Fall is the Perfect Time for Exploring Marshall’s Natural Side

Michigan was blessed with a sunny, hot and relatively dry summer season and such conditions have an impact on the how and when the trees display their fall colors.

“Things are looking good for a vibrant fall color season this year,” says WOOD TV8 Chief Meteorologist Bill Steffen. “We’ve had ample rain and the trees aren’t under any general stress at this point. We’ve also had temperatures a little above average, as well as above average sunshine, and I expect these trends to continue into the fall. This combination often brings Michigan the best fall color displays.”

Steffen says the fall color display may be a couple days behind schedule this season, with peak color in West Michigan in the second or third week of October.

Did you know there are nearly 150 different species of trees in Michigan’s 18.6 million acres of forests? Our state boasts a colorful mix of yellows, reds, golds and oranges, with some of the most beautiful colors displayed by such hardwoods as aspen, maple, birch, sumac and oak. When combined with a background of evergreen forest, the result is one of the best shows in the nation.

There is no single best way to enjoy the fall color display. Michigan travelers have a plethora of ways to enjoy the show—either by car, train, boat, bicycle, hot air balloon rides, at festivals, hiking, on golf courses and luxury resorts, or historic highways. Many of these “old roads” cut through great stands of hardwood and pines and make perfect color tours, and some are state-designated scenic routes.

Marshall is part of a scenic 150-mile color tour loop outlined by the Pure Michigan (which also includes Battle Creek, Richland, Hickory Corners, Hastings, Grand Ledge, Lansing, Eaton Rapids and Albion). The turn-by-turn route offers nearly 20 recommendations of scenic sites in the area worth a visit during the fall color tour season.

The award-winning say: “Take a self-guided stroll through picturesque Marshall, and its designated National Historic Landmark District. The unusual architecture of the 1860 Honolulu House Museum, built by the first U.S. consul to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) blends Italianate, Gothic and Polynesian styles. Refresh at Schuler’s Restaurant & Pub, a fourth-generation family business that has been welcoming guests since 1909.”

If you’re looking for scenic areas around Marshall to enjoy the great outdoors, as the colors paint the landscape, consider these options:

North Country Trail – Chief Noonday Chapter. This local chapter of the North Country Trail Association (NCTA) includes an approximately 120-mile section (of the full 4,600-mile trail) in Barry, Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties. Named after Chief Noonday, a member of the Ottawa nation and a chief of the Potawatomi in southwestern Michigan in the early 19th century, who played a prominent role in the War of 1812.

Brooks Nature Area. Marshall’s largest park features 188 acres of diverse habitat and ecology teeming with a wide variety of wildlife including waterfowl, many types of birds and mammals. In 2006, native prairie plantings were re-introduced to 88 acres of the Nature Area. Fields, wetlands and hardwood stands are all part of the park’s ecosystem, while some mammoth hardwood trees along the lake are estimated to be over 300 years old.

Grevers’ Nature Center. This 90-acre park was donated to the Marshall Public Schools by Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Grevers who immigrated from Holland, purchased the land in 1941. The couple raised perennial flowers on some of it, planted seedling pines on the hilly portions, and maintained over six miles of trails through the acreage. The western portion of Mud Lake lies within the center. All areas, except the narrow strip of swamp land at the north end, are accessible by trail. One point of interest is that the swamp directly north of the Center is the headwaters of Dickinson Creek, which flows through the Historic Bridge Park at Battle Creek.

Marshall Riverwalk. Construction for the Riverwalk began in 1996 through the City of Marshall’s Capital Improvement Program and a series of DNR grants. Spread out along the Kalamazoo River, the Riverwalk was a four-phase project that was completed in June of 2002. The 1.6 mile Riverwalk comprises both elevated boardwalk and paved pathways. There are five pedestrian bridges, boat and canoe launches, as well as scenic overlook areas. Wooded pathways follow both Rice Creek and the Kalamazoo River, providing a great opportunity to view wildlife in its natural habitat. Along with the long and winding boardwalk, this Riverwalk also features thousands of feet of scenic sidewalk paths intertwined with the Riverwalk.

Near the Public Service Building is an authentic Pagoda constructed in China for the Riverwalk through donations. Along the Riverwalk you can view a number of places significant in Marshall’s industrial and social history, including a relic from Marshall’s first stone flouring mill, the Marshall Power House, Perrinville, and “Bums Alley.”

Stuart’s Landing. Featuring picnic areas and a gazebo that overlook the Kalamazoo River, this park also includes a band shell for concerts and serves as a starting point for the Marshall Riverwalk.

Brooks Memorial Fountain Park. The city’s most picturesque park is located in the center of town (at the exact center of Calhoun County) and was once the site for the first courthouse. The fountain was built in 1930 by Harold Brooks and modeled after the Temple of Love in Versailles, France. Brooks Memorial Fountain often serves as a backdrop for weddings and features colored lights that illuminate the fountain at night. The park features several benches and is a relaxing spot on sunny days.

Ketchum Park. A favorite with kids who enjoy the park’s large playground, the park also has two shelters for picnics.

Carver Park. This small city park, on the corner of Exchange Street and Michigan Avenue, features a gentle-flowing fountain in the center, bordered benches and seasonal flowers.

Wilder Creek Conservation Club. This 60-acre wildlife habitat features raised wooden walks, trails, viewing platforms and panoramic views, in a unique setting devoted to the protection and enhancement of Michigan’s natural resources through education and the promotion of quality outdoor recreation. A highlight of the park is Wilder Creek Castle, built with over 100 tons of stone in the late 1930s under the WPA (Works Progress Administration). Originally located near Concord, it was dismantled and rebuilt at the Wilder Creek site in later years.

Looking to take a late-season fall paddle down the Kalamazoo River? The Marshall Recreation Department offers canoe and kayak rentals, weather permitting.

While out on your autumn tour, stop by for a flavorful and colorful meal at the iconic Schuler’s Restaurant & Pub in historic downtown Marshall. Founded in 1909, Schuler’s epitomizes hospitality excellence as a family-owned and operated business. Located at the crossroads of south-central Michigan near the intersection of I-94 and I-69, this world-class Pure Michigan destination has built its 107-year reputation by offering guests quality food and excellent service, in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

For information on the Marshall area, contact the Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance.