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Independence Oaks County Park

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 30, 2012 by Pat Hansen

If you are looking for an outing that is not far from home, Independence Oaks County Park is the largest unit in the Oakland County parks system at 1,088 acres with a state-designated Wildlife Viewing Area.  The park encompasses rolling hills, wooded ravines, the headwaters of the Clinton River, and a variety of wildlife including white-tailed deer. The centerpiece is Crooked Lake, a 68-acre lake with crystal-clear water that is free from the buzz of motorboats and jet skis.

The park has a 14-mile network of trails with most of it in a rugged, undeveloped area on the west side of the lake. There are three loops that can be combined to make a 3-mile loop that begins near the Lewis E. Wint Nature Center and leads across the park’s highest ridges along Crooked Lake. Cutting across the loop are several connector trails that allow you to shorten the hike.

On the east side of the lake are the paved trails that are popular with inline skaters. They include the river Loop, a paved 2.2 mile loop that includes a stretch though the Clinton River Flood Plain Natural Area, a wetland area, and the All-Visitors Loop that leads to an observation deck on Crooked Lake. The All-Visitors Trail is designed for individuals with disabilities.


  • A boat launch for non-motorized boats, seasonal rowboat, canoe, kayak and pedal boat rentals are on Crooked Lake. Catch and release fishing is allowed on Crooked Lake.
  • On east side of the lake are picnic areas, rental shelters, a ball field, sand volleyball courts, playground equipment, horseshoe pits and a beach with a bathhouse on Hidden Springs.
  • In the winter, the park offers cross-country skiing, ski rental, ice skating, ice fishing, and warming shelters. “The best groomed cross-country ski trails in southeast Michigan are at Independence Oaks” says Hour Detroit Magazine’s Best Winter Getaways List!

Nature Center:

  • The Lewis E. Wint Nature Center provides hands-on natural history exhibits and a feeding station viewing area. Year-round educational programs are conducted by the parks system’s natural resources staff. Specialized nature programs include StarLab, Nature Discovery and Scout Badge Days.

Cohn Amphitheater: Offers a shelter and fire circle and accommodates 150-200 guests for events or weddings. Bench seating is available.

Rubach Sensory Garden: Featuring a gazebo and water garden is located near visitor center.

Independence Oaks is just one of the facilities that make living in Clarkston, MI and the surrounding areas a desirable proposition. You can “vacation” after work or on the weekends and never be far from home.

Address: 9501 Sashabaw Road, Clarkston, MI (2-1/2 miles north of I-75 Exit 89)

Phone: 248-625-6473 (Wint Nature Center); 248-625-0877 (Park)

Park Hours of Operation: Approximately 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, or as posted at park entrance. Open year round. Closed Christmas Day.

Fees & Permits: Daily or annual vehicle permit required (available at the park) or online. Oakland County residents $5.00 per vehicle fee, daily, or $25.00 annual fee. Non-Oakland County residents $8.00 per vehicle fee, daily, or $46.00 annual fee.

E.L. Johnson Nature Center in Bloomfield Twp

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 23, 2012 by Pat Hansen


Shortly after World War II, the Olsen family purchased 16 acres along Franklin Rd and built the home that now serves as the caretaker residence at the Nature Center. They dredged the low, swampy area east of their home which eventually filled with natural underground spring water and formed the pond that visitors enjoy today. During the years the Olsen’s lived in the home, they created the natural sanctuary by planting thousands of trees, shrubs and wildflowers. They planted native species and experimented with species from other areas of the country as well. They introduced fish into the pond, and kept detailed records of the wildlife they observed on the property. The Olsen’s sold their beautiful property to the Bloomfield Hills School District in 1968.

Bloomfield Hills School District

The thriving and growing school district purchased additional acreage adjacent to the Olsen property, creating a thirty nine acre site to be used as a nature center to enhance the teaching of science. When Telegraph Road was widened in 1977, a multitude of trees were planted to somewhat screen the Nature Center from the busy road. When the district decided that a good way to enhance Michigan studies for students would be to purchase, relocate, and restore a log cabin of the early nineteenth century era, the availability of land at the Nature Center made it a logical destination site. The search for an existing cabin of that time period was to no avail, so the 1985 recreation millage funds were used to build a facsimile. It was completed in 1987 and was furnished to approximately represent the late 1800’s time period. Today, students and adult visitors, delight in the opportunity to enter the cabin and instantly step more than a hundred years backward in time. Today, the Bloomfield Hills School District integrates the Nature Center as part of the curriculum for grades 1 through 8.

In 2000, an additional .6 acres of land were donated to the Nature Center and subsequently generous grants from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the United States EPA, enabled the demolition of the two, thirty-year old “temporary”, classroom buildings, and the construction of a 5,000 square foot permanent structure designed along “Green” principles to serve as a Visitor Center as well as classroom space. The dedication of the building took place in September, 2006, and the Nature Center continues to serve students, community members and visitors throughout Oakland County, and beyond. The nature center was named the E.L. Johnson Nature Center in honor of the long time, dedicated school district superintendent, E. L. Johnson.

Trail Information

The Nature Center has nearly two miles of mulched trails. The distance around the perimeter trails is 9 tenths of a mile.

  • Pets – Pets are not allowed at the Nature Center due to the caged wildlife and other animals that roam freely on the property.
  • Bicycles – Not allowed on the trails.
  • Fees – There is no trail fee, however, donations are appreciated.
  • Cross Country Skiing Is allowed on all trails.
  • Snowshoeing Is allowed on all trails.
  • Jogging – Is allowed on the trails.
  • Restrooms – Available at Visitor Center
  • Handicapped Access and Strollers – There are no paved trails; however, most of the trails are hard-packed so wheel chairs and strollers can operate when conditions are dry.
  • Benches and Picnic Tables– There are a few scattered throughout the site.

Other Activities Offered at the Nature Center

  • Day Camps throughout the summer months. Registration is required.
  • Fishing on selected weekend dates from June through Aug.; catch and release only; must be accompanied by a parent. Registration required.
  • Fall Family Day featuring canoeing, fishing, crafts.
  • Bird Banding in May; registration required.
  • Maple Syrup tapping and making on selected weekend in March.

You may register online at for the Nature Center Camps or Call 248-433-0885.

The E. L. Johnson Nature Center is located at: 3325 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills, MI.  Phone: 248-341-6485

The Information Center Exhibit Room is open on weekends only: Sat. 11-2 and Sun. 12-3

The trails are open week days from 8 am-7 pm; Sat. & Sun. 9 am-4 pm.

The Nature Center offers a peaceful respite from hectic schedules. You can walk the trails or just sit on the dock and watch the fish, frogs and turtles swim by.

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