Wildlife Viewing Tips. Although there are no guarantees that you will see lots of wildlife while driving this tour, there are some things you can do to greatly increase your chances of being successful:
Drive the tour in the early morning or evening - wildlife are more active then. Be patient - don’t expect to see everything in the first five minutes you’re there. Use binoculars, spotting scopes, and cameras. Bring along field guides to help you identify what you see. Stay back a safe distance from wildlife - the goal is to observe nature without changing animal behavior. Respect the rights of others - don’t spook wildlife being viewed by someone else. Leave the site better than you found it - pick up litter. Be prepared for insects - bring along bug spray or a head net.
Kirtland’s Warbler Monument (Downtown Mio). Dedicated by Roger Tory Peterson in 1963, this three foot tall replica of a male Kirtland’s warbler is encased in glass and surrounded by stone. It stands as a memorial to the people that have endeavored to save these highly endangered birds.
Mack Lake Burn - Essential Habitat for Kirtland’s Warblers. The Mack Lake burn was created by a forest fire in 1980 that spread over 25,000 acres and burned numerous homes and buildings. The are burned by the fire (shaded on the map) provided important habitat to help boost the total population in the early 1990s.
Snags - There’s Life in Dead Trees. When the trees at this site were cut to make pulp for paper products, trees that were already dead were left standing. The informational signs at this site explain why dead trees are important to wildlife and what you can do to help.
Ruffed Grouse Walk. Like the Kirtland’s warbler the ruffed grouse needs young, dense, forest habitat to survive. Forest management practices like clear cutting can greatly benefit these stately birds. To learn more about grouse and their habitat, pick up a self-guide trail brochure at this site and take the Ruffed Grouse Walk. This 3,330 ft. trail is handicapped-accessible.
AuSable Valley Scenic Vista. Get an eagle’s-eye view of the beautiful AuSable River Valley and Alcona Dam Pond. Eagles nest along the pond and river, and an interpretive sign at this site tells about eagles and their relationship with the river. Can you guess how much some eagle nests weigh? Find out at this viewing site.
AuSable High Banks Overlook - A Ribbon of Life for Wildlife. From this overlook you can get a breathtaking view of the AuSable River. A variety of fish and wildlife depend on the river and the plants along its banks. NOTE: Please stay on marked pathways and stairs to help prevent further erosion on the steep river bank.
Ecosystem Management Area - Creating Habitat for the Kirtland’s Warbler. The areas surrounding this site are being managed through commercial timber harvesting and replanting to maintain the jack pine ecosystem. The area to the east of the parking area was cut in 1993 and planted in 1995. The area across the highway was cut in 1991, planted in 1992 and first-occupies by Kirtland’s warblers in 1997.
Hoist Lakes Hiking Trails. Over 20 miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails wind their way through forests and along small lakes and marshes in this semi-primative - foot travel only - area. A brochure with a detailed trail map is available at U.S. forest Service offices.
O’Brian Lake - Picture-Postcard Lake. A handicapped - accessible boardwalk down to the Lake's, edge is a perfect spot for fishing and wildlife watching. To get to O’Brian Lake, turn south in McKinley at the watchable wildlife binocular sign, then follow the O’Brian Lake signs.
Clear cut - New Warbler Habitat. This 185-acre area was cut in 1995 and replanted in 1997. The informational signs at this site explain how ”picky” Kirtland's. warblers are.
Beaver Pond - A Close-up View. On this stream, a family of beavers has constructed a dam and lodge. Beavers are active at night, but if you stop by this site at dawn or dusk, you might catch a glimpse of them. Evidence of their activity (fallen trees and skid ways) can seen at any time of the day.
Wild Turkey Viewing Side Trip. This side trip noted on the map will take you north to Fairview, Wild Turkey Capital of Michigan. The agricultural areas you will see along the Abbe and Weaver Roads are especially attractive to wild turkeys and, because the areas are more open, spotting turkeys is easier.
AuSable River Loop Overlook. Bald eagles and various kinds of waterfowl are commonly viewed here. A bench perched above the AuSable River at this scenic overlook offers the perfect place to end the Jack Pine Wildlife Viewing Tour.