Article Posted: May 14, 2002

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LANSING--State Department of Natural Resources officials
today announced a May 18 tour of the Thompson's Harbor
Natural Area, the second of 11 tours planned this year to
celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Natural Areas program.
The natural areas movement in Michigan began in 1925,
when State Parks Chief P.J. Hoffmaster recommended the
acquisition and preservation of the Porcupine Mountains.
Michigan lawmakers in 1972 passed the Wilderness and Natural
Areas Act, providing protection for natural areas. Today, 20
areas on state-owned land are dedicated under the natural
areas legislation, and 59 additional areas are protected as
natural areas through other means. The DNR protects more
than 130,000 acres statewide with this program.
Thompson's Harbor natural area, located within Thompson's
Harbor State Park, encompasses a complex of forested dunes
and swales. The dunes formed as lake levels receded,
beginning approximately 12,000 years ago, depositing a
series of low sandy beach ridges, ranging from 0.5 to 3
meters high. Since then, the ridges have become forested and
the wet swales that developed between them are now either
forested or open wetlands. In Michigan, there are fewer than
50 remaining examples of forested wet swale communities of
this quality.
Thompson's Harbor Natural Area was legally dedicated in
1979. The estate of Genevieve Gillette, a Michigan resident
vital to establishing the Wilderness and Natural Areas
Program, aided state acquisition of this property.
The Thompson's Harbor area also supports one of the largest
known populations in the world of the federal and state-
threatened dwarf lake iris, Michigan's state wildflower.
Thousands of iris shoots, and several other plant species of
special concern grow in the area.
Management of the Thompson's Harbor natural area and other
areas that provide critical habitat for Michigan's wildlife
is made possible in part by Nongame Fish and Wildlife Funds.
You can support these efforts by looking for the loon and
purchasing a wildlife habitat license plate for your
The tour begins at 10 a.m. in the dune and wetland area. See
details below.

Date: May 18, 2002
Meeting Time: 10:00 AM
Meeting Location: Intersection of County 638 (Highland Pines
Road) and Old State Road.
Approx. Duration: 4 hours, including a 1/2 hr break for
lunch (not provided). A loop of approx. 3 miles.
Difficulty: Generally level, may be damp in places
(consider your footwear), mostly sand and gravel trails -
overall easy to moderate
What to Bring: Water, a packed lunch to take with you,
sunscreen, binoculars, footwear that can get wet (not deep)
and layers of clothes. The beginning of the hike will be
more sheltered, but there may be stronger winds when we get
to the shoreline.
What to See: The hike will go through a complex dune system,
some wetland areas and along the Lake Huron shore. Some
spring wildflowers should be in bloom, with a chance of
seeing Dwarf Lake Iris (our state wildflower) in all its
glory. There may also be an opportunity to do some birding,
with migrating songbirds traveling through the area.
Tour Guide: Robert Preston, a naturalist and former
instructor at Alpena College, with knowledge of birds,
plants, mammals, insects and the general natural history of
the Thompson's Harbor area.

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