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Michigan dnr > wildlife viewing guide > northern lower peninsula > manistee river

41 Manistee River Northern Lower Peninsula

wildlife viewing  |  facility information

Suspension bridge A new suspension bridge across the Manistee River below Hodenpyl Dam provides great viewing of brown trout and other fish species in the river, plus songbirds that live along this section of the river.
Photo © Consumerís Energy.

The Manistee River is one of Michiganís premier canoe floats. Clear, cool water, good fishing, and excellent wildlife watching can be found here year round. This 30-mile stretch of the river from M-37 above the Village of Mesick to Tippy Dam near Wellston features many miles of undeveloped, natural shoreline in the Manistee National Forest, plus the Hodenpyl Dam and Tippy Dam Pond areas. There are plenty of public access sites along the route where canoes and small boats can be launched. A variety of opportunities for observing wildlife from these accessible shoreline locations are also available.

Wildlife Viewing

observation deck at veterans park
The barrier-free shoreline observation deck at Veteranís Memorial Park is a good place to see wildlife along the scenic Manistee River. The park is one mile west of Mesick on M-115. Photo © Consumerís Energy.

There is a good chance of viewing bald eagles on Hodenpyl Pond from several shoreline points. Try the new barrier-free shoreline observation deck at the Veteranís Memorial Park, one mile west of Mesick on M-115, or the Roadside Scenic Turnout two miles south of Mesick on M-37.

A new suspension footbridge across the Manistee River below Hodenpyl Dam links the Manistee River Trail on the east side of the river with a section of the national North Country Trail on the west side. This creates a 20-mile loop hiking experience where numerous wildlife and bird species are common sites. The bridge itself also allows for great viewing of brown trout and other fish species in the river, plus songbirds that live along this section of the river. To reach the bridge, go west from Mesick on M-115 two miles to Hodenpyl Dam Road, then five miles west to the Hodenpyl Dam entrance sign, then one half mile to Upper River Road, and then one-quarter mile south to the bridge site. Just beyond the Upper River Road turnoff is Hodenpyl Dam with access to a popular brown trout fishing spot below the dam.

During the three to four hour float between Hodenpyl Dam and the Coates Highway bridge (Red Bridge) you may see eagles, river otters, red tailed hawks, deer, and perhaps even a black bear along the river, especially if you take an early morning float. Near Red Bridge, which also serves as the southern connection for the river hiking loop, look for trumpeter swans. Consumers Energy is helping to restore this native species once lost from Michiganís waterways due to unregulated market hunting and habitat loss. Trumpeters can be distinguished from the introduced European mute swans by their foghorn like call, their vertical, straight neck and smooth jet-black bill. Mute swans, which are also seen here, have an orange bill with a prominent black knob on the upper bill, a curved neck, and they make no sound louder than a hiss. To reach Red Bridge by road, from the junction of M-37 and M-55 go three miles west on M-55 to Warfield Road, then north five miles to Coates Highway, then west one and one-half miles to Red Bridge. Returning to M-55 and continuing two miles west from Warfield Road brings you to the Pine River Roadside Rest. Here, where the Pine River joins the Manistee, stairs lead to a pedestrian walkway on the Cooley Bridge spanning the river Ė chances of viewing bald eagles from active nests a short ways downstream are excellent spring and early summer.

Tippy Dam
The concrete spillway chamber on the Tippy Dam has a large hollow cavity where about 20,000 bats hibernate each winter.
Photo © Consumerís Energy).

Another two miles west along M-55 brings you to Tippy Dam Road, turn north two and one-half miles to the dam. Here you can view the Tippy powerhouse from an overlook site or follow the stairway to the river below the dam, where anglers gather to pursue the spectacular salmon and steelhead runs every spring and fall. The concrete spillway chamber at the dam has a large hollow cavity, creating a cave that has become the winter hibernation home for about 20,000 bats each year, including the farthest known northern occurrence of the endangered Indiana bat.

Portions of this area are open to public hunting. Contact the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for affected seasons and locations.

MapOwnership: Consumers Energy Company (231) 779-5503,
U.S. Forest Service, Manistee Ranger District (231) 723-2211,
Michigan Department of Natural Resources (231) 775-9727

Size: Approximately 30 river miles

Closest Towns: Mesick, Wellston, Manistee (19 miles west)

Weather and Driving Directions for Mesick

Plan Your Trip with travel.michigan.org!

More information can be found by visiting the DNR's site (link leads to web app allowing users to search for campgrounds, harbors, trails and more), or by conducting a Google search:

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