One of the most rewarding aspects of traveling, especially family travel is the opportunity to stumble across something that you have never experienced before.
For us this summer, it was when we were camping at Petoskey State Park in northern Michigan and driving around to look at some small towns inland along US 31. We were exploring, enjoying the early afternoon sunshine, listening to music and just enjoying the feeling of wandering. It is an experience that I feel we so often miss while traveling, when we stay at a resort, or adhere to a rigid schedule of activities, each moment filled with the burden of obligation, Wandering is a bit different, a bit of a throwback to the old fashioned car trip, and even further to when one would meander through the countryside on foot, simply noticing, dreaming, wondering.
So, we had no desire to see a fish hatchery visitor center, when we happily stumbled upon one-the Oden Hatchery Visitor Center. The Michigan DNR has done an amazing job with developing simple, attractive, inviting family oriented spaces and the Oden Hatchery Visitor Center was no exception.
The site is located on the grounds of the former Fish Hatchery, which is now located a quarter of a mile northerly, but families would do well to begin at the Oden Hatchery Visitor Center. The small center includes historical information, a small gift shop, and information about the grounds. The grounds encompass a lovely watershed area, with board-walk paths winding across a trout stream, through the tall grasses. Though we did not see any fish in the stream, the area attracts birds, squirrels, and chipmunks which will surely delight younger children. The paths include well-marked directions and lead to a fish pond, where visitors can feed the fish. There is something simply mesmerizing and fascinating about the fish sensing that the food has been thrown and racing to gulp it down.
A real highlight was the historical train car exhibit, developed to portray the era when the fish hatchery did its work via rails, travelling from location to location to provide fish, which were carried on the train car. This exhibit is rich in information and portrays a glimpse into an important era in Michigan history, when a scientific approach to conservation and wildlife management was in its infancy.
For us it was the perfect addition to our wanderings, something completely unexpected, yet incorporating walking, the beauty of nature, and Michigan history for a most pleasant family travel experience.
Some Questions for Family Discussion:
1. How old is the train car at Oden Hatchery Visitor Center?
2. How did they transport the fish on the train car?
3. Why did they create a fish hatchery?
4. What are "baby" fish called?
5. What species of fish are at the fish hatchery?
6. What are they fed?
7. What other type of wildlife can you observe at the hatchery?