.


Are you ready for fall hunting seasons? If you or someone you know needs a hunter safety education course, don’t wait too long. Find a classroom-based or online class or field day near you.


We’re just 400 trees away from reaching the milestone of 100,000 community trees planted in Michigan. Add your tree to the map and help grow the global Trillion Trees campaign!