“People who desire a gentle interaction with Michigan’s outdoor life will certainly enjoy this incredible structure. The Whiting family has blessed Midland, the Great Lakes Bay Region and the state of Michigan with this wholesome, universally accessible and vibrant attraction that fills the senses.” – Annette Rummel, Executive Director – Great Lakes Bay Regional CVB
For more than 15 years, the Whiting Forest in Midland had served as a modest park where locals could hike casually through native woodlands, beneath towering trees, along the meandering Snake Creek and surrounded by nature on all sides.
Yet the Forest was destined for bigger things.
After more than two years and $20 million, the Forest was transformed into a magnificent one-of-a-kind, four-season destination with three miles of trails and 1.5 miles of ADA accessible pathways, bridges and boardwalks as well as a children’s playground and an impressive 1,400-foot elevated “Canopy Walk” which takes visitors as high as 40 feet high – up above 54 acres of trails, ponds, meadows and more than 220 fruit trees planted over two acres.
Touted as the longest elevated pathway in the country, visitors will find unique sections that extend out into the woods including the “Spruce Arm” which bears a spruce tree-supported braided-cord cargo net, the “Pond Arm” which overlooks Lake Margrador and the “Orchard Arm” which boasts a glass-bottom platform at the walk’s highest viewing point.
Two artistic wooden pods – inspired by ‘umbel’ of a Queen Ann’s Lace flower – provide unique places to escape and play. The East Pod is located at the end of an accessible walkway, while the two-level West Pod is the reward for traversing a 28-foot cargo net bridge.
“Looking out through the trees and over the ponds is very peaceful even with all the people around,” says Mina Silvernaile, who recently moved to Saginaw from Fountain Valley, CA. “I love that trees are allowed to grow through holes built into the canopy walk so as to disturb as little as possible. After you get your fill of views, there is plenty of trails to walk on the ground as well. Surprisingly, almost the entire canopy walk is wheelchair-friendly and there is even one paved trail on the ground.”
This year, a 832-foot Rose Garden pedestrian bridge will connect Whiting Forest with the 56-acre Dow Gardens property on one side, adjacent to the Mid-Century Modern era Alden B. Down Home & Studio. Another 425-foot bridge crosses the Snake Creek watershed and links the Forest to the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library.
Herbert Henry and Grace Dow purchased their original 10 acres of land in this area in 1899, building their family home – known as The Pines – and developing extensive gardens, orchards and parks in which they raised seven children. The house still stands and is open for tours, the heart of what has become a 110-acre campus. A budding chemist, Herbert founded the Dow Chemical Company in 1897 where he pumped brine out of the earth and extracted chemicals like bromine, which was sold to industrial companies to make a variety of household products.
Today, the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation – established in 1936 – is one of the largest family foundations in Michigan. It is through the legacy of these two philanthropic leaders that the Canopy Walk and its neighboring natural attractions exist, thrive and grow.
“What is now Whiting Forest was my backyard as a kid. My brother and I spent countless hours there, climbing trees, catching frogs, skating on the ponds, even building our own cabin—we created our own adventures,” said Macauley (Mike) Whiting, Jr., president of The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. “When conceptualizing the Whiting Forest project, we focused on how to bring that childhood experience to others and how to instill in people an appreciation of nature. The idea is to get people outside, away from computer screens and hectic lives. There is something innately good for you in a forest. It’s good for your soul.”
Admission to the Dow Gardens also includes the entire Whiting Forest and the Canopy Walk, which are open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Day passes are $10 for adults and $2 for children ages six and up (including college students, with a valid I.D.). An annual pass is $20 per person. For more information: dowgardens.org.
19 things to check out in Midland, in addition to the Canopy Walk:
- Golf Cart Guided Tour of Dow Gardens (including 35,000 seasonal annuals, 400 varieties of roses in the summer and 28,000 tulip bulbs from the Netherlands in the spring)
- The Pines (the first house built in 1899 by Herbert and Grace Dow), including the Concert Series (June-September)
- The Oragami Exhibit at Dow Gardens (through September 29, 2019)
- Outdoor Movies (select evenings, June-October, at Dow Gardens)
- Hands-on Gardening Workshops at Dow Gardens (June-September)
- Kids Tree Climbing at Dow Gardens (June-August)
- Whiting Forest Visitor Center (once the home of Macauley and Helen Dow Whiting, granddaughter and grandson-in-law to Herbert and Grace Dow, designed by Alden B. Dow)
- The Whiting Forest Birding Festival – September 19-21, 2019
- The Alden B. Dow Home & Studio
- Grace A. Dow Memorial Library
- Midland City Cemetery (where the Dow Family plot exists)
- Midland Center for the Arts
- Chippewa Nature Center – a 1,348-acre protected complex of forest, rivers and wetlands.
- Dahlia Park – a protected 1.41-acre terraced garden
- Midland City Forest – the city’s largest year-round park, at 520 acres
- Pere Marquette Rail Trail – a 30-mile paved route between Midland and Clare (recognized as one of 25 Rails to Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame Trails in the U.S.)
- Midland County Historical Society Heritage Park – including the Herbert D. Doan Midland County History Center, Herbert H. Dow Historical Museum, 1874 Bradley House and Carriage House
- The Tridge (the three-way wooden footbridge spanning the confluence of the Tittabawasee and Chippewa Rivers near downtown Midland)
- Dow Diamond – home of the Great lakes Loons, a Single-A Minor League Baseball affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers