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Showcasing the DNR: Commemorating 100 years of the Pigeon River Country

A trail through the Pigeon River Country State Forest leads to this scenic view. Photo courtesy Michigan DNR.

By Sandra Clark and Kathleen Lavey, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

On July 26, 1919, Ernest Hemingway–then a young man recovering from his experiences in the Spanish-American War – said of Michigan’s “Pine Barrens” east of Vanderbilt, “That Barrens Country is the greatest I’ve ever been in.”

A hundred years later, we call the place where Hemingway loved to fish and camp “Pigeon River Country.” And thanks to the passion, work and stewardship decisions made by many people over the decades, it remains an extraordinary outdoor treasure.

At 107,600 acres, Pigeon River Country is the largest block of contiguous undeveloped land in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula — 12 miles wide and 20 miles long — half the size of New York City. It’s located 20 miles north of Gaylord in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

This is a forest where logging, hunting, camping and horseback riding occur, and yet a “Big Wild” where you can sometimes sense only the sounds of nature and the smells of earth, sky and water.

Pigeon River Country’s uniqueness

The 100-year history of the Pigeon River Country is told in the forest’s Discovery Center, opened a year ago by a group of dedicated volunteers. The interpretive center is housed in a historic home that was used as a residence for the forest supervisor until the early 2000s. 

“We knew we wanted to tell the history, because the history is so important,” said volunteer Sandra Franz, who was on the committee that brought the Discovery Center to life. “We also wanted to inform people who come out that it’s not a state park. It’s a state forest, and here’s what makes the Pigeon River Country unique as a state forest.”

A Michigan bull elk is shown. Many people visit the Pigeon River Country hoping to see elk and hear their bugle-like calls. Photo courtesy Michigan DNR.

One of those things is the elk herd. Many people visit hoping to see elk and hear their bugle-like calls. The Pigeon River Country’s rich history also makes it unique, while tying into the overall fabric of Michigan’s lumbering and natural-resources heritage.

A century ago, Michigan set aside the 6,468 acres of tax-reverted lands that would become the nucleus of the Pigeon River Country State Forest. The land had been logged, some of it burned by forest fires, some of it cultivated by farmers who soon learned that it was not good crop land. The forest continued to expand, mostly with lands purchased with deer license revenue. 

Elk disappeared from Michigan in the late 19th century due to unrestricted hunting and loss of their habitat. In 1918, seven Rocky Mountain elk were brought to the area that would soon be the Pigeon River Forest.

The herd grew steadily, but poaching and diminished habitat quality reduced its numbers from 1,500 in the early 1960s to 200 in the mid-1970s. Since then, careful management of the open areas and forests that the herd needs to thrive has helped it grow to more than 1,100 animals.

The forest’s first champion

P.S. Lovejoy was the first champion of the “P.R.” as he called it. One of the first students in the University of Michigan’s School of Forestry, he advocated for the forest long before he became the state’s first Game Division chief:

“Don’t we all want, yen for, need, some considerable ‘getting away’ from the crowds and the lawnmowers and the tulips? … Isn’t that [the] yen for the Big Wild feel and flavor? I claim it is. …

I figger [sic] that a whole lot of the side-road country should be left plenty bumpy and bushy … and some so you go in on foot – or don’t go at all. I don’t want any pansies planted around the stump.”

Lovejoy’s legacy is large within the forest, Franz said. His influence extended not only to the overall concepts that led to how the forest was developed, but also to the smallest details.

Look overhead at the beams in the Discovery Center, for example. Lovejoy came around as it was being built by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. On one visit, he objected to the fact that the beams were machined rather than hand-hewn.

“He had the carpenters take their axes and put chop marks in those beams to make them look more rustic,” Franz said. “He had large ideas about land use but also small ideas about details.”

Forest management and public input

From its beginning, the Pigeon River Country forest has presented its managers with conflicting interests and hard decisions on how to balance recreation, economic development, good forestry and natural resource preservation.

People have always taken an interest in the forest and played a role in its management.

When lawsuits were filed over oil and gas drilling in the forest in the early 1970s, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources put a special management plan in place for the forest. Starting in 1974, the DNR appointed a citizens’ advisory council to provide input on managing the forest.

Those who love the forest celebrate its diversity, from upland deciduous forests to lowland conifers, from remote swamps to grasslands. But at the heart of their passion is the peace and solitude of the forest, its moments of bright sunshine and dramatic storms, its ability to inspire connection to a wider world and to heal.

Pigeon River Country Discovery Center

Inside the Discovery Center, the welcoming fireplace invites conversations like those of early conservationists Herman Lunden and P.S. Lovejoy.

There’s a lot more to see here too. An elk peers out from a box car. The small office of the park forester has artifacts donated from his family, and the kitchen – large enough to cook for a family of seven, guests and work crews – now houses hands-on activities for children of all ages.

The family’s bedrooms tell the stories of Hemingway, the rich experiences offered by the forest and the memories that have been made there.

And from there, in the words of Ford Kellum, who quit his job working for the Michigan DNR to fight against oil drilling in the Pigeon River Country: “You’ve got your free-flowing rivers. … You’ve got lakes that have no cottages around them. You’ve got trail roads that are just two ruts. You’ve got the big trees; virgin or not, they’re big. … It’s pretty. And you can get back into some of these places and have solitude. People need a little of that.”

Find out more about the Pigeon River Country at PigeonRiverDiscoveryCenter.org or the Pigeon River Country Advisory Council webpage.

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Moon landing: 50th anniversary

by Judy Reed

Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin,Lunar Module (LM) pilot, poses for a photo beside the U.S. flag that has been placed on the moon. The LM is visible in the left field of view. Numerous footprints and the cable of the surface television camera are visible on the lunar surface in the foreground. Image taken at Tranquility Base during the Apollo 11 Mission. Original film magazine was labeled S. Film Type: Ektachrome EF SO168 color film on a 2.7-mil Estar polyester base taken with a 60mm lens. Sun angle is Medium. Tilt direction is South (S).

Do you know what you were doing on July 20, 1969? There’s a good possibility that if you were alive, you were doing the same thing that 600,000 other people were doing—watching the television with great anticipation as astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. took those important first steps on to the moon’s surface six hours after landing. As Armstrong said, it was “one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

It took over 400,000 people working behind the scenes to enable the three astronauts—Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins—to land on the moon. It was one of the greatest adventures our country has ever pulled off. And we all felt like we had a ringside seat.

It was an exciting time in our history and you can relive it as NASA celebrates the historic mission. On Friday, July 19 at 1 p.m. EDT, NASA celebrates the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and looks to exploration of the Moon and Mars in a live, two-hour broadcast. NASA TV will air Apollo 11 programming all week including replays of the original historic Moon landing footage on July 20. Go to www.nasa.gov for complete coverage and a schedule for all the special events they will be showing on NASA TV (which is on the website).

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A spectacular July 4th celebration

It was a sizzling, spectacular Fourth of July celebration all across Michigan last week. Sand Lake celebrated their 150th, with a carnival, food booths, rodeo, demolition derby, three different parades, fireworks, bands, and more.

We asked readers on our Facebook page to send us their photos of them celebrating Fourth of July events (wherever they were), and they sent us some great photos. Click here to see how everyone celebrated!

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Summer Celebrations in July

By Judy Reed

We are at the midway mark of summer, so that means another round of Summer Celebrations, right here in Cedar Springs. 

The Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce will hold their second round of Community Summer Celebrations from Monday, July 15, to Sunday, July 21. Each day there will be various activities going on at the Cedar Springs Public Library, Cedar Springs Brewing Company, Perry’s Place llc for herbs, teas, and more…and various other places.

Included is the Jack Clark Memorial Golf outing on July 16p; Story times at the library; live music at CS Brewing; archery for teens at the RF Rod and Gun club; free waltz dancing class on July 19 at Kin of Hope Natural Health Dance and Fitness Studio; the Chamber sidewalk sales on July 20, and much more. 

Visit their Facebook page for a complete lineup of events. Just search for Cedar Springs Community Summer Celebrations.

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Post travels to Tennessee

The Post traveled to Chattanooga, Tennessee with Kaden and Analina Piedra of Cedar Springs during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. They traveled to beautiful Lookout Mountain in the Appalachians, where they explored nearly 1,200 feet underground to visit the awesome Ruby Falls, and rode one of the steepest passenger railways in the world with their grandparents, Ward and Tina Kortz, and Aunt Allison. In this photo, they are holding the Post overlooking Tennessee at the top of the Incline Railway.

Thank you so much for taking us with you!

Are you going on vacation? Be sure to take along a printed edition of the Post and get someone to snap a photo of you or your family with it. Send it to us along with some info about your trip (where you went, who went along, what you saw) and send the photo and info to news@cedarspringspost.com. We will print as space allows. If you forget the Post, please do not photoshop it into the photo. Just take it with you next time!

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Trees planted along Cedar Creek

These volunteers came out to plant trees along Cedar Creek last week. Courtesy photo.

Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative Project – Trout Unlimited recently received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to plant nearly 17,000 trees along the Rogue River and its tributaries. The project aims to address storm water runoff that pollutes, erodes, and warms the important trout stream by planting trees at critical sites throughout the watershed. 

The first tree planting was held on the morning of July 3 along Cedar Creek at the Heart of Cedar Springs Park. 

Trout Unlimited was grateful to all the volunteers who helped out. They especially wanted to thank Perry and Tom and all their partners at the Cedar Springs Community Building Development Team; the Trout Unlimited and Plaster Creek Stewards Green Teams; an amazing community of volunteers; Cedar Springs Brewing Company for supplying the volunteers with water; the City of Cedar Springs DPW for supplying wheel barrows; the Cedar Springs Public Library for the photo; and to the U.S. Forest Service for funding this project. 

“It was a great day to work in the community alongside passionate people to protect Cedar Creek and the Rogue River,” said a Trout Unlimited spokesperson.

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Man drives car into Pine Lake

Several people have driven into Pine Lake over the years. This photo shows a car that took the “Pine Lake plunge” in 2016. Post photo by L. Allen.

Robbie Mills was driving east on 17 Mile toward Pine Lake Avenue just before midnight on June 28, when he spotted tail lights ahead that looked like they were in Pine Lake.

“I was driving with my fiancée and son when I saw the car,” he told the Post. “We must have only been about a half a minute behind him. The car was still running and the lights were on. I got out and yelled to see if he was ok. He was yelling for help so I jumped in and went for a swim,” explained Mills.

He said the man had his dog with him, and it took a bit to find the dog. “At the last second I caught the dog’s collar,” he said.

Mills said the man couldn’t make the swim back to shore, so police borrowed a neighbor’s boat to pull the man to safety.

According to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, the driver of the vehicle was a 51-year-old man from Grand Rapids who drove straight through the intersection and into the lake. He was transported to Butterworth Hospital with minor injuries.  OWI (Operating While Intoxicated Charges) are pending, and his name has not yet been released.

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Sparta Town & Country Days

July 17 – 20, 2019

All the best of a fair and a festival in beautiful downtown Sparta! Enjoy traditional fair events such as tractor and truck pulls, cattle & horse shows and even lawn mower races held in our rural community. Celebrate summer with family and friends in our downtown parks to enjoy free music, daily kid’s activities, carnival midway, parade, fireworks and more! Visit us at www.spartafair.com. Or download the schedule here!

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Scoop up a special treat during ice cream month

L to R: Maverick Hunt, 2, and Atlas Hunt, 4, enjoyed their first taste of Blue Moon ice cream this summer. Post photo by J. Reed

Did you know that nine out of ten people love ice cream? Or that vanilla is the best selling flavor? Or that President George Washington spent approximately $200 for ice cream during the summer of 1790? Those are just some of the facts being celebrated National Ice Cream month.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day. He recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by a full 90 percent of the nation’s population. 

A passionate gourmet, Thomas Jefferson acquired a stock of standard French recipes. Among the most popular of these recipes at Monticello was this one for vanilla ice cream, written by Jefferson, with his own recipe for Savoy cookies to accompany the dessert on the back. 

The first official account of ice cream in the New World comes from a letter written in 1744 by a guest of Maryland Governor William Bladen. The first advertisement for ice cream in this country appeared in the New York Gazette on May 12, 1777, when confectioner Philip Lenzi announced that ice cream was available “almost every day.” Besides Washington spending $200 on ice cream, inventory records of Mount Vernon taken after Washington’s death revealed “two pewter ice cream pots.” President Thomas Jefferson was said to have a favorite 18-step recipe for an ice cream delicacy that resembled a modern-day Baked Alaska. Check out President Jefferson’s vanilla ice cream on this page. In 1813, Dolley Madison served a magnificent strawberry ice cream creation at President Madison’s second inaugural banquet at the White House.

Wide availability of ice cream in the late 19th century led to new creations. In 1874, the American soda fountain shop and the profession of the “soda jerk” emerged with the invention of the ice cream soda. In response to religious criticism for eating “sinfully” rich ice cream sodas on Sundays, ice cream merchants left out the carbonated water and invented the ice cream “Sunday” in the late 1890’s. The name was eventually changed to “sundae” to remove any connection with the Sabbath.

Ice cream became an edible morale symbol during World War II. Each branch of the military tried to outdo the others in serving ice cream to its troops. In 1945, the first “floating ice cream parlor” was built for sailors in the western Pacific. When the war ended, and dairy product rationing was lifted, America celebrated its victory with ice cream. Americans consumed over 20 quarts of ice cream per person in 1946. Today, Americans consume about 23 gallons of ice cream each year.

In the 1940s through the ‘70s, ice cream production was relatively constant in the United States. As more prepackaged ice cream was sold through supermarkets, traditional ice cream parlors and soda fountains started to disappear. Now, specialty ice cream stores and unique restaurants that feature ice cream dishes have surged in popularity. These stores and restaurants are popular with those who remember the ice cream shops and soda fountains of days past, as well as with new generations of ice cream fans.

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A Show-Stopping Dessert

(Family Features) With its dramatic presentation, this freshly baked cake and ice cream-based dessert can impress guests at your next gathering.  

Find more dessert recipes perfect for entertaining at Culinary.net.

Baked Alaska

Recipe adapted from Milk Means More


1/2 cup, plus 6 tablespoons, all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup, plus 2/3 cup, granulated sugar, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup 2% milk

1/4 cup canola oil

2 eggs

nonstick cooking spray

1 1/2 quarts ice cream, any flavor

3 large egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Heat oven to 350 F.

In large bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make well in center of dry ingredients. Add milk, canola oil and eggs. Whisk until blended. Beat batter until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Pour batter into 9-inch, round, greased cakepan. Bake 25-28 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze 1 hour.

In glass bowl, spray with nonstick cooking spray. Layer inside of bowl with plastic wrap, draping some over edges of bowl. 

Scoop ice cream into bowl until full. Level ice cream. Place overhang of plastic wrap over ice cream. Freeze 2 hours.

Unwrap cake and place on plate. Unwrap ice cream and place on top of cake. Wrap both together and freeze 2 hours.

In medium bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy. Add remaining sugar and vanilla extract; beat mixture to form stiff peaks.

Heat oven to 500 F.

Unwrap stacked cake. Place on oven-safe plate. Spread meringue, creating swirl motions around cake. Bake 2-4 minutes until meringue peaks are brown and remaining meringue takes on dry appearance.

Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer.

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