The Manistique River winds its way through the southeastern portion of the refuge. A good place to begin your trip is in the small town of Germfask, Michigan. Here you will find outfitters who rent boats and a road side park with access to the Manistique River for those who have their own. This beautiful 13 mile section of the refuge is open to canoeing and kayaking during daylight hours.
Canoeing and kayaking, also known as paddling, offer visitors an alternate way to see the refuge. Common wildlife sightings on the river include turtles, muskrats, mink, bald eagles and other wildlife in a picturesque setting. Remember to bring a pair of binoculars so you can enjoy the variety of birds that perch in the trees on the river banks. Bring along your fishing pole and see if you can catch northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, and brook or brown trout. Stop on a sandbar to look for tracks in the sand and mud. Have lunch on the beach. Or search for evidence of the refuge’s past.
As you float down the river watch the right bank for the three streams that enter the Manistique River – Gray’s Creek, Pine Creek and the Driggs River. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, before the refuge was established, several lumber companies were operating in the area. This time period is known by some as the Great Cutover. The Driggs and Manistique Rivers were used to drive logs. Log driving is a method used to transport logs by floating them downstream to a sawmill. During the height of the logging industry in the area, two dams were built on the Driggs River to hold water until the men were ready to float the logs. When the water was released from the dam it allowed the water to flow with enough force and depth to carry the logs to the Manistique River which was wider and deeper. To ensure the logs would not catch on obstacles and slow or stop the progression, the river was cleared of debris including large rocks and downed trees. On July 25th. 1929, the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune ran the story “The Last Great Log Drive” about the last large scale log drive conducted on the Driggs and Manistique Rivers where over 2,500,000 board feet of lumber was floated to Manistique.
Over 80 years later, if you know what to look for, you can still see evidence of the log drives that occurred on the Driggs River. As logs moved around the outer corners of the bends in the river they dislodged dirt and sediment eroding the river’s banks. Once started it is difficult to stop and so the erosion continues washing sand downstream into the Manistique River. On some of these eroding banks you may notice that several trees have been piled on the side. This is a restoration project. The trees were felled and placed there to help prevent erosion. Although paddling is allowed on the Driggs River we encourage paddlers to limit trips to short paddles upstream. Those considering navigating the entire length of the Driggs River through the Seney National Wildlife Refuge would not be able to complete the task in one day due to numerous snags, shallow water, and limited access by road. Camping is not permitted on the refuge.
The Driggs River enters the Manistique River near the southern end of the refuge. From here it is a short 15 minute paddle to the Mead Creek State Forest Campground. The campground has a parking lot, a boat ramp, camping, and primitive toilets. It is a good place to end your trip. There are few points beyond the Mead Creek Campground to exit the river.
Each year the Seney National Wildlife Refuge offers visitors a chance to float the river with refuge personnel. Join us as we delight in the beauty of the fall colors during the Fall Color Float the first weekend of October.
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Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers can be found at the refuge year-round. Although difficult to tell apart, the downy woodpecker is smaller than the hairy and its beak is noticeably shorter. Look for these birds hopping up and down the trunks and branches of trees searching for insects.