Restoring the Arctic Grayling to Michigan

Arctic Grayling by Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative

Arctic Grayling by Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative

The Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative is a group of more than 50 partners working to restore self-sustaining populations of the Arctic grayling within its historical range in Michigan:

Arctic grayling thrived in Northern Michigan’s coldwater streams until the onset of the 20th Century. Fishermen and wildlife enthusiasts visited destinations such as the Au Sable River in Grayling for this iridescent fish. But by the 1930s, three factors contributed to the grayling’s demise: habitat destruction, unregulated harvest and predation/competition from non-native fish species. The local extinction of this wild fish was a tragic loss for Michigan. 

The Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative documentary was created by a group of Troy Athens high school students & I encourage you to check it out!

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Return of the Grayling to Michigan?


Michigan Grayling, photo courtesy Old Au Sable Fly Shop

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is partnering with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians to bring back the Arctic grayling. Grayling were native to Michigan but are long vanished from our waters. Slate blue in color with a sail-like dorsal fin, they are of the salmon family and efforts will begin in the Manistee River watershed.

Regarding the grayling, the Old Au Sable Fly shop says in part:

According to William J. Mantague, “One spring the Grayling were running up the Hersey. We noted they had some difficulty passing an obstruction in the stream, so we placed a canoe crosswise at that point and caught over seven hundred one afternoon.”

The Grayling were eaten. They were packed in ice, loaded onto railway cars, and shipped by the thousands of tons per year to the larger metropolitan areas. In some instances, they were tossed on the banks and buried in mounds.

At the same time, the lumbermen came and cut down centuries-old growth of virgin white pine. The land leading to the rivers was stripped as well, slashed and burned, and the logs floated downstream to the large mills and cities during the spring run-off. The rivers were cleared of logs and debris, places were the Grayling flourished. Shallow riffles were trenched out and deepened, and dams were built so that the flow of the river could be better controlled. Vegetation on the banks of the rivers was cleared as well, and the river slowly filled with sand. The sand filled the deepest pools and covered the Grayling’s spawning beds. By 1885, the Grayling had disappeared from the AuSable River. And in a period of ten to twenty years, a land unrivaled for its fishing and beauty, became a barren wasteland of stumps and empty pools.

More about graylings at the Old Au Sable Fly Shop where you can pick up gear and learn about fish & fishing on Michigan’s most storied fishing river.

More fish & fishing on Michigan in Pictures!

The Monarch and Hartwick Pines

Logging Era Grayling MI Monster Hartwick Michigan White Pine called the Monarch RPPC 1942 at the Memorial Park prior to Hartwick becoming a State Park

Logging Era Grayling MI Monster Hartwick Michigan White Pine, photo by UpNorth Memories – Donald (Don) Harrison

This Friday, April 26th is Arbor Day, and I thought it would be nice to take a look what is probably the most famous trees in Michigan’s history and the place where it once grew, Hartwick Pines State Park. In 1927, Karen Michelson Hartwick purchased over 8,000 acres of land that included 85 acres of old growth white pine from the Salling-Hanson Company of Grayling. Mrs. Hartwick was a daughter of  a founding partner of the logging company and shortly after the purchase, she donated the land to the State of Michigan as a memorial park named for her husband, the late Major Edward E. Hartwick of Grayling. A nice article from the Toledo Blade about Hartwick Pines explains:

This is Hartwick Pines, the largest stand of “old growth” forest in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Here, white pines, red pines and hemlocks ladder their way 160 feet to the sky.

…There are approximately 24,000 trees in the Hartwick Pines old growth grove today, but not all are “old growth” trees. Lightning and wind claim a few of the old trees each year, and they are replaced with a mixture of hardwoods and pines.

A large hemlock near the parking lot was recently damaged by a storm and had to be removed. Its stump showed 365 annual rings. The most famous tree at Hartwick Pines — The Monarch — lost its crown in a 1992 storm and then died four years later. It was 155 feet tall when healthy, with a circumference of 12 feet and an estimated age of 325 years.

Read on and learn more about Hartwick Pines from the State of Michigan.

See this big as the Monarch and jump in to Don’s slideshow of postcards for more vintage scenes from Hartwick Pines!

PS: The Monarch was a white pine, Michigan’s State Tree.