Families discover nature at Kent County’s Pickerel Lake

Enrich your appreciation for nature and discover how you can bring it to your own backyard by visiting Kent County’s Pickerel Lake on September 10.

In my book, few things can top a morning stroll around Kent County’s Pickerel Lake-Fred Meijer Nature Preserve. Dewey cattails, the occasional call of an owl and graceful, white swans slipping through the unbroken mirror of water are things we sometimes equate with a spring-fed, mountain lake. Unknown to many, this Kent County Park is a jewel that is right here in our own back yard! Located just a few miles from Grand Rapids, Mich., many folks come to Pickerel to enjoy nature, but few really know the hidden treasures that lie within its boundaries.

Pickerel Lake
The natural shoreline of Kent County’s Pickerel Lake will be the site of a discovery program in September.

To celebrate this pristine beauty and lend a helping hand at educating the public on bringing nature to your own back yard, an event has been scheduled for Saturday, September 10, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. “Discover Pickerel Lake!” is a cooperative project between MSU Extension and Kent County Parks and is organized by a cadre of nature-lovin’ volunteers by both groups.

According to Ginny Wanty, coordinator for the MSU Extension Master Naturalist program, anyone who loves the out-of-doors will want to partake in this event that is designed for families and folks of all ages. While hiking around the two-mile loop at the water’s edge, kids can complete an “eye-spy” scavenger hunt as well as listen to 12 narrated stations with adult volunteer educators. Kids who complete their scavenger hunt will be entered into a drawing for a free “Discover!” t-shirt.

Wanty says that folks will be delighted to observe waterfowl, woodland birds and wild turkeys, chipmunks, deer and, yes, even beavers during this event.

“Few people realize that beaver are a part of the Bear Creek watershed, let alone are found so close to home,” Wanty says.

Beaver damage
Pristine conditions are the perfect environment for the elusive beaver who leaves evidence like this along the trail.

Their elusive nature makes them hard to see during the daylight hours, but in the fall, you may see them sliding through the water on a quite morning or early evening. Evidence of the beaver activity is quite a sight, with those characteristic “pointed” tree stumps and large twig shelters at the south end of the lake.

Besides home to beaver, the post-depression era system of dams and engineered waterways, coupled with a wide variety of wooded ecosystems, allows guests of the preserve to learn about flora and fauna. Kent County Parks has designed an easy walking trail with several boardwalks that cross parts of the lake, so guests can get up-close and personal with the natural world. Wanty also points out that, while beautiful, no area in west Michigan is immune from the negative impact of invasive plants and there are some great examples to learn from right here at Pickerel.

According to Wanty, the goal of this project is to help families find free or low cost events that enrich their appreciation of nature while connecting them to physical activity. While the trails are all handicap and stroller friendly, she reminds folks to bring along bottled water and a snack for youngsters who may become worn out on the two-hour hike. “We hope that folks will go home tired, happy and educated!” she says.

For more information about this program and directions to Pickerel Lake, log on to http://www.stuckongardening.com.

Find out about other educational resources and classes at http://www.migarden.msu.edu and at Finneran’s blog. You can contact the MSU Master Gardener Lawn and Garden Hotline at 888-678-3464 with your questions.

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