Pigeon River Country State Forest

Huron Pines, Michigan DNR and other dedicated partners continue to work together to actively manage the unique landscape of the Pigeon River Country State Forest (PRC) to ensure the long-term protection and restoration of habitat for native plants and wildlife and recreation opportunities for visitors and residents.

With over 100,000 acres of adventure, the PRC is the largest contiguous block of publicly owned land in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The PRC is a unique area and managed differently than other state forests with little signage, remote areas and many opportunities to enjoy quiet recreation. In addition to significant hunting grounds and 3 pristine trout streams that area also boasts hundreds of miles of hiking, snowshoeing, equestrian and mountain biking trails. The PRC lives up to its nickname “Big Wild,” providing a remote, undeveloped backcountry experience that supports species like elk, black bear, bobcat, and pine marten (some of which require large blocks of land with open space and rich forests to thrive).

Upcoming Restoration Projects in the Pigeon River Country State Forest

Better Fish Passage on the Pigeon River in 2020

The Pigeon River currently flows under Ford Lake Road in the PRC through three metal tubes, or culverts. The existing culverts are too small for the volume of water rushing through, causing water to move at such a high velocity that it makes it difficult or impossible for fish to swim upstream for feeding and spawning. The current road/stream crossing design also puts the area at risk for flooding or a complete road washout during heavy rain.

Water beginning to flood the bank of the Pigeon River at the Ford Lake Road crossing in 2017.

In the summer of 2020 this crossing and roadway will be replaced with a new timber bridge to allow the river to flow freely again and:

  • Improve wildlife habitat by allowing fish and other species to move up and downstream
  • Enhance safety by eliminating the risk of a road washout due to flooding
  • Maintain easy recreation access for visitors
The original timber bridge at the Ford Lake Road crossing in 1940.

The road crossing and adjacent day use area will be temporarily closed during construction. The road crossing and adjacent day use area will be temporarily closed during construction. The adjacent campground will remain open but site #19 (closest to the crossing) will be converted to a small parking area.

This project is being completed collaboratively by Huron Pines, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Otsego County Road Commission.

For questions or concerns please refer to the following contacts.

Fisheries Information: DNR Tim Cwalinski, cwalinskit@michigan.gov, (989)-732-3541 x5072

Camping/recreation Information: DNR, Kelly Kinser,  kinserk@michigan.gov, (989)-732-5485

Restoration Project Information: Huron Pines,  Josh Leisen, josh@huronpines.org (989)-448-2293 x16

Updating Dam Infrastructure to Support Recreation Opportunities

Cornwall Flooding, a 295-acre impoundment in Pigeon River Country State Forest provides excellent recreation opportunities. It is home to a world-class bluegill fishery and the Shore-to-Shore equestrian trail. It’s a popular destination for people who are looking for a quieter day out on the water as the impoundment is restricted to non-gas-powered watercraft.

The dam structure that creates the impoundment was installed in 1966 and consists of a large earthen berm owned and managed by the Michigan DNR Fisheries Division.

As the dam has aged some of the structures, including the outlet culvert and the riser structure are in need of repair. The Michigan DNR has awarded $410,725 ($50,000 from the Dam Management Grant Program and $360,725 from a special allocation authorized by the Michigan Legislature) to Huron Pines to manage dam renovation work scheduled for 2020. The engineering firm Wade Trim will be developing the project designs and overseeing construction oversight. Bids for construction will be solicited in the coming months.  

The ecological and socioeconomic benefits of maintaining Cornwall Flooding and preserving its high-quality recreation opportunities outweigh any potential benefits of dam removal, which would result in the loss of this warmwater fishery. Dam removal at this site would provide minimal benefit for coldwater species, as Cornwall Creek is already a relatively warm stream system above the impoundment.

The dam renovation will include partial drawdown of the impoundment in 2020 and replacement of the aging culvert outlet pipe and riser structure with a new water control mechanism that will improve dam safety and simplify future maintenance. These improvements address recommendations laid forth in a 2016 Michigan DEQ inspection report and will ensure the high-quality recreation opportunities of Cornwall Flooding are offered safely and long into the future.

Partial drawdown of the impoundment is expected to commence in early summer 2020, with construction work proceeding. 

Public access to the Shore-to-Shore Trail (dam levee/embankment) will be temporarily restricted in summer 2020 to accommodate construction activities. 

Access will be fully restored once construction is completed later in summer 2020. Project designs are under development. This webpage will be updated as new information becomes available. 

For more information about this project contact Huron Pines Project Manager Josh Leisen at (989) 448-2293 x16 or josh@huronpines.org.