Michigan's Accessible Canopy Walk Lets Everyone Explore the Forest From New Heights
Midland's Whiting Forest Canopy Walk isn't just the longest canopy walk in the country, it's also ADA-compliant and open to all.
Forty feet above the earth, the Whiting Forest Canopy Walk weaves through autumn treetops, breaking records in the quietest of ways. Opened in late 2018, it’s the longest canopy walk in the country. But more than that, the path, which stretches over oak stands and an old apple orchard, is ADA-compliant, making this one-of-a-kind experience accessible for everyone. It’s a feat of engineering and an inclusive community investment that would be laudable anywhere, but in Midland, Michigan, a record-setting canopy walk is just one more way the city is giving back to its residents and enticing new visitors.
By most accounts, Midland is a fun place to spend the weekend. But it’s an even better place to live. School ratings are high. The cost of living is relatively low. The town of about 42,000 is far from big city traffic, yet near enough to Royal Oak (home of the Detroit Zoo), Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids for easy weekend getaways.
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Surprisingly, Midland’s success — even its profusion of beautiful outdoor spaces — is due in part to Dow Chemical Company. It’s a strange brew of pollution and prosperity. Founded in 1897 in Midland, the Dow Chemical Company has made everything from bleach chemicals to artificial turf, even taking on napalm for a brief stint in the ‘60s.
So what does that have to do with residents now? Jobs. And an infusion of funds by The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation for pursuits like science education, environmental sustainability and, yes, Whiting Forest in Dow Gardens.
1. Soak in the full beauty of Dow Gardens.
We’re not done with Dow Chemical Company yet. The canopy walk above Whiting Forest is only a section of Dow Gardens, a 110-acre arboretum that once served as Herbert and Grace Dow’s backyard. Open all four seasons, you can visit butterflies in the conservatory in spring, breathe in fresh botanicals in summer, walk among foliage in fall, and stop into The Pines, the Dows’ historic home, for holiday events during the winter.
2. The wetlands are calling and you must go.
One nature center isn’t enough for Midland. A 10-minute drive from the pristine landscape of Dow Gardens, is Chippewa Nature Center, home to a 19-mile web of trails. From wetland paths and boardwalks to meadows and ridges, there are plenty of opportunities to get lost in your thoughts and unwind.
3. Be delighted by dahlias.
Where can you find 3,000 dahlias blooming on one hillside? Midland. Michigan artist Charles Breed’s exuberant gardening efforts turned into a community centerpiece when his dahlia collection overtook his property. That was more than 25 years ago. Now a local nonprofit, Dahlia Hill Society, keeps the garden and its resident sculptures beautiful year after year. You can walk among the flowers on Dahlia Hill from April to November.
4. Say it with me: The Tridge.
Scouting photo backdrops for the ‘gram? Look no further than Midland’s iconic three-legged wooden footbridge. If you’re visiting on a summer weekend, you might need to wait your turn amidst the families and wedding parties capturing the scene. The Tridge is also a popular spot for the area’s outdoor summer concert series, Tunes by the Tridge. True to the town’s wholesome Midwestern vibe, the concerts are free and family-friendly.
5. Over the river and to the Great Lakes Bay…
Midland doesn’t stand alone. The city is part of the Great Lakes Bay region, a cluster of mid-sized towns in the crook of the Mitten State’s thumb. Kayak down Midland’s waterways before boarding a tall ship in Bay City or taking a dip along the shores of Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay.
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