You wouldn’t know from a quick glance at the river now, but this section of the Boardman River was previously dammed, and the area was part of Brown Bridge Pond. About eight years ago the dam was removed, returning the river to its natural state. The newly uncovered bottomlands were unstable and, in many places, infertile. Frankly, with the exposed and dying pond dwellers — including the dreaded zebra mussel — it didn’t smell great, either.
Today, with time and conservation work, Brown Bridge is absolutely idyllic. If you look at the banks of the river, you can see some of the logs and trees that were placed along the shores to reduce erosion, and these anemones are among the many native wildflowers that were seeded with the same goal in mind. Many young trees and hundreds of saplings and shrub seedlings have been planted, as well. Much of the open, spongy bottomlands are now covered in verdant native plant species, and local wildlife has noticed. Deer are frequently spotted among the young trees and bedded in the grasses, and eagle sightings aren’t uncommon.
As a local, I visit the Brown Bridge Quiet Area a couple times a week. I like to document and celebrate the changes with each passing season. I’ve most enjoyed the wildflowers along the banks, and know their time is limited. Many of them, like the anemones here, are sun-lovers. As the seedlings grow, their canopy will reduce the light reaching those plants, thus reducing their habitat. The sweeping S-curves that are so visible now will eventually get tucked away behind riparian thickets, so the sun may set on the anemones over the river, but perhaps it will one day rise on wild irises at the water’s edge. One thing is certain: The area will continue to change for years to come. I’m happy to watch the progress unfold.
P.S. The Brown Bridge Quiet Area is approximately 1,300 acres of city-owned property 11 miles southeast of Traverse City. The Boardman River runs through the property. There are numerous hiking trails and scenic lookout areas. The trails are limited to hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
Expect to see a large variety of flora and fauna, which could include vegetation such as white cedar, balsam fir, black spruce, tamarack, white pine, lady fern, blue-joint reedgrass, oak fern, wild lily-of-the-valley, bracken fern, rice grass, twisted stalk, lowbrush blueberry, black huckleberry, and more; and wildlife such as great blue heron, pileated woodpecker, loon, bald eagle, osprey, red-shouldered hawk, wood turtle, Eastern box turtle, white-tailed deer, black bear, bobcat, coyote, red fox, river otter, beaver, and mink.
Heather Higham is a Traverse City-based landscape photographer who runs Snap
Happy Gal. More information: snaphappygal.com
Text and Photo By Heather Higham