Manistee-Wexford County
  • Register

Birding Manistee-Wexford County: Hotspots near Cadillac & Manistee


(A) Misty Acres Nature Preserve ★★

Straddling the Manistee-Benzie County line, Misty Acres Nature Preserve protects 585 acres of forest, pristine wetlands, as well as a mile of the Betsie River’s shoreline. Considerably hilly, the terrain at Misty Acres is threaded by several trails leading through steep ravines. There is also a small farm on the preserve which hosts a herd of Belted Galloway cattle. The cows are famous for the striking white belt covering their midsections.

Birders visiting Misty Acres should keep their eyes open for Bobolinks, Field Sparrows, and Eastern Meadowlarks. Rarely mowed, the preserve’s meadows and grasslands provide optimal nesting habitat for many species of grassland birds.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Belted Galloway CowBelted Galloway Cow


(B) Arcadia Dunes Grasslands ★★

Arcadia Dunes Grasslands consist of 300 acres of fields currently being restored by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. There are many types of grassland birds which make their home in the meadows. Visitors may be fortunate enough to see a Clay-colored Sparrow hopping through the weeds or a Northern Harrier soaring low overhead search of field mice. To avoid disturbing the birds, be sure to stay on the road or one of the mowed trails leading through the fields. During the early springtime and late fall, Short-eared Owls can sometimes be seen flying over the fields at dusk.

Directions: Click here


(C) Glover’s Lake Road Grasslands ★★

The grasslands at Glover’s Lake Road provide a great place to look for Eastern Meadowlarks, Savannah Sparrows, and Bobolinks. The Bobolinks are a special sighting since they avoid nesting in a field previously disturbed by farmers. The blackbirds are locally uncommon in southern Michigan. The preserve is owned by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.

Directions: Click here

Eastern MeadowlarkEastern Meadowlark


(D) Arcadia Beach Natural Area ★

Positioned at the end of Lake Street, Arcadia Beach Natural Area features a large deck overlooking Lake Michigan. The park provides birders with a good spot to set up a spotting scope and search for Buffleheads and other waterfowl species. During the summer months a porta-potty is available.

Directions: Click here


(E) Arcadia Marsh Preserve and Lake ★★

Arcadia Marsh Nature Preserve provides birders with access to 155 acres of the Great Lakes Coastal Marsh. The wetlands are part of an endangered ecosystem which has been mostly destroyed by construction and development—only 20% of the original fresh-water marsh habitat remains.

Over 150 species of birds call the marsh home, including 17 considered threatened or endangered. With patience and a little luck, both species of bitterns can be seen. In the past, birders have spotted many rare bird species, including Purple Gallinules and Bewick’s Wrens. Formal parking for the marsh is currently under development. Until then, visitors will have to park on the side of the road or in a local business parking lot.

Directions: Click here


(F) Chamberlain Road ★

A walk along the edge of Chamberlain Road in May can often reveals warblers flittering through the brush. At the western end of the road, a rocky pier juts out into Lake Michigan.

During the winter, ducks can be spotted offshore. Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, and mergansers are common visitors. The best time to visit is during February and March on calm, sunny days. Walking out on the pier when the weather is windy or when there is ice can be dangerous—do not take the risk.

Directions: Click here

Red-breasted MerganserRed-breasted Merganser


(G) Arcadia Lakeshore ★

Visitors can explore a variety of habitats at Arcadia Lakeshore, including a sandy beach, rocky pier, and pine forest. One of the area’s highlights is a channel of water about 200 feet wide connecting Lake Arcadia to Lake Michigan. Two types of terns, Common and Caspian, can regularly be found near the shoreline.

Directions: Click here


(H) Lakeview & Schaef Road ★

The intersection of Lakeview & Schaef Road has many berry bushes nearby, creating an attractive feeding area for kinglets, waxwings, and finches. During the winter, Bohemian Waxwings can sometimes be spotted flying in large flocks of Cedar Waxwings. After exploring checking the roads for birds, head down to the Lake Michigan public access point. Near the shore, several stands of Douglas Firs and Norway Spruce provide shelter for Northern Shrikes during the winter.

Directions: Click here


(I) Portage Point ★

Portage Point is a narrow shaft of land between Portage Lake and Lake Michigan. Visitors will be interested in searching the large sandy beach for gulls and sandpipers. There is also a pier available, providing birders with closer access to deep waters. Common Loons and White-winged Scoters can be sometimes sighted.

Directions: Click here


(J) Portage Park ★★

With its winding and numerous paved bike paths, Portage Park provides birders with many routes to explore the preserve’s fields. Dotted by trees, the meadows are a good place to find Savannah Sparrows and other grassland birds.

Directions: Click here


(K) Farr Center ★

Located on Portage Lake, Farr Center’s highlights include a large wetland tract and a stream. During the fall, dozens of diving ducks can be seen on the lake. Some of the common species to look for include Canvasbacks, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks, Buffleheads, and Common Goldeneyes.

When scoping from the point, birders should keep their eyes open for bald eagles perched in the large cotton trees to the south.



(L) Lake Bluff Audubon Center ★★

Centered in the direct path of a migration flyway, Lake Bluff Bird Sanctuary is home to the Lake Bluff Migration Week, which is an annual bird festival. The area is a birding hotspot because of thousands of warblers and sandpipers that migrate through every spring. The middle of May is the best time to see shorebirds and passerines.

Originally an arboretum, Lake Bluff Audubon Center has many kinds of trees for visitors to admire. Sightseers and photographers will find much to look at, including redwoods, sequoias, and 1,500 feet of scenic Lake Michigan shoreline.

In April, windy weather can sometimes redirect dozens of hawks over the little sanctuary. Lake Bluff Audubon Center is one of the few places where hawk watching is better in the spring than the fall. Early spring is also a good time to watch large rafts of Long-tailed Ducks floating offshore.

Website: | Map: Click here
Phone: (231) 723-4042
Directions: Click here

Long-tailed DuckLong-tailed Duck


(M) Orchard Beach State Park ★★

Open from March through November, the highlight of Orchard Beach State Park is a large Beech & Maple forest, creating excellent nesting habitat for Blackburnian Warblers, Barred Owls, and Pileated Woodpeckers. Most birders focus their visit on the Lake Michigan overlook, where huge flocks of Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, and other ducks can be seen below during migration—naturalists once counted up to 15,000 Long-tailed Ducks.

Other birds commonly seen are Red-breasted and Common Mergansers, Horned Grebes, and all three species of scoters. During the winter when the park closes, park near the front gate a safe distance from the busy highway.

Website: | Map: Click here
Directions: Click here


(N) Manistee River State Game Area ★

Located next to a large river mouth, Manistee River State Game Area is home to several large marshes, hosting incredible numbers of migrant birds during the springtime. Green Herons, Wood Ducks, and Blue-winged Teals can easily be seen. Least and American Bitterns also live in the preserve, but are harder to find.

When driving through the state game area, be careful not to stop and park on the bridge, which is strictly prohibited. There are parking areas a short distance north of the bridge.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Green HeronGreen Heron


(O) Penny Park ★

Penny Park provides birders with a good spot to search the waters of Manistee Lake for Common Mergansers and other duck species. A wetland lies close by the 930-acre lake.

Directions: Click here


(P) Manistee Riverwalk ★★

Following the river for 1.5 miles, Manistee Riverwalk is an excellent wintertime spot for finding gulls and waterfowl. Once the warm weather and crowds of people arrive, the birds most likely to be sighted include Mallards, Ring-billed Gulls and Herring Gulls.

The GPS points lead to a parking area on the north end of Jones Street, from where birders can walk west for 1.5 miles. There are several other parking areas available alongside the river.

Directions: Click here

Herring GullHerring Gull


(Q) Manistee South and North Piers ★★

The south and north piers of Manistee are a worthy birding destination during the wintertime just before the ice freezes, when large flocks of gulls and ducks can be seen. Rarities sighted by birders in the past include a Harlequin Duck and a Purple Sandpiper. Because of its rocky, algae-covered sides, the south pier attracts many bird species.

Directions: Click here


(R) Magoon Creek & Sundling Parks ★★

Magoon Creek Park & Sundling Park features 1.5 miles of trails, a sandy Lake Michigan beach, and a picnicking area. The two parks, which are adjacent to each other, contain a sandy dune forest. Known for its 80-foot high bluffs, Magoon Creek Park is an excellent place to search for Cliff Swallows and hawks, which can be seen soaring on air currents. The park has a hand water pump and rustic restrooms available.

Both Magoon Creek Park & Sundling Park are inaccessible during the wintertime. The GPS points lead to an unnamed road, where Magoon Creek Park is south of the road, and Sundling Park is north.

Directions: Click here


(S) Manistee National Forest ★★

Manistee National Forest stretches over 481,000 acres of land, its massive size offering birders many places to visit. The area is especially beautiful because of the numerous creeks with little waterfalls leading down to the Manistee River. Adventurous birders may be interested in hiking the North Country Trail, which traverses a beautiful old-growth forest reminiscent of what Michigan looked like before the logging days.

There are many kinds of warblers that nest in the forest, including Golden-winged Warblers and Mourning Warblers. Some of the other kinds of birds that visitors should expect to see are Broad-winged Hawks, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and Yellow-throated Vireos. Biting flies swarm the woods during the late months of spring, so do not forget to bring bug repellent.

Directions: Click here

Blue-winged WarblerBlue-winged Warbler


(T) Hodenpyle Dam ★

Located on the north side of the Manistee National Forest, the Hodenpyle Dam regulates the flow of the mighty Manistee River. During the spring and fall, Horned and Pied-billed Grebes can be seen diving for food near the dam. After searching the pond for water birds, walk alongside the river on the Upper River Road. Mourning and Golden-winged Warblers can be heard singing during May and June.

On the north side of Hodenpyle Dam, there is a small Veterans Memorial Park. The park is a good place to look for sandpipers, ducks, and Bald Eagles. The water stays ice-free all year around, making the area habitable to Mute Swans and other waterfowl during the cold winter months.

Directions: Click here

Bald EaglesBald Eagles


(U) William Mitchell State Park ★★

Positioned on a water channel connecting two giant lakes, William Mitchell State Park is a popular summer destination for recreational enthusiasts. Combined, Lake Cadillac and Lake Mitchell cover more than 4,000 acres. Birders visiting the park will enjoy walking on a 2.5 mile nature trail providing access to marshy wetlands and mature forest. Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Red-breasted Nuthatches are common sightings at William Mitchell State Park. Modern restrooms and 221 campsites are available.

Website: | Map: Click here
Phone Number: (231) 775-7911
Fees: Recreation Passport required ($11 resident, $31.10 non-resident)
Directions: Click here