ESTUARY-CANAL AREA ADJONING DETROIT YACHT CLUB TO RIVER --VIEW TOWARD DOWNTOWN
VIEW FROM BRIDGE TOWARD BOAT CLUB
VIEW FROM BRIDGE TOWARD GABRIEL RICHARD PARK & GOLD COAST
ONE OF NATURE TRAIL FOOTBRIDGES
After a recent inspection I noticed some of the trails look better, but I determined the bridges are still not especially safe. Perhaps they're still on the to-do list. Use caution.
AQUARIUM INTERIOR VIEW OF PEWABIC CEILING TILE
DETROIT PRINCESS RIVERBOAT PASSES BELLE ISLE ON SOUTH CHANNEL
FOUNTAIN NEGLECT & ABUSE
The Scott Fountain has been the mainstay of Belle Isle's attractions surviving years of abuse and neglect and the lack of maintenance funds. A few years ago a scrapper stole the critical copper piping from the plumbing system leaving the fountain inactive for several seasons. The same occurred Downtown at Hart Plaza's Dodge Fountain.
But that was not the only problem. No one knew how to operate the fountain and there were no surviving manuals. One man explored the environs below that were encased in concrete, meticulously testing the valves and connections at the fountain base until he was able to restore the operation by trial and error. The fountain and all its working parts have been activated.
FOUNTAIN MYTHOLOGICAL SYMBOLS
(The Author's Theory and Interpretation.)
Figures near the top of the monument seem to portray Neptune sending messenger boys on porpoises. Theirs could be ebullient and raucous or deliberate and serious messages. Boys on porpoises sometimes indicated the swiftness of love overtaking good sense. (Is Neptune shouting admonitions?)
The lions may be guarding an island
of tradition in a sea of indulgence.
According to one source these figures are the Palatine lions of Rome inspired by more ancient Egyptian sculpture. Similar lion sculptures are found in Ireland and Holland. (They appear sphinx-like in their manner of display.) The turtles may be receiving instructions
or they may be symbols of good fortune and longevity whose advice is frittered away. (Note the frogs facing each.)
Perhaps, in part, this is sculptor, Herbert Adam's way of tweaking the final bequest of benefactor James Scott in a parody of new ways vs. old ways from a play by Aristophanes, The Frogs.
Scott wanted his statue placed at the top of the fountain, a literal monument to his ego. He was a man who threw his financial weight around, often threatening lawsuits while pursuing the life of a playboy.
Surrounded by cornucopia with sea horses effusing a life of plenty -- perhaps we're shown how wealth might be squandered by ignoring the tradition and values of the old ways.
√Rec If you remembered to bring your swim suit, there's a half-mile sand bathing beach that covers the north side of the island. The beach is popular with members of the Detroit Yacht Club next door. (Beach is open Memorial Day through Labor Day and available to everyone.)
The estuary provides direct access to canoeists who can readily paddle their way to the Lagoon from the river. Some day the entire island will be accessible by canoe or kayak just as it once was in the 1960’s. Some areas of the island river network have already re-opened.
The new “naturalized” landscape offers an expanded horizon view east that merges with the Detroit River naturally.
BLUE HERON LAGOON BECOMES MORE NATURE-FRIENDLY
√√Rec Belle Isle
How to use this Page:
This page offers a description of Belle Isle State Park and its numerous attractions. Refer to the maps depicting the island. The entire island is described in this page. (This page is presented in the journal style so that the entire tour can be seen from end-to-end in one continuous layout.) ENJOY THE MOTOR CITY AND HAVE A PLEASANT STAY!)
Immediately east of the road is the Lagoon, visited by Great Blue Heron, which inspired its name. Its mirror surfaces shine with fall colors.
Look carefully, and you may see a Snowy Egret, Loon or Kingfisher stalking fish in the shallows. Or listen for the amazing machine-like takeoff of the Mute Swans flapping their massive white wings.
The eastern shore offers excellent views of Lake St. Clair's horizon line, both coasts, and the normally unoccupied Peche Island Canadian Provincial Park. This scene looks much as it did to early explorers to the area during the 17th century. (Note: Lake St. Clair including Anchor Bay is roughly 430 square miles and leads to the northern Great Lakes via the St. Clair River to Lake Huron.)
Peche Island is inhabited by beaver for the first time in over 200 years. People complain of the 30 trees they’ve felled there. Beaver have colonized the Conner Creek Power Plant canal immediately north of Belle Isle and even the Rouge River entrance far west of Downtown. (As predicted by this author, beaver have populated Belle Isle as well. Recent destruction of trees along Lake Tacoma was followed with sightings by park staff.)
The Blue Heron Lagoon restoration project is finished. A direct link to the Detroit River makes it possible for fish to spawn in a protected estuary and cove at the east end of the Lagoon.
The rocky shore is better habitat for snakes and amphibians. A widened estuary will increase river access to kayakers.
Several aquariums and displays ring the exhibit areas.
√Rec The Belle Isle Nature Zoo is on the west side of the road. Admission is free. (Refer to the Museum Page 2.)
THE SWANS OF BELLE ISLE
The white swans seen everywhere on the island today are Mute Swans originally brought from Russia to the eastern U.S. in the early 20th century. They have since spread throughout the country.
Trumpeter Swans with a much larger wing span of 8 feet would have been familiar to Native Americans 300 years ago. But now they rarely visit Belle Isle.
Efforts are being made to reintroduce them to former nesting areas throughout Michigan.
(Photo of Mute Swan at Blue Heron Lagoon, Belle Isle Park, Detroit.)
As you continue traveling the Strand a rectangular reservoir used for model yacht racing is seen on the south side of the road. It’s still used by enthusiasts of all ages.
The museum was recently renovated in 2012. Displays have been upgraded.)
(Displays like these have been repaired or replaced.)
A sculpture of a newsboy and his dog called "Partners" was commissioned by the Detroit News and erected in 1897.
√Rec A well-tended Koi Pond adjoins the building outside.
You then pass the Detroit Boat Club, now mostly abandoned and the last major feature on the island before heading onto the MacArthur Bridge, over the river and through the hoods to Grand Blvd. we go.
The island's main roads have been re-paved and attractions have received new attention since the state takeover, which made the park a State Park. This has resulted in an admission charge at Belle Isle.
Still the island's natural beauty and historic dignity speak volumes, and there remain plenty of quality strolls on its long shoreline where the current price of admission is a bargain.
The Sinbad’s and the Roostertail venues can be seen in the northeast overlooking the shoreline from opposite sides of the canal entrance.
The road takes you west toward the archways of the bridge in view of the Gold Coast on the Detroit's mainland shore, a place of numerous tall apartment towers built from the 1920s to the 1960s.
This area blends with other attractions like the Giant Slide at the island's center-north.
When you're done with your swim head back to the south side of the road where there are many picnic tables, covered picnic areas and creative play-scapes such as the renovated Kid's Kingdom.
A fast food window has been open briefly near the main restroom facility of this area. But you should rely on yourself to bring adequate food and beverages along until this issue is adequately addressed during the state lease of the island that started in 2014. New venues are scheduled to open.
There's also some decent viewing of the powerboats during the Hydrofest races in this location, where the NorthChannel is nearly a mile wide in some places. (Refer to Sports Page 4 for Hydrofest Race details.)
The Waterslide is currently inactive. It may be upgraded or replaced with a new water feature.
Nestled in its own bay across a wooden bridge is the Detroit Yacht Club where the road merges into Riverbank Drive at the river’s north shore. The Yacht Club is a full service athletic club and marina built on its own island in 1868. (You must be a member to use the facilities.)
A covered bridge in the distance with round and square windows joins the two banks of a connecting stream. (The bridge may not be in adequate condition at this time. Such concerns will be addressed by the state takeover of the island.)
The North side of the island features Lake Muscoday -- termed a "deep water" fish habitat, probably to discourage anglers from wading on a bottom that drops suddenly to 13 feet.
When you return to the highway, continue by following Lakeside Drive where you will begin to pass yet another lake on the left.
(Note: The state is clearing brush and fallen timber in the area and sprucing up the trails.)
A path and a roadway run through it. As you turn north, The Strand becomes Lakeside Drive.
A survey by a naturalist, proved there were White Tail deer on Belle Isle, and there is still a relatively healthy ecosystem, otherwise threatened by invasive species. He made a year-long study in 2010, completing a major anthology of each season in photos, taken from blinds. Some show hawks, owls, raccoons, fox, salamanders and other animals rarely seen. You can now add beaver to this list.
Sturgeon have spawned in the coastal area, and islands nearby have seen the first return of the Northern Madtom, both signs of a healthy river. Lake Whitefish have spawned in the river for the first time since 1916. Lake Whitefish and Sturgeon were major industries a century ago when their once abundant numbers were decimated by over-fishing. Dredging of canals and streams has allowed Pike to spawn in the island's lagoons and estuaries.
Much of Belle Isle and its wooded acreage on the west side of the street are a protected environment composed of rare Lakeplain Prairie, Lakeplain Oak Opening, Great Lakes Marsh and Wet-Mesic Flatwoods, once common in the region. However, the island’s ash trees have been devastated by the Chinese Ash Borer Beetle. Other native trees are beginning to fill in the gaps. Until recently you had to take care if you decided to hike the trails to avoid dead limbs that could fall in your path. Some of the forest bridges were not sufficiently maintained. But this has been changing with the state takeover of the island in 2014.
Equally dramatic is a nocturne view of the Renaissance Center and its new outdoor lighting scheme mirrored in the river opposite the glowing Caesars Windsor towers (left).
(The island generally has a 10:00pm closing curfew. But that may have changed in 2014 with state management.)
As you head around the point to the Southwest shore on The Strand, Lake Tacoma gradually appears with its many islands.
Scott Fountain Seen Through Park Building, Sunset Point
The Northwest island shoreline offers you a broad, panoramic view of the Downtown Detroit skyline and is spectacularly brilliant on a sunny day, highlighted by the sparkling emerald waters of the river. It's a great place to see the annual fireworks shot from three river barges during the International Freedom Festival in June or from a single barge during the Detroit International Jazz Festival in early September.
Continuing west the Lagoon appears to the left, along Casino Way.
(GENERAL ALPHEUS STARKEY WILLIAMS)
He lived in Connecticut, graduated from Yale and moved to Detroit in 1840 where he practiced law.
Known as Old Pap, the general was present at many major battles of the Civil War including Gettysburg, and fought with many of the more than 90,000 Michigan troops who suffered horrible losses, some with a 40% casualty rate.
He is portrayed here riding Plug Ugly while reading a battlefield map on the horse he favored over his big show horse.
(The monument, commissioned in 1912, resembles Shrady's other famous equestrian bronze portraying U.S. Grant.)
The Eastern half of the island has a substantially forested 150 acre preserve.
Though never a gambling facility, the Spanish style Casino building hosts local events for seniors and island activities. It's just west of the Flynn Skating Pavilion.
Lake Tacoma Bridge
A number of small bridges connect many of the recreation areas over the water, visited by migratory birds.
Loop Canal Bridge
Pedal-powered boat excursions, kayaks and canoes depart from the Skating Pavilion, which is also used for overflow meeting space. But no ice skating is allowed on the island at this time.
Lake Tacoma Pedal Boat Excursions
Close inspection reveals a torrent rolling off a filled chalice and cistern, where Cupids ride porpoises issuing streams from their toothy snouts, behind the backs of crouched lions.
Northwest View of Detroit Shoreline
Nocturne View toward River Gateway
NEARBY CANAL BY BREAKWATER
SPAWNING AREA OF ESTUARY AT BLUE HERON LAGOON ENTRANCE TO RIVER, DURING BRIDGE CONSTRUCTION
EAST ISLAND MAP. BRIDGE AT NORTHEAST CORNER (WHITE LINE).
KITE BOARDERS AND NORTH CHANNEL-BEACH AREA
BEAVER CUT STUMPS AT LAKE TACOMA
Administrators have confirmed beaver on the island. The beaver have cut down a number of trees to build lodges. Apparently,they swam from nearby Conner Creek or Peche Island to colonize the area. Park staff are protecting tree trunks with wire mesh barriers.
ONE BOAT BREAKS FROM THE PACK
HYDROPLANE BOATS CIRCLE THE COURSE WITH "ROOSTERTAIL" PLUMES OF SPRAY
ESTUARY TO RIVER -- NORTH VIEW FROM DETROIT YACHT CLUB
An estuary and canal lead to the river. Another fishing pier offers access to good fishing at the North Channel.
DETROIT YACHT CLUB JET SKIS AND SAILBOATS MOORED AT MARINA
VIEW WEST TO LAGOON FROM NEW BRIDGE
CANOEISTS TOUR THE LAGOON
WINTER WILLOWS, LAKE MUSKODAY
The lake is ringed by sheltering Willow trees that turn green in summer and yellow in winter, lending a velvet tan contrast to the icy lake and snowy banks.
Both Peche Island (on horizon, left), and the nearby Conner Creek power station (above) have a number of resident beaver.
BLUE HERON LAGOON NATURE TRAIL
BLUE HERON LAGOON NORTHEAST END
NORTHEAST COAST CANAL AREA NEAR BLUE HERON LAGOON
Sunset Point, Freighter & Gateway View to Bridge, West
A short walk from the curb brings you to a concourse, and through a garden. Look back and you may see a fountain through the archway of the park facilities building. A breathtaking vista leads you back to the jade waves of the Detroit River and to a triangular corner on the island known as Sunset Point. The road turns into The Strand from here on.
Windsor's Downtown skyscrapers offer their own terrific view of the river opposite Downtown Detroit -- forming a grand, river gateway in the distance with Ambassador Bridge as backdrop. These provide a fantastic composition during any kind of weather. Get your camera ready. As film crews say, "There's no bad angle in Detroit."
Seated bronze benefactor, James Scott, gazes admiringly at the superbly crafted scene. One of the city's playboys, he bequeathed much of his personal fortune to create it. The fountain is restored and back to full display in the summer months when funding is available.