Wildlife of the Midwest

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Did you know Red Foxes’ forepaws have five toes, while their hind feet only have four?

The great plains of the Midwest are home to some of the United States’ most amazing wildlife.

In the American prairie your will mostly find animals adapted for living in grasslands. Indigenous mammals include the American bison, eastern cottontail, black-tailed jackrabbit, plains coyote, black-tailed prairie dog, muskrat, opossum, raccoon, prairie chicken, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, swift foxes, pronghorn antelope, the Franklin’s ground squirrel and several other species of ground squirrels.

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Did you know their entire mating season is only an hour long?

Rabbits live throughout and neighboring areas; the black-tailed jackrabbit is found in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas, the white-tailed jackrabbit in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the swamp rabbit in swampland in Texas, and the eastern cottontail is found in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and every state in the Eastern U.S.The groundhog is a common species in Iowa, Missouri, and eastern portions of Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

The groundhog is widespread throughout Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Minnesota. Virginia opossum is found is states such as Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas.

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Did you know bobcats are crepuscular- meaning they are most active during twilight (dawn and dusk)?

The nine-banded armadillo is found throughout the South and states such as Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. The muskrat is found throughout the Central U.S., excluding Texas, while the American beaver is found in every central state.The American bison is the heaviest land animal in North America and can be as tall as 6.5 feet (2.0 m) and weigh over a ton.

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Did you know The name, hummingbird, comes from the humming noise their wings make as they beat so fast? Hmmmmmmmm

Maybe the most iconic animal of the American prairie, the American buffalo, once roamed throughout the central plains. Bison once covered the Great Plains and were critically important to Native-American societies in the Central U.S. They became nearly extinct in the 19th century, but have made a recent resurgence in the Great Plains. Today, bison numbers have rebounded to about 200,000; these bison live on preserves and ranches.

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Did you know a male duck is called a drake and female duck a hen?

Some of the species that occupy every central state include the red fox, bobcat, white-tailed deer, raccoon, eastern spotted skunk, striped skunk, long-tailed weasel, and the American badger and beaver. The wild boar is common in the South, while the American mink lives in every central state with the exception of Texas. The least weasel is found around the Great Lakes as well as states such as Nebraska, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

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Did you know male deer grow new antlers every year?

The gray fox is found in Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and also around the Great Lakes region. The ring-tailed cat is found in the southern region, including in Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. There are many species of squirrels in the central parts of the U.S., including the fox squirrel, eastern gray squirrel, Franklin’s ground squirrel, southern flying squirrel, and the thirteen-lined ground squirrel. Voles include the prairie vole, woodland vole and the meadow vole. The plains pocket gopher lives throughout the Great Plains. Shrews include the cinereus shrew, southeastern shrew, North American least shrew, and the Elliot’s short-tailed shrew. (wiki)\

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Hike & Go Seek – Gandy Dancer Trail

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 The Gandy Dancer State Trail is a 98 mile recreational trail spanning through Wisconsin and Minnesota. The trail is managed by Polk, Burnett, and Douglas County in Wisconsin and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Minnesota.  

The trail follows the old Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie railroad grade from St. Croix Falls to Superior. The trail is divided up into a north and south segment with the southern segment accounting for 47 miles all in Wisconsin and the northern segment accounting for 51 miles in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.  The Ice Age Trail follows the Gandy Dancer State Trail for 19 miles from St. Croix Falls past the town of Luck.      

History

A gandy dancer was a slang term used for American railroad workers that would build and maintain tracks by hand. The term likely originated from the Gandy Manufacturing Company based in Chicago which produced railroad tools. These workers were known to sing and keep their voices and feet in unison which led to them being described as dancers. In 1990 a naming contest was held for the naming of the trail. The name Gandy Dancer was chosen to honor the railroad workers who built the tracks. (wiki)  

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Hike & Go Seek – Orchard Beach State Park

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 Located on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan in Manistee Township, Manistee County, Michigan……Orchard Beach State Park is a public recreation area covering 201 acres just north of the city Manistee which has a beach, campground and hiking trails.   The park dates back to 1892 when it first opened and was developed by the Manistee, Filer City and Eastlake Railway  Company.  The site was purchased by the Manistee Board of Commerce after the company stopped trolley service to the park and then became part of the Michigan state park system in 1921.   The Civilian Conservation Corps was active in the park during the 1930’s and Corps efforts included the construction of several limestone structures including a pump house, pavilion, line house and toilet.  In 2009 the park was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places having been cited as “one of the most intact examples of a Michigan state park developed in the 1930’s and 1940’s under National Park Service guidelines.   In 2019 it was reported that erosion caused by high water levels on Lake Michigan threatened the park’s historic pavilion with destruction.  The pavilion stands only 50 feet from the edge of the bluff.  High water had covered the sandy beach at the base of the bluff below the pavilion since 2017 and the stairway built to access the beach from the pavilion led straight into the high waters of Lake Michigan.   As for activities and amenities the park offers swimming, fishing, three miles of hiking trails, picknicking facilities and a 166 site campground.   (wiki)  

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Hike & Go Seek – Duck Creek Trail

White and Brown Wild Duck on Water

  A place to be in awe.  The Duck Creek Trail in Wisconsin is a crushed limestone trail in Outagamie and Brown Counties in northeast Wisconsin. The Duck Creek Trail spans seven miles (11 km), beginning at the eastern end of the Newton Blackmour State Trail, just east of Vanderheuvel Road in Seymour. The trail continues east through the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin in northern Outagamie County paralleling State Route 54, and continues to the Village of Oneida.  The Duck Creek Trail will eventually extend to Pamperin Park in Green Bay.    

  With the connection to the Newton Blackmour State Trail, the combined trails are over 30 miles (48 km) long. The combined trails extend from Village of Oneida to New London. (wiki)  

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Hike & Go Seek – Theodore Roosevelt National Park

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park is an American national park comprising three geographically separated areas of badlands in western North Dakota. The park was named for U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.  It has three sections: the North Unit, the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit.

The park’s larger South Unit lies alongside Interstate 94 near Medora, North Dakota. The smaller North Unit is situated about 80 mi (130 km) north of the South Unit, on U.S. Route 85, just south of Watford City, North Dakota. Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch is located between the North and South units, approximately 20 mi (32 km) west of US 85 and Fairfield, North Dakota. The Little Missouri River flows through all three units of the park. The Maah Daah Hey Trail connects all three units.

History

Roosevelt first came to the North Dakota badlands to hunt bison in September 1883. During that first short trip, he got his bison and fell in love with the rugged lifestyle and the “perfect freedom” of the West. He invested $14,000 in the Maltese Cross Ranch, which was already being managed by Sylvane Ferris and Bill Merrifield seven miles south of Medora. That winter, Ferris and Merrifield built the Maltese Cross Cabin. After the death of both his wife and his mother on February 14, 1884, Teddy Roosevelt returned to his North Dakota ranch seeking solitude and time to heal. That summer, he started his second ranch, the Elkhorn Ranch, 35 miles north of Medora, which he hired two Maine woodsmen, Bill Sewall and Wilmot Dow, to operate. Teddy Roosevelt took great interest in his ranches and in hunting in the West, detailing his experiences in pieces published in eastern newspapers and magazines. He wrote three major works on his life in the West: Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman and The Wilderness Hunter. His adventures in “the strenuous life” outdoors and the loss of his cattle in the starvation winter in 1886–1887 were influential in Theodore Roosevelt’s pursuit of conservation policies as President of the United States (1901–1909).

Both main units of the park have scenic drives, approximately 100 miles of foot and horse trails, wildlife viewing, and opportunities for back country hiking and camping. There are three developed campgrounds: Juniper Campground in the North Unit, Cottonwood Campground in the South Unit, and the Roundup Group Horse Campground in the South Unit.

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One of the most popular attractions is wildlife viewing. The park is home to a wide variety of Great Plains wildlife including bison, coyotes, cougars, feral horses, badgers, elk, bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer and mule deer, prairie dogs, and at least 186 species of birds including golden eagles, sharp-tailed grouse, and wild turkeys. Bison may be dangerous and visitors are advised to view them from a distance. Bison, elk, and bighorn sheep have been successfully reintroduced to the park.

The scenery changes constantly in relationship with the seasons. The brown, dormant grass dominates from late summer through the winter, but explodes into green color in the early summer along with hundreds of species of flowering plants. Winter can be a beautiful scene as snow covers the sharp terrain of the badlands and locks the park into what Theodore Roosevelt called “an abode of iron desolation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roosevelt_National_Park

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Backyard Birding –

Saturday was very cold and very windy here on LI but at least the sun was shining. I set up a “Moose Peterson” rig… placed a branch on a light stand next to the feeders and shot from inside my office. Had our annual visit from the rose-breated grosbeak, he usually stops by for a day or so and then disappears. Hoping to see him today. Happy Mothers Day to all you mom’s out there!

via Backyard Birding —

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Hike & Go Seek – Maquoketa Caves State Park

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This park contains more caves than any other state park in Iowa. A trail system links the caves, formations, and overlooks while providing a scenic hiking experience. Many areas on these trails have seen new construction, making the journey to the caves safer. Most of the caves may be entered by persons of average physical ability, but some are more advanced. However the park’s caves were closed to humans between 2010 and April 2012 in the hopes of protecting the resident bats from white nose syndrome. 

The park is in the Driftless Area of Iowa. This region escaped being glaciated in the last ice age, while regions to the east and west were not spared. The park has been subjected to hundreds of thousands of years of natural non-glacial erosion. 

The park’s caves, limestone formations and rugged bluffs represent a step back in geological time of thousands of years. Stalactites once hung from the ceilings and stalagmites rose from the floor. Souvenir hunters have robbed the caves of this rare beauty, but many formations remain. The park’s limestone caves, arches and chimneys including Dancehall Cave, Hernado’s Hideaway, Shinbone Cave, Wye Cave, and an unmarked cave within the Dancehall Cavern locally known as Steelgate Cave.

A bit of history

Artifacts such as pottery, as well as tools and projectile points made of stone have been found in the caves and surrounding area. These discoveries indicate that the Maquoketa Caves area has been of interest to humans for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. Early recorded history tells that the Native Americans in the area were likely visitors to the Raccoon Creek valleys. The first Euro-American explorers first visited the caves as late as the mid-1830s. The area was originally known as Morehead Caves or Burt’s Cave. It had become a popular place for exploration, picnics, parties, and dances by the 1860s. A dance floor was constructed north of Natural Bridge in 1868, and a pavilion, which was used until the 1920s, was built sometime later. By the turn of the 20th century the area had become seriously degraded, and its popularity declined. (wiki)

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Hike & Go Seek – Superior Hiking Trail

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The Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota follows the rocky ridges overlooking Lake Superior for a total of 310 miles of pure adventure.  This unique trail takes you through forests of birch, pine, aspen, fir and cedar trees so hikers will enjoy views of boreal forests, babbling brooks, rushing waterfalls, abundant wildlife and the Sawtooth Mountains.  The lowest point in the patch is 602 ft above sea level and the highest point reaches 1,829 ft above sea level.  This footpath is intended for hiking only and motorized vehicles, mountain bikes and horses are not allowed on the trail.  Many avid hikers use this trail for long-distance hiking and there are 94 fee free campsites available for the attending hikers to use.


There are two primary sections to the Superior Hiking Trail.  The Duluth section of the trail is 50 miles long and starts southwest of the city of Duluth at the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.  This section is best suited for day hiking and there is only one backcountry campground located near the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.  The other section is called the North Shore section and it is approximately 260 miles long and begins at the Martin Road Trailhead on the northern boundary of the city of Duluth.  


The Superior Hiking Trail Association builds, promotes and maintains the trail.  It is a Minnesota based non-profit corporation with more than 3,200 members.  The association produces a quarterly newsletter called “The Ridgeline” for its members which contains news of the trail, trail volunteer bios and association financial info. The trail was mostly built y crews of people that ere hired from local towns by the Minnesota Conservation Corps.
In December 2000, accolades were offered by “BackPacker Magazine” where they named the Superior Hiking Trail with the “Best Trail/Camp Shelter conditions; the trail with the “Best Signage” in the country and one of the most scenic trails in the nation.

wiki

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Hike & Go Seek – Ice Age Trail

Looking for premier hiking in the Midwest.  Look no furture….The Ice Age Trail is a National Scenic Trail located entirely within Wisconsin. The trail is also one of 42 designated Wisconsin state trails and the only one specifically designated as a “State Scenic Trail.” From Interstate State Park on the Minnesota border to Potawatomi State Park on Lake Michigan, the Ice Age Trail winds for more than 1,000 miles, following the edge of the last continental glacier in Wisconsin.

One of only 11 National Scenic Trails, the Ice Age Trail is intended to be a premier hiking trail and conservation resource for silent sport and outdoor enthusiasts. The trail traverses some of Wisconsin’s most scenic landscapes and helps tell the story of the last Ice Age by highlighting Wisconsin’s unique glacial features.

Primary attractions include topography left by glaciation in the Last Ice Age. Glacial features along the trail include kettles, potholes, eskers, and glacial erratics. Many of the best examples of glacial features in Wisconsin are exhibited in units of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve, most of which lie along the trail.

The Ice Age Trail is primarily an off-road hiking and backpacking trail that provides excellent opportunities for sightseeing, wildlife viewing and bird watching. In winter, some sections of the trail are open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Camping

Opportunities are available for camping along the Ice Age Trail in national, state and county forests and in many state and county parks, including some private campgrounds. Campgrounds can vary from primitive walk-in campsites to facilities complete with electric hookups. When planning a trip, it is best to check ahead of time for camping locations and availability. The Ice Age Trail Atlas and Guidebook, which are available for sale from the Ice Age Trail Alliance, provide camping and lodging details for all segments of the trail.

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The Ice Age Trail travels through 30 counties on state, federal, county and private lands, connecting dozens of communities. There are hundreds of trailheads and access points located along the trail route. More than 600 miles of trail are open. The completed sections of the trail are connected by less-traveled roadways and other temporary routes. 

Hikers at Devil's Lake
Stone steps lead the way up the bluff trails at Devil’s Lake State Park.

The Ice Age Trail goes through several state and federal lands in Wisconsin, including traveling many miles through county and private lands. In addition to the state parks and forests listed below (from west to east along the trail), the Ice Age Trail travels through many state wildlife and fishery areas and some state natural areas.

  • Interstate State Park, Saint Croix Falls
  • Straight Lake State Park, near Frederic
  • Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area, near New Auburn
  • Brunet Island State Park, Cornell
  • Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest 
  • Hartman Creek State Park, near Waupaca
  • Devil’s Lake State Park, near Baraboo
  • Kettle Moraine State Forest
    • Southern Unit, Eagle
    • Lapham Peak Unit, near Delafield
    • Loew Lake Unit, near Monches
    • Pike Lake Unit, near Hartford
    • Northern Unit, near Campbellsport
  • Point Beach State Forest, near Two Rivers
  • Potawatomi State Park, near Sturgeon Bay

The Ice Age Trail includes parts of other Wisconsin state trails.

  • Gandy Dancer, St. Croix Falls to Frederic
  • Tuscobia, Rice Lake to Birchwood
  • Mountain-Bay, near Hatley
  • Military Ridge, near Verona
  • Badger, near Fitchburg
  • Sugar River, Monticello to Albany
  • Glacial Drumlin, near Wales
  • Eisenbahn, near Kewaskum
  • Ahnapee, Casco Junction to Sturgeon Bay

Interstate State Park, Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area and the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine Forest – all units of the Ice Age Scientific Reserve – have Ice Age Educational and Interpretive Centers with major displays in glacial history and geology.https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/iceagetrail/

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Hike & Go Seek – Cooper Harbor

Aerial view of Copper Harbor

 

 Looking for some of the funnest and most scenic trails around Michigan. Copper Harbor is your spot.  It is an all-season resort town in northeastern Keweenaw County, Michigan located on the Keweenaw Peninsula which juts out from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan into Lake Superior.  Due to its natural environment and surroundings it is a popular tourist destination within the Great Lakes region.   One popular spot for visitors is Hunter’s Island which is the name of a non-hilly point running out from the west into Lake Superior.  It was named for an early settler of the area named Mr. Hunter who owned a tract of land on what is now Hunter’s Point or Hunter’s Island.   Situated at the opening of the harbor itself is the historic Copper Harbor Lighthouse built in 1866, replacing an earlier lighthouse made in 1849.  It is only accessible via a short ride in a compact open vessel from the Copper Harbor marina.  Exhibits inside the lighthouse museum cover both the lighthouse history along with the local shipwreck culture of the area.   Another popular site known as “the most beautiful road in Michigan” is the Brockway Mountain Drive that is an 8.8 mile route that follows the backbone of a 753-foot-high ridge between the towns of Copper Harbor and Eagle Harbor and is the highest paved road between the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Allegheny Mountains to the east.  Constructed during the 30’s, this very picturesque road offers stunning views of Lake Superior and Keweenaw Penisula as well as the archipelago of Isle Royale.

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