The paved Paul Henry - Thornapple Trail follows the Thornapple River and has been called the most beautiful railtrail in Michigan. The area has an established population of the rare Red-headed Woodpecker, as well as all the other six eastern US woodpeckers. Trail brochure here.
To celebrate this, the fourth annual Thornapple Woodpecker Festival will be held April 26, 2014, with headquarters at the Village Hall (100 E Main St) in Middleville, Michigan. It features guided birding walks and golf cart tours of the woodpecker nesting area along the river and the Paul Henry-Thornapple Trail. Canoe and kayak rental is also available, as the woodpeckers nest in trees along the river. Click on the News tab for more Festival details.
A brochure is available here.
The old railroad followed the river and was built in the 1800's. More recent adjustments in the dam at Middleville has killed many trees. Since red-headed woodpeckers prefer at least 35% open sky areas, this has produced good woodpecker habitat. In this view of one of the bayous, the Trail and river are hidden behind brush in the background. In 2011 we saw 52 species of birds. Apparently the cold weather held down the insect and bird numbers when we logged 47 species in 2012. Of course, many ducks, geese, swans, herons, cranes, and other waterbirds are usually seen on the bayous. In addition, the trees along the first portion of the trail are rather short, so the warblers etc. are "right in your face", an experience some have compared to Point Peelee.