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Birding Houghton County: Hotspots near Houghton & Calumet


(A) F. J. McLain State Park ★★

For birders, the highlight of F. J. McLain State Park is a concrete seawall extending out into Lake Superior. The dike provides birders with an excellent place to scan for waterfowl and gulls. If the weather is windy, do not walk out onto the pier. Waves can spill over the wall, making the concrete barrier dangerously slippery. Check the parking area for warblers, then walk across M-203 to the trail leading to Bear Lake. Sandhill Cranes nest near the lake in the spring, and can be quite aggressive at times.

F. J. McLain State Park offers a large campground with full amenities for birders to stay overnight. When visiting the state park, be sure to bring a camera. The sunsets are beautiful, effectively coloring the lighthouse in picturesque fashion.

Website: michigan.gov/mclain | Map: Click here
Phone: (906) 482-0278
Fees: Recreation Passport required ($11 resident, $31.10 non-resident)
Directions: Click here

Sandhill CraneSandhill Crane


(B) Calumet Waterworks Park ★

Showcasing a large, rocky beach on the edge of Lake Superior, Calumet Waterworks Park is a good place to stop and search for gulls, terns, and sandpipers. There are many picnic tables available for visitors to enjoy, as well as a basketball court, and enough sand to lie on and relax.

Directions: Click here


(C) Calumet Sewage Treatment Facility ★

The Calumet Sewage Treatment Facility is a good place to see sandpipers during the spring and fall migrations. Search each of the ponds carefully—the species of birds present can change with the rising or falling of water levels. Be sure to check in at the office first to get permission before birding the area. If there is any heavy equipment in use, park somewhere out of the way.

Directions: Click here


(D) Centennial Heights Pond ★

Centennial Heights Pond is a small lake surrounded by wetlands and woods. Search the large pond for Bufflehead, Pied-billed Grebes, and other waterfowl species. After a rainfall, visitors should avoid driving on the trail leading to the lake.

Directions: Click here

Pied-billed GrebePied-billed Grebe


(E) Calumet Lake ★

Calumet Lake is a 32-acre body of water with a small wetland area on its south side. The lake is a good place to search for loons, ducks, and grebes.

Directions: Click here


(F) Swedetown Marsh and Ski Trail ★★

The Swedetown trail system is popular among mountain bikers and cross-country skiers. Athletic birders may wish to pursue one of these activities while keeping their eyes open for winter finches.

A small lake located in the general vicinity of the trails often contains dabbling ducks and other waterfowl. Next to the lake, a marsh creates a suitable nesting habitat for rails and bitterns.

Website: swedetowntrails.org
Phone: (906) 337-1170
Directions: Click here


(G) Schoolcraft Township Park ★

Schoolcraft Township Park is a small country park located on the shore of Lake Superior, featuring a sandy beach and a picnic area. Nearby is a large swamp and a river flowing into Lake Superior. When visiting Schoolcraft Township Park, keep an eye out for offshore diving ducks. Occasionally, Surf and Black Scoters can be sighted.

Directions: Click here

Lake SuperiorLake Superior


(H) Rice Lake Access ★

Rice Lake is 680 acres in size, but only 9 feet deep. The shallow lake provides a resting spot for migrating grebes and other waterfowl. Covered with forest, the lake’s shoreline gives birders an opportunity to search for songbirds.

Directions: Click here


(I) Lake Linden Recreation Park ★★

Located on the shores of Torch Lake, Lake Linden Recreation Park is a great place to set up a scope and scan the mud flats and open waters for sandpipers and ducks. One of the best places to look for avian rarities is the sewage ponds by the campground. A few years ago birders discovered a Ross' Goose and a Ruff at the wastewater facility.

The campground at Lake Linden Recreational Park features 20 modern campsites, a beach, playground, and a disc golf course. It is a great place to stay while birding the Keweenaw Peninsula since the recreational activities and nearby shopping provide any non-birder family members with something to do. There is a 2.5 mile nature trail nearby.

Directions: Click here

(J) Tamarack City Sewage (Rest. Access) ★

Positioned close to Torch Lake, the Tamarack City Sewage Ponds can be viewed through a fence from the road. Numerous waterfowl and sandpiper species can be spotted on the ponds during migration. Please request permission before birding the area.

Directions: Click here



(K) Boston Lake Access ★

Boston Lake is a 72-acre lake located amidst a large, undeveloped forest. The lake is a good place to see many kinds of waterfowl & sandpipers. Birders have also reported seeing many species of warblers in the woods near the lake, including Canada, Chestnut-sided, Cape May, Black-throated Green, and Palm.

Directions: Click here


(L) Paavola Wetlands Preserve ★★

Paavola Wetlands Preserve is a 115-acre wetland area with boardwalks leading through the marshes and around a 15-acre “duck” pond. There is also a meadow and an alder scrub forest for birders to explore.

Directions: Click here


(M) North Canal Township Park ★★

Located next to the mouth of the Pilgrim River and Lake Superior, North Canal Township Park is an excellent place to search for gulls, terns, and ducks. The 177-acre park consists of forest and open fields. There are two rocky piers which extend far into Lake Superior, creating a protected harbor for waterfowl.

Directions: Click here

Caspian TernCaspian Tern


(N) Michigan Tech Ski Trail ★★

Located directly behind Michigan Technological University, the Michigan Tech Ski Trail is a great place to look for migrating warblers. The ski trails link up with Nara Nature Park. Just east of the university is the Pilgrim River, which is a popular fly-fishing destination.

A group of Michigan Tech’s alumni are currently working to protect the 1,360 acres of wilderness surrounding the Pilgrim River.

Website: michigantechrecreation.com/trails/forest | Map: Click here
Phone: (906) 487-2578
Fees: The cost for a single day pass for the Michigan Tech ski trails is $6 for Michigan residents; $10 for out-of-state users.
Directions: Click here


(O) Nara Nature Park & Pilgrim River ★★

Donated to the city of Houghton by Bob & Ruth Nara, Nara Nature Park is a 100-acre park with a chalet that features an interpretive display. The chalet also provides guests with a warm fireplace, restrooms, and a concession area. The park’s highlight is a wide, mile-long boardwalk following the Pilgrim River. The wetlands surrounding the Pilgrim River are an excellent place to search for ducks, sandpipers, and warblers.

The Pilgrim River mouth sits across from US-41, east of Nara Nature Park. When combined with the Michigan Tech Ski Trails, the three areas offer visitors over 50 miles of trails to explore.

Directions: Click here


(P) Centennial Park ★

Composed of 6 acres on the shores of Pike Bay, Centennial Park lies on the southern end of Portage Lake. The sheltered cove provides ducks and other waterfowl a place to rest during windy weather. Many different kinds of waterfowl can be seen at the park, including Canada Geese, Gadwall, American Wigeons, Blue-winged Teals, Green-winged Teals, Horned Grebes, and occasionally a Red-necked Grebe.

There are many amenities available at Centennial Park, including a playground, pavilion, fishing pier, swimming beach, wetlands walkway, shelter, and a picnic area. The park hosts the Copper Country Strawberry Festival every year.

Directions: Click here

Red-necked GrebeRed-necked Grebe


(Q) Chassell Sewage (Restricted Access) ★

Chassell Sewage Ponds consists of two large ponds bordered by forest. Because a gate restricts access to the sewage ponds, be sure to request permission before visiting. Many kinds of waterfowl can be seen on the ponds in the spring and fall, including several rare species. In the past, lucky birders saw a Greater White-fronted Goose and a Eurasian Wigeon.

Directions: Click here


(R) Sturgeon River Road ★

Located south of Chassell, Sturgeon River Road follows the Sturgeon River, providing birders with many places to stop and listen for migrating Black-throated Green Warblers and other songbirds.

Directions: Click here


(S) Portage Lake Overlook ★

Portage Lake Overlook provides birders with a good view of the water channel dividing the Keweenaw Peninsula. The channel is wide enough to host large flocks of waterfowl.

Directions: Click here


(T) White City Park ★

White City Park is a good place to look for northern specialties during the wintertime. While visiting the park, be sure to search for Spruce Grouse and Pine Grosbeaks in the pine trees. To access the park, birders will have to drive 30 miles around Portage Lake and Torch Bay.

Directions: Click here