Oden State Fish Hatchery – Michigan Fisheries Visitor Center
Located on US-31 on the way north to Petoskey, Mackinaw City and beyond, the Oden State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center makes for a great quick side trip full of history and fun. It’s also handicap accessible and extremely kid-friendly, and can be a great spot to get out and stretch on a long road trip. The hatchery itself is located off a road to the south, but the visitor center has some attractions that aren’t to be missed. By my guess we had probably driven past this at least 30 times without stopping, and it is now a place we visit at least once a year. Here’s a look at some of the highlights of a self-guided walk through the center (my apologies for quality of some photos, I shot all of them with my phone):
A restored “Wolverine” rail car, which was once used to transport fish from the hatchery for planting elsewhere, exhibits inside.
Hiking trails that wind past a stream, ponds and through a cedar swamp.
The stream cutaway exhibit is a particular favorite, and a very unique view. You’re at stream level and can look through the glass to see fish swimming, photo and video below:
Next up is the BIG FISH POND, and when they say big they aren’t kidding. There are hundreds of good size fish back here (as well as the occasional hungry heron), and bring your quarters if you or the little ones want to feed them and see them up close.
Many of the old structures that were used to aid fish on their upstream journey are still in place and can be viewed on one of the loop trails.
Finally, on the way back you can really soak in how beautiful the entire setting is.
Also of note is a Michigan Historical Marker in the parking lot that details another animal’s history in Michigan – the Passenger Pigeon.
(Ectopistus migratorius) At one time North America’s most numerous bird, the passenger pigeon was particularly abundant in the Upper Mississippi Valley. The mature male was about 16 inches long. Less colorful and big was the female. In 1914 the last known survivor of the species died. At one time Michigan was a favorite nesting ground for the passenger pigeons. Vast quantities of beechnuts and other food attracted them. Each spring immense flocks arrived, literally darkening the skies hours at a time as they flew over. Here at Crooked Lake a nesting in 1878 covered ninety square miles. Millions of birds were killed, packed in barrels, and shipped from Petoskey. Such wanton slaughter helped to make the pigeon extinct by 1914. The conservationist’s voice was heard too late.
All told, the above stops can be visited in 30-45 minutes and appeal to a wide audience. Best of all, it’s FREE to visit and the staff on hand conducts guided tours throughout the day. Summer hours are 10AM-6PM M-Sat, 12-6 PM Sun and in the fall the Visitor Center is closed Mon., open 12-5 PM Sun. and 10AM-5PM Tues-Sat. Enjoy!