WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY
Oakland County Parks are impressive on so many fronts. The year-round recreational opportunities are endless and provide tons of family fun. Yet, for the month of April, it’s the natural resources, abundant wildlife and incredible beauty that are at the top of my list. All of these things can be easy to find along the nearly 70 miles of trails that embrace the lakes, meadows, woodlands and glacially sculpted hills of the 13 Oakland County Parks. There are trails for every ability and age and even trails for equestrians. Some trails are hill-huggers, where those that dream of the Appalachian Trail can get leg muscles into shape. There are even paved looped trails that are perfect for a family walk with a baby stroller and grandparents. You’ll definitely want to consider April to be your month to reconnect with nature.
I’ll share a secret here: The quiet walker sees the most. Although wildlife is abundant, most species along the trails, except perhaps for squirrels, are people wary. If you walk quietly, early in the day, stop often and perhaps sit on a log and just listen, a world of wildlife unfolds. What might you see? How about Sandhill Cranes, Wild Turkey, Eastern Bluebirds, Canada Geese on nests or defending their territory, Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks soaring, Great Blue Heron and American Egrets fishing, Osprey diving for fish, Red-winged Blackbirds flashing their colors, migrating Vireos and Warblers. You may even catch a fleeting glimpse of a Pileated Woodpecker.
There are some wildlife species you may not see at all, but in these warm wet days of mid-April, you will hear them. The vernal ponds are symphonies of the songs of wood frogs, spring peepers and chorus frogs. You may even hear the splash of a turtle that detected your approach and slipped back into the water or a muskrat that departed the shoreline for the safety of the lake.
We may lack tourist-snaring, thundering waters like the mighty Niagara Falls, but our parks are rich with glacial lakes. Lakes that shimmer with the slightest of spring winds, reflect the movement of fluffy clouds and leave nature lovers in awe. Don’t forget, our lakes are kayak-friendly and offer tranquil paddling. The most accessible lakes for kayaking can be found at Addison Oaks, Orion Oaks and Independence Oaks county parks.
If you’re a plant admirer, you’ll be thrilled to notice colorful woodland wildflowers, with intriguing names, are also emerging. Round-lobed hepatic, Bloodroot, Spring Beauty and Spotted Adders-Tongue are just a few. At the edge of the marshes, a careful observer will note the reddish hoods of Skunk Cabbage, soon to be followed by brilliant yellow blooms of Marsh Marigolds. Now is the time to spring into nature. So go, take a hike!
Text and photos by Nature Education Writer, Jonathan Schechter. Originally published April 17, 2015, updated on April 15, 2016.
For details on all 13 parks, trails and spring nature programs, visit www.oakgov.com/parks.