Did you know?*
- There are more than 13,000 miles of trails in Michigan.
- There are more than 3,000 water trails in Michigan.
- The Great Lakes hold 21 percent of the world’s fresh surface water, about six quadrillion gallons!
- Thirteen native species of frogs and toads call Michigan home.
- Michigan has 102 state parks.
- You can see the Great Lakes from space!
- More than 1,000 gallons of water are wasted each year for every one drop of water that drips every two seconds from a pipe or faucet.
These cool facts are a few of the many things that we learned when visiting the Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit. Created by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, this 41,000-square-foot building brings some very cool aspects of our state’s outdoor recreation opportunities inside so residents can discover and experience nature.
I’ve been itching to visit the center ever since it opened in 2015. So it was a clear, crisp Saturday that we headed to Detroit to learn about Michigan’s outdoors while indoors. I am an avid fan of outdoor recreation, from hiking to biking to camping to fishing…and more. Even I was in awe of the many details and points of interest included in this center. There are multiple exhibits and hands-on displays that take visitors from under the water to land to the sky. I learned a lot about our great state!
Visitors learn how the Detroit River and the Great Lakes are connected and play key roles in fishing, shipping and recreation activities. Then you ‘go underwater’ to learn about native and invasive species, and the many opportunities to fish.The Belle Isle Aquarium hosts a tank filled with various species of live fish. We then wandered through a yurt, a circular tent with a solid floor, door and minimal furniture (this is a great alternative for tent camping) and learned about Michigan’s state parks.
The next display let visitors get into a fishing boat, cast some lines and reel in fish via an interactive screen. I kayaked one of Michigan’s many rivers (these interactive displays are so cool!). Did you know that Michigan has 150 waterfalls? I didn’t know this! We walked behind a real waterfall and learned more about fish and amphibians. A short ‘underground’ cave shared information about mining and the importance of bats to our ecosystem.
We visited the sand dunes and glimpsed at a duck blind. I loved the campsite set up in the middle of the lower level. From a tent to a water pump to campfire and chairs, it was so realistic of what camping is and perfect to let visitors sample the fun. There are many ways to camp in Michigan – car camping (car is on site), rustic camping, backpacking, cabins, yurts and more.
We learned about Michigan’s abundant forests, checked out a 35-foot tall oak tree and looked into a black bear den. I will admit that when I first poked my head into the den I was startled to see such a realistic looking bear sleeping in the corner (no worries, it is not alive)!
On the second level, there is a suspension bridge, small plane to highlight the importance of the DNR’s work in the sky and exhibits highlighting the various hunting and trapping ways. There were some fun interactive displays that let you ride a snowmobile, mountain bike and off-road vehicle on trails. A small home model showed the major environmental benefits that small adjustments can make in water conservation and more.
Throughout the exhibits were animals, from bears to deer to frogs to bats to ducks and more. These life-like animals were placed in all the right spots as you walked through the displays. More than once I was startled to come upon a squirrel or lizard! I loved it!
On a side note, the Outdoor Adventure Center is in the historic Globe Building, which was the site where many steam engines were built for passenger and freight ships. The Detroit Dry Dock Engine Works (later the Detroit Shipbuilding Company) was the company that Henry Ford served as an apprentice. There is an interesting exhibit highlighting the history of the building and these companies, including a model of the Boblo boat (many metro Detroit residents will remember that boat!)
As we wandered through the center, I was so pleased to see many families discovering the exhibits together. Adults and children were enjoying the displays and interactive exhibits. I heard many laughs and conversations discussing the facts highlighted in displays.
I really enjoyed exploring this center. It shows off so many different opportunities for people of all ages to be outside in nature. I’m proud that Michigan offers so much diverse outdoor recreation adventures to residents, encouraging people of all ages, backgrounds and location to get outdoors for fun and healthy living.
One important message that I took away from the visit is that all of us can help protect our land and water. Whether it’s volunteering to track frogs, reporting illegal hunting, planting a garden to attract butterflies, recycling, picking up trash on a trail (and not being the one to litter!), or educating the next generation on the importance and fun of being outdoors, everyone can do something positive to help our home. I believe change starts with just one person. Let that person be you.
The Outdoor Adventure Center is located on Atwater Street in downtown Detroit (across from the riverfront walk and William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor). Admission is $5 for adults; children 2-12 and senior citizens are $3. Free parking is available next to the building. Click here for hours and directions.
*Source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources