Upcoming Wildflower Walkabout tour: Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary

By Allison Raeck, MNA Intern

If you enjoy the smell of summer flowers, wide-open prairie, or a bit of ghost town mystery, be sure to join MNA for a guided tour of Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary in Mackinac County. The tour will be held on Friday, July 12, at 1 p.m. as part of MNA’s 2013 Wildflower Walkabout. The sanctuary, which should be in full bloom this time of year, will feature an interesting bit of history in the midst of a beautiful prairie setting.

Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary displays 36 acres of open prairie, which is slightly out of place amidst the Upper Peninsula’s thick forests. Though the preserve has no trails, the sanctuary’s open expanse allows visitors to navigate with ease. The land’s short grasses allow for the growth of a diverse range of wildflowers, together creating an ideal habitat for birds, insects, and other native creatures.

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A purple coneflower at Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary.
Photo courtesy of Aaron Strouse.

Summer flowers native to the area include prairie cinquefoil, toad flax and the sanctuary’s distinguishing feature: the pale purple coneflower. Fred Dye is one of two sanctuaries in Michigan where the purple coneflower is known to grow, and it can be identified by its thin, pink petals, which usually turn downward. Because coneflower taproots must dig deep into soil to obtain water, it has long been questioned how the species arrived in this thin-soiled location. Today, it is generally believed that the plant is a remnant of the past, as its seeds were in the hay fed to logging horses decades ago.

Among its wildflowers, Fred Dye is known for its bird species, many of which can be spotted year-round. Viewers can expect to see many breeding and migratory birds this time of year, as both thrive in this prairie habitat. Particularly, wild spruce grouse can be found in sandy areas of the sanctuary while ruby-throated hummingbirds roam its wildflowers.

Supporting many of its species is the sanctuary’s interesting Karst geology. Soluble bedrock, such as limestone and dolomite, is scattered throughout the area, and these rocks are decorated with algae, moss and lichen. Not only does this topography play a vital role in the sanctuary’s habitat formation, but it also makes it difficult for hardwood forests to develop in this area, contributing to the prairie landscape.

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The logging town of Kenneth, MI in 1908.
Photo courtesy of MNA archives.

In addition to the natural features Fred Dye displays today, the sanctuary also shows traces of an interesting past. Many years before Fred Dye’s founding in 1970, the small town of Kenneth once existed at the site of the sanctuary. Though the town thrived from the logging and limestone business in the early twentieth century, it eventually became somewhat of a ghost town, with the foundations of the old general store and saloon still standing within the sanctuary’s boundaries.

To learn more about Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary’s diverse plant and animal species as well as its mysterious past, be sure to come along for MNA’s guided tour on July 12. For more information on this event or other Wildflower Walkabout tours, visit MNA’s website.

The Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary and the Niagara Escarpment

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Purple Coneflower

The purple coneflower that Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary is known for. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

Sunday, July 15, was an especially hot day for the U.P. as we welcomed new Odyssey participants and reunited with some of our favorite folks from previous sanctuaries at the Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary near Brevort.  We were especially grateful to Board members Aubrey Golden and Gisela Lendle King who joined us at the Dye. This was our 11th Odyssey stop, and there was very different terrain than we had experienced previously. Our first “north of the Bridge” sanctuary did not disappoint as we quickly spotted a profusion of the pale purple coneflowers that this sanctuary is known for. A variety of butterflies were visiting the coneflowers along with some other flowers that were hanging on in this dry and hot summer like wild bergamot, black eyed Susan, and pale spiked lobelia.  It was also interesting seeing tamaracks growing here.

Aubrey, who is also the president of the Michigan Karst Conservancy, was a wealth of information as he helped lead us through this sanctuary.  Sitting on the exposed dolomite he explained how the cracks and caverns are formed and how unique these geological formations are.  He explained that the exposed bedrock here is part of the Niagara Escarpment and consists of dolomite (limestone with the addition of magnesium) formed from sediment of the Silurian age.  Of interest is that the same escarpment forms Niagara Falls and Drummond Island. The geological feature called karst is easily seen here because the bedrock is exposed, and the cracks in the dolomite are evident. Water drains into these cracks which further erodes the rock over long periods of time. Many species of lichen and mosses grow on the exposed dolomite, including the foam lichen. Thank you, Aubrey, for sharing your knowledge and enhancing our experience here.

Karst at Fred Dye

A glimpse of the karst geology at Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Dave Wendling

For a great description of this area and the pioneering town of Kenneth, now a ghost town, please see MNA’s Sanctuary Guidebook. There is some fascinating history surrounding this sanctuary.

At the conclusion of our tour people scattered in a variety of directions, some to visit other sanctuaries, others to return to tents and campgrounds, while still others went on a mission to find that perfect U.P. pasty.  We can’t wait to go back to the Yoop in September to explore four more wondrous MNA sanctuaries.  Won’t you join us?

Check out MNA’s Flickr for additional photos from the visit to Fred Dye!

July 14-15: Join MNA for an Exciting Weekend in Mackinac County

By Chelsea Richardson

Kayak the Les Cheneaux Islands

Join us for a kayak tour of the spectacular Les Cheneaux Islands

The second weekend in July will be a busy one in Mackinac County for MNA members.

On Saturday, July 14, the Michigan Nature Association is teaming up with Woods and Water Ecotours for a guided paddling excursion through the beautiful Les Cheneaux Islands.

The Les Cheneaux Islands lie east of the Mackinac Bridge along the northern shore of Lake Huron near Cedarville. The 36 island archipelago that makes up the Les Cheneaux Islands provides sheltered channels and bays within the straits of Mackinac.

Historically, these islands were used by Native Americans and French explorers to reach the straits of Mackinac. They have been designated by the Nature Conservancy as one of the last greatest places in the Western Hemisphere because of their pristine environment.

Participants will paddle the protected waters of this 36 island archipelago near Cedarville, exploring inner bays, beautiful boreal forests, wildflowers and freshwater marshes. The area has long been a popular summer escape for paddlers, with sailboats and summer cottages around the islands.

A certified kayak guide/instructor, all equipment and lunch are provided. No experience is necessary. For more information about the kayak trip, visit the MNA website.

Not too far from the Les Cheneaux Islands is MNA’s Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary. On July 15 at 1 p.m., the Odyssey Tour will visit this this beautiful sanctuary and hike its easy terrain while taking in all that Northern Michigan has to offer.

Purple Coneflower

A purple coneflower at Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Aaron Strouse

This sanctuary, once called the Purple Coneflower Plant Preserve, is one of only two places in Michigan where the purple coneflower can be found.

In a single day’s trip to the sanctuary, visitors have reported seeing blue-eyed grass, violets, evening primrose, St. John’s wort, and a number of orchids in addition to coneflower.  Bald eagles have been spotted on occasion, as well as evening grosbeak, sandhill cranes, deer, a red fox, and a large black bear.

For more information about the Odyssey Tour, see the Odyssey page on the MNA website.

We hope you’ll join us in Mackinac County during this fun-filled weekend! Give us a call at (866) 223-2231 if you have any questions.