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Northern Michigan In Focus: Pigeon River Valley State Forest

This year marks 100 years since the acquisition of one of the most beautiful sections of land in our state. In this weeks Northern Michigan in Focus Corey Adkins shows you the story behind the Pigeon River Valley State Forest.

There’s such a history and story of the love of the land we just wanted to make sure that it got told and that’s the other reason the Pigeon River Discovery Center is here,” said Sandy Franz of the Pigeon River Discovery Center.

This is a place so special, Ernest Hemingway came here after serving in World War I to heal both mentally and physically.

But the story of why this land is so special goes back to when there was nothing here. First the lumber companies would strip the land.

“After the lumbermen came through and took the good wood, the straight big trunks, the slash and tops that were left on the ground could be ignited by a stray spark, a strike of lightning.   Those fires burned thousands of acres and burned so hot they actually ruined the soil for farming afterwards,” explained Franz.

This is when two men stepped in.

“The cooperation between P.S. Lovejoy, who was a conservationist and he worked with Herman Lunden, he was an area lumberman and civic leader. Lunden persuaded the various lumber companies and the lumbermen in the area to either deed their land right to the state of Michigan or sell it to the state at a reduced price to accumulate a large contiguous chunk of land to be used as a game preserve,” said Franz.

It worked.

“Lovejoy had the vision to see that this land could be used for recreation for the people of the state of Michigan. It could be used as wildlife habitat or it could be used to develop and accentuate the fisheries of what are now three blue ribbon trout streams in the area,” said Franz.

Now the Pigeon River Country State Forest has over 106,000 acres of forests and rivers for people to enjoy and a place for animals to call home. In some ways P.S. Lovejoy is still looking over this beloved land.

“He talked about what he saw was wild land. He saw a chunk of land that was big enough to stay wild and it’s that wildness today that helps to define the Pigeon River Country,” said Franz.


Behind the headquarters of the Pigeon River Country State Forest lies the newly remolded discovery center. On the weekends you can visit it and learn much more about this very special place.

“We wanted to encourage people to get to know the forest better and to come to understand it a little better, love it a little better so that we could protect it. As the Native Americans say, seven generations into the future, and that’s what we hope the discovery center will be,” said Franz.