Oakland Press: No excuse not to get out and enjoy our great outdoors

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Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Warm weather has returned to Michigan, and with it comes renewed appreciation for all the ways we as Michiganders are fortunate to live in our great state.

Michigan is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. From the Great Lakes and our inland lakes; to our rivers and streams and thousands of miles of shoreline; to our sand dunes, forests, and wetlands — our great outdoors offer a spectacular array of opportunities for adventure.

Here are some amazing facts about our natural resources:

The Great Lakes are the largest surface freshwater system in the world, representing 90 percent of the United States surface freshwater supply. The five Great Lakes and their connecting waters hold six quadrillion gallons of water, enough to cover the entire United States with water over seven feet deep.

Michigan has 35,000 inland lakes and ponds, more than 49,000 miles of rivers and streams, and more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes coastline. Lake Michigan houses the largest concentration of freshwater sand dunes in the world. Michigan’s largest dunes reach 250 feet in height and up to one mile in width.

Our state contains more than 19.3 million acres of forests, made up of more than 75 different types of trees. The forests cover more than half the land area of the state and contain the fifth largest amount of timberland in the United States. Michigan’s forests are home to an abundance of plants and animals, including moose, bear, wolves, deer, and one of the rarest birds in the world, the Kirtland’s warbler.

Michigan’s numerous, beautiful wetlands serve important purposes, such as flood control and water purification. They also protect shorelines and lakeshore homes and businesses from erosion caused by storms and waves, and they help prevent flash flooding by acting like sponges and temporarily absorbing water during rainstorms before it reaches lakes and rivers.

Several popular destinations offer numerous ways to enjoy these resources. These include Traverse City, Mackinac Island and the Upper Peninsula up north, as well as Holland, Grand Haven and Saugatuck to the west.

But you don’t have to travel that far to get outside and enjoy Pure Michigan. Plenty of outdoor activities are in our backyard right here in Oakland County.

Popular (and some less well known) activities include:

•    Geocaching. Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game in which participants use GPS-enabled devices to find a hidden object following GPS coordinates posted on a website. In Oakland County, Geocaching hunters are exploring beautiful woodlands and downtown areas alike. A caching adventure can last from an hour to a full day.
•    Mushroom hunting. Oakland County Park offers wonderful opportunities to hunt mushrooms. Certain guidelines are to be followed, and you must always be careful not to pick poisonous mushrooms. Guidelines are posted at the website shown below.
•    Horseback riding. Equestrian trails are available at Addison Oaks, Highland Oaks and Rose Oaks county parks.
•    Nature education. Red Oaks Nature Center in Madison Heights and Wint Nature Center in Clarkston offer nature exhibits and programs year-round. Oakland County Parks and Recreation works cooperatively with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Huron-Clinton Metroparks in the area of nature education.

Other ways to enjoy outdoor Oakland include boating, canoeing and kayaking, camping, fishing, golfing, and hiking.

For more information on all of these activities and more, visit www.destinationoakland.com and click on “Things to Do.”

There really is no excuse: The state of Michigan and Oakland County in particular offer a bounty of outdoor activities to make everyone happy. Now that spring has returned, let’s get out and enjoy Pure Michigan.

This column first appeared in the Oakland Press. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.