One of the major events on today’s Olympic schedule is whitewater kayaking. Basically, individual kayakers have to navigate through gates on a man-made whitewater course. And if you really enjoy watching the sport, why not try it yourself. The best place to do that in our region is South Bend, Indiana. The East Race Waterway is 1900 feet and has Class 2 rating in terms of whitewater. Kayaking in South Bend is not for beginners, but it also offers whitewater rafting for a small fee. And this section of the St. Joseph River has five miles of trail along its course. It’s really fun to watch the kayakers from the trails.
Kathy and I only have Comcast lifeline basic cable. It’s pretty good and cheap. That’s why we like it. However, it does come with something called the Live Well Network. Tonight, I was flipping the channels and came across a show called Motion. And, as luck would have it, they were broadcasting a tour of Minnesota’s Lake Superior North Shore. I love anything to do with Lake Superior and traveled this region several years ago. After a little checking, I discovered that this episode – and all episodes from the show – are available for free streaming online. Check the link below:
The Detroit News reports that visitation to Michigan’s national parks is up BIG. According to the News, visits to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Pictured Rocks National Park and River Raisin National Battlefield Park are up 54% cumulatively over last year. SBDNL is up 59%. The River Raisin National Battlefield Park has seen visitation roughly triple. This is a VERY good sign for Michigan and Monroe County. Hopefully it indicates a big year for tourism overall.
I just returned from a family trip to Nova Scotia with my wife, Kathy, and two-year-old son, Jacob. It was a fantastic trip that included whale watching, some hiking and lots of sightseeing along Canada’s maritime shore. And I couldn’t help but notice that Nova Scotia’s major city and port, Halifax, allows pedestrian and bicycle access along one of its two main bridges.
The MacDonald Bridge rises dramatically over Halifax’s very deep and very important harbor. The suspension bridge is a bit more than eight tenths of a mile in length and offers dramatic views from Halifax all the way to the Atlantic. It is a major landmark and is comparable in size and stature to Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge.
One major difference between the two bridges is the fact that the MacDonald Bridge offers a bicycle lane on one side and a pedestrian lane on the other. The Ambassador Bridge does not. This makes the MacDonald Bridge a tourist attraction in its own right and generally adds to wonderful ambiance of the city. The Ambassador Bridge has not been terribly welcoming on any level during the past few decades.
But there is some hope. A December 11th blog post at mbike.org notes that the plans for the Detroit River International Crossing, do include the infrastructure needed for a shared-use walk/bike lane on the new bridge. Mbike.org quotes the environmental study created for the DRIC project:
“The new bridge over the Detroit River and the plaza will be engineered to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians. U.S. Customs and Border Protection and its Canadian counterpart (Customs and Border Services Agency) will determine whether this traffic is allowed. All facilities will be designed to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. This will include sidewalks along the roads to be repaved as part of the project.”
Of course, the Ambassador Bridge originally did allow for pedestrian access. Regular suicide attempts, challenges with border security, difficult infrastructure and the busy nature of the crossing eventually ended pedestrian access. But these kinds of problems are present on most major bridges of this type – including Halifax’s MacDonald Bridge. But pedestrian access is not banned. And given the difficulties that our region faces, I don’t think that we can overlook any opportunity to make our area more appealing to visitors and residents.
Note: The image above is from the wikimedia commons.
This half day tour will travel by carpool to lotus beds in Monroe County where you can view these large flowers with their umbrella-like circular leaves in shallow waters.Tour and Lunch provided at no cost
All are welcome to attend, registration is required
For my money, the best long distance views in the entire region can be experienced from the top of the 350-foot Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial on Put-in-Bay Island in western Lake Erie.
The tower memorializes the victory of Commodore Oliver Perry over the British fleet during the War of 1812 near the island. It remains one of the great military victories in American military history.
The observation deck is completely open air. A visitor can feel the wind and elements unlike observation decks at places like the Willis Tower in Chicago. Canada is visible on clear days. Islands dot Lake Erie. And, of course, the historical nature of the monument make it a good learning experience during a family trip.
Unfortunately, the monument has been closed during the last three years. Massive slabs of stone began falling from the monument at that time. Safety issues forced a multi-million dollar rehabilitation campaign that is now nearing completion.
The work is ahead of schedule and the monument will reopen today in anticipation of the July 4th holiday. It is nice to see one of the great attractions of our region return to fully operational status.
One of my all-time favorite local nature blogs is the Urban Dragon Hunters blog. The blog is written by SE Michigan ecologists Darrin O’Brian and Julie Craves. And, if you haven’t gotten the pun in their name already, they monitor the comings and goings of the area dragonfly and damselfly populations. The blog is very much worth a look.
The latest blog post covers a recent trip to Pte. Mouillee, thousands of Blue Dashers and, of course, mayflies. It is worth a look:
We are, of course, in the middle of a knock-down, drag-out battle about plans to build a new Detroit River bridge. Anyone who has watched Detroit television lately knows that millions of dollars are being spent to support and oppose the bridge. That said, it now appears likely that a new bridge will be built. And I think that it is important to ask if there will be any accommodation for bicyclists and pedestrians on the new bridge.
Major bridges can serve as tourist attractions. The Golden Gate Bridge, Sydney Harbor Bridge and Mackinac Bridge all attract thousands of visitors and generate millions in revenue. This new bridge will not have that kind of impact. But it could be a nice addition to the geography of the area. One only needs to look at the Veterans’ Glass City Skyway in Toledo for inspiration. That bridge across the Maumee River is striking and fun to drive across. It is the focus of a developing group of parks.
The new Detroit River Crossing could be that, too. And just think about how cool it would be to walk or ride a bike across – at least a few times per year.
On that note, the Windsor Star has an interesting blog report about a recent group ride across the existing Ambassador Bridge. Read it below. Note: Thanks to Todd Scott of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance for helping to organize the event.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer has a good story about Lake Erie Bluffs, the newest park located on the Lake Erie shoreline. Lake (County) Metroparks will operate the 139 acre park. It boasts 1,300 feet of Lake Erie beach, a half-mile trail and a scenic overlook on top of 60-foot-high bluffs. It sounds like a nice place.