Friday, October 17, 2014

If there's one place you visit this fall make it the Little Manistee River Weir

One of the most important fisheries-related locations in Michigan is the Little Manistee River
Weir located in Stronach. In operation since 1968, this facility is Michigan's sole source for obtaining steelhead eggs and primary source for obtaining Chinook salmon eggs.
These activities have made the Little Manistee River Weir a popular destination for countless people over its 46 years as folks come to see fish blocked from passage upstream each spring and fall. Many partake in formal or informal tours of the facility and its surrounding areas and often chat with Department of Natural Resources staff about the actions occurring there. In addition the river itself offers some spectacular scenery as well as great recreational opportunities, including fishing, paddling or wildlife watching.
Despite all of these features which make the weir a must-see, the site itself is of a fairly rustic nature, tucked away in the woods without many manmade amenities to speak of.
But that's rapidly changing as the DNR is in the process of making some much-needed improvements to the weir's grounds which will facilitate an even better visitor experience.
"We've put in a universally accessible observation deck, universally accessible walkways, universally accessible restrooms, and parking," explained Scott Heintzelman, Central Lake Michigan Management Unit fisheries technician supervisor and manager of the Little Manistee River Weir. "All of these are courtesy of a $300,000 Natural Resources Trust Fund grant we received."
That grant was obtained in conjunction with the Alliance for Economic Success in Manistee County Community Foundation and its Explore the Shores program which looks to attract one million new visitors to the county by 2020 to enjoy world-class recreation on its waterbodies. The weir's enhancements will hopefully increase its number of annual visitors and push the program closer towards its 2020 goal.
"I have no doubt we'll have more visitors this year with this new infrastructure," said Heintzelman. "Our big feature, the 20 by 60 observation platform, was constructed right below the weir and puts you six to eight feet above the water and you're looking down at the main pool and see all the fish congregating. It feels like you're looking right into an aquarium!"
Those with limited mobility will also have an enhanced experience if they visit the weir now as they'll be able to do and see some things they haven't been able to previously.
"You can literally park in the lot, get out of your vehicle and go all the way around our facility and back to your vehicle without once touching dirt."
These improvements are just a few of the many the DNR has plans for at the weir. In the spring interpretive and educational signage will be completed and installed, a final component of the Natural Resources Trust Fund grant, but additional phases are on paper both in and around the facility itself.
"We'd like to add a pavilion structure at some point, a couple of fishing platforms, and improved access and pathways below the weir so everyone can get down to see the eagle's nest we have here," said Heintzelman. "But we've also identified things we need to do to our interior infrastructure. If we get more and more people down here it will hopefully justify putting some more money into the facility and help us take care of our maintenance needs."
This first round of enhancements couldn't come at a better time as the weir is in the midst of its fall salmon egg-take. Want to know what's going on at the Little Manistee Weir right this minute? Call their hotline at 231-775-9727, extension 6072.