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Oakwoods Metropark: Long Bark Nature Trail
Of the four interpretive trails Long Bark is the longest at 2 miles and the most interesting walk, as a portion of it follows the Huron River. The theme of the trail is forest ecology, and its 15 numbered posts correspond to an interpretive brochure available at the nature center.
Pick up Long Bark Trail just outside the nature center. The loop is hiked in a clockwise direction, and you begin in the woods but quickly arrive at a bluff overlooking the Huron River. What lies below you is a maze of oxbows, marshy islets, and winding channels where you can view a variety of bird life through binoculars: blue herons, egrets, kingfishers, even osprey.
The trail follows the edge of the bluff, passing a couple of benches overlooking the river and then a spur to Big Tree Trail within 0.3 mile from the nature center. At this point the trail swings into the mature hardwood forest of beech, maple, and oak.
You pass Tom Short Cut-off 0.75 mile from the nature center, and shortly after that the trail begins looping back. Now the trail is completely out of view of the river, plunging deeper into the forest for most of the second half. You pass junctions to both Sky Come Down Trail, a 1-mile loop, and Big Tree Trail, a 0.75-mile walk, just before returning to the nature center.
Oakwoods has picnic areas with tables, grills and shelters and a Voyageur Canoe that is used for naturalist-led paddles on the Huron River.
Oakwoods Nature Center is a good introduction to any day in the park. There are several excellent hands-on displays inside as well as exhibits of live animals. One of the exhibits is a huge turtle pond where more than a dozen turtles will be lazily swimming through the water or climbing onto a large rock to sun themselves under a heat lamp. In addition to the live animals on display, you can peer into a wasp nest nearly three feet long or stop at the wildlife viewing room to watch birds at the birdfeeder.
The park is open from 8 a.m. to dusk daily and the nature center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. daily in the summer. During the school year the hours at the center changes to 1-5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. There is a vehicle permit fee is required to enter the park.
The park is located in the southeast corner of Wayne County and is reached from I-275 by departing at exit 13 and heading east on Sibley Road. Turn south (right) on Huron River Drive and follow it 4 miles to Willow Drive. The park entrance is just west on Willow Drive. It’s a 2-mile drive along the park road to the parking lot and nature center.
Contact the Oakwoods Nature Center (734-72-3956), the park headquarters (800-477-3182) or the Metroparks Authority at (800-477-2757) or www.metroparks.com.
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