WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY
The cataclysmic land-sculpting forces of the last great glacier created the hilly topography that is the present day Oakland County. As the glacier retreated, and new landforms took shape, it gifted us with over 1,400 lakes of various sizes and depths. One of those lakes is 48 acre Teeple Lake, an alluring gem of nature tucked away in the heavily wooded and hilly southeast corner of the 5,900 acre Highland State Recreation Area.
I have lived in Oakland County for 30 years, and until earlier this month I never heard of Teeple Lake, that changed thanks to the Six Rivers Land Conservancy Adventure League. I accompanied Six Rivers for their picnic and kayak adventure at Teeple Lake, but first had to search a map to find the lake, and there it was, about twenty miles from my house, hidden away in plain sight.
The Adventure League holds biking, kayaking or hiking events every Wednesday evening (weather permitting) from May into early October, and also leads occasional weekend day outings.
The mission of the Conservancy is to “conserve, sustain and connect natural areas, lands and waters that make the places we live special.” Six Rivers operates in the watersheds of the Belle, Clinton, Flint, Huron, Rouge and Shiawassee rivers. Their website states, “We believe that our work has an effect far beyond any political boundaries. The land we protect and steward is very diverse, ranging from pristine and undisturbed natural areas to fragmented ecosystems in the urbanized areas closer to the cities of Flint, Pontiac, and Detroit.”
For more information on Oakland County based Six Rivers, and its Adventure League activities, visit https://www.sixriversrlc.org. It just may be the portal to your new nature adventures.
Teeple Lake is 28 feet deep. Its finned inhabitants are: northern pike, bluegill, crappie, perch, bass and bullhead, but the lake provides habitat for more than fish. After I greeted the adventure gang from Six Rivers, I pushed off under a cloudy sky from the easily accessible boat launch and slowly edged my kayak along the shoreline rich with White Water Lilies and Spatterdock (yellow water lily).
A female Red-winged Blackbird hopped about on the floating lily pads as she hunted insects. An Eastern Kingbird hovered just above the lily pads and snatched bugs from it just above the surface of the water. Barn Swallows swooped low overhead in their classic acrobatic, but graceful way. The longer I stayed motionless in the kayak, the closer all three species approached, making it easy to capture photos.
Another leisurely hour of paddling and drifting produced more discovery, including the deep resonating call of hidden American Bullfrogs, a water lily flower providing habitat for thousands of aphids, and a Cooper’s Hawk perched on a dead limb protruding over the lake.
Smoke rising from shore reminded me it was time to paddle in for the barbecue. It was there, under the picnic shelter, where I was treated to the sight of Barn Swallows feeding their young, in a nest of mud attached to the shelter’s rafter. They too have discovered that life can be good at Highland State Recreation Area’s Teeple Lake, just one of the many “public land” wonders on the Wilder Side of Oakland County.
For information on the Highland State Recreation Area, a site managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, visit: www.michigan.gov/highland.
Jonathan Schechter is the Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Government and blogs weekly about nature’s way, trails, and wildlife on the Wilder Side of Oakland County.