Education at Milliken State Park and Harbor in Detroit

Detroit is a great spot for kids to learn about animals and nature. And, all the exploration could spark a love of learning and adventure in your child. One spot that’s great for this is the William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor on the Detroit Riverfront. Here’s why!

Animal 101: This was the very first urban state park, dubbed a “green oasis in the heart of the city.” Set on the Detroit River, Milliken recreates the wetlands once found here – and is designed to lure migratory birds. The harbor has space for boating and fishing, and the park offers trails, a bike path and interpretive signs.

Critter watch: Animals and fish are both here for kids to find, says Karis Floyd, DNR manager. In spring and early summer, aspiring fishers can try catching smallmouth bass, bluegill, yellow perch and even walleye. Floyd notes the park has seen foxes, a coyote and rabbits. Plus, spot black-capped chickadees, cardinals, blue jays and other birds migrating back to the area after winter. Kids also discover why certain species are protected and how they’re cared for.

Fun events: Beginning in May and running through Labor Day (Sept. 7, 2015), find kids programs including learning how to fish, lessons on the birds of Michigan and camping 101.

Did we mention fishing? Shoreline fishing is big at this “angles avenue.” With the kids programing, “Not only will kids get a chance to experience fishing for the first time,” Floyd says, “but we teach them about the different species of fish, what they are about, how they came to Michigan and survival rates. We want them to not only do the activity, but share the history of the activity.”

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Guides and games: Explorer guides set up kids’ games like identifying trees (can you tell your red maple from elm or ash?), the kinds of animals they might encounter in the woods and animal habitats and habits. Guides also teach kids the basics of hunting.

Parental prep: Come prepared with sunblock, loose-fitting clothes (there’s a lot of moving!) and water. Be ready to participate in activities with your kids, Floyd adds – it makes the learning experience more meaningful.

Insider insight: “We have one of the most extensive stewardship wetlands in the state of Michigan,” Floyd says. “Not only are you able to walk along the trail, you get a chance to observe a natural environment not many people can.”

William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor

Location: 1900 Atwater St., Detroit
Phone: 313-396-0217,
Hours: Most programming begins at 10 a.m.; guides schedule programs through 4 p.m. (check ahead for specifics). General hours are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. April-September.
Cost: Free

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