Silver Lake Trail, Pickney State Recreation Area

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Silver Lake Trail, Pickney State Recreation Area

Post by DonCBragg » Mon Jul 04, 2016 1:19 pm

Even with the struggles of the auto industry, much of southeastern Michigan has grown rapidly over the last few decades, especially the countryside outside of the major urban areas. In the nearly quarter-century I’ve been dating or married to my wife, we’ve watching the rural landscapes near Ann Arbor (where she grew up) change from a mixture of row crops, pasture, and woodlots to subdivisions, strip malls, and other commercial/industrial developments. Fortunately, this area has done some urban planning, including the public acquisitions of many thousands of acres of woodlands. The Pickney State Recreation Area (PSRA) is one of those areas. Located about 10-15 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, PSRA covers about 11,000 acres of rolling terrain along some of the moraines of southern Michigan. The State of Michigan began acquiring the lands that became PSRA in the 1940s, and have continued to acquire properties to the current day. The hilly land, heavy forest cover, and small lakes make this area a very popular recreation area.

With a half-day available before a family 4th of July event at my in-laws, I figured I’d take advantage of some free time to scout for some trees along the Silver Lake Trail of PSRA. The 2-mile trail I hiked passed through second-growth timber growing on the low hills near Silver Lake. This trail system is very popular with hikers and mountain bike riders, making for some occasionally hazardous measuring conditions. The fairly dense, hardwood-dominated overstory limited visibility of the tops of most trees, so most of the measurements I took in this reconnaissance were from directly below the crowns, and should be viewed as low-end (under-) estimates of actual tree heights.
Many of the larger northern red and black oaks showed signs of growing in much more open conditions years ago, suggestive of the pastoral landscapes that once dominated this area.

The timber in this part of PSRA is mostly under a century old, with scattered older trees (e.g., white oaks) that probably exceed 150 years. The lands Michigan acquired for PSRA were largely farmed, pastured, and otherwise cleared in the 19th and early 20th century, and the sites are not particularly productive, nor are they low-end outwash plains. Pines (eastern white, red, and Scot’s) were planted in many areas, some by private landowners in the early to mid- 20th Century, others by the State of Michigan after land acquisition. Some of the hardwoods were probably planted, too, to help reforest the former ag lands.
Remains of an 1850s vintage farmstead acquired by the State of Michigan in the late 1940s.

Today’s forests are an eclectic (if common) mixture of native hardwoods (many early successional ones), planted conifers (and some natives, including eastern redcedar on the hills and tamarack along the small lakes), and a few exotic trees (many understory exotic species as well).

Species DBH (inches) Height (feet)
northern red oak 30.4 90 +
pignut hickory 22.3 91 +
eastern white pine 28.6 91 +
Scots pine 19.1 75 +
black walnut 21.0 95 +
eastern white pine 29.6 107 +
black cherry 18.3 82 +
shagbark hickory 28.5 110.0
white oak 26.1 85 +
white oak 26.6 98 +
black oak 31.2 95 +
black cherry 17.9 100 +
shagbark hickory 22.5 110 +
black cherry 22.3 98 +
northern red oak 25.0 102 +
redbud 6.5 37 +
witch-hazel 2.4 23.5
sassafras 14.4 66.0

Nothing particularly spectacular to report from this trail area, although the woods were pretty and the trail enjoyable to hike (when I wasn’t dodging mountain bikes!). I did not see any tuliptree along this trail. The hickories and some of the oaks clearly dominated the canopy, with heights fairly commonly exceeding 100 feet. There were a number of black cherries greater than 100 feet tall as well; black cherry was a common component of the overstory, although it appears to be declining in many places. The understory of this stand was dominated by red maple and some other tolerant hardwoods; the shade intolerant species are not likely to fare well in the dense shade being cast. The eastern white pines were doing well, and appeared vigorous, with more potential height growth. As this stand continues to mature, it will likely continue to grow in stature, as the canopy dominants will continue to compete with each other for light.
One of the older remnant white oaks found scattered in PSRNA.

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Re: Silver Lake Trail, Pickney State Recreation Area

Post by Rand » Tue Jul 12, 2016 11:48 am

I rode that trail many times on my Mt. bike in the late 90's. Nice fast trail. Didn't get that good a look at the trees. ;)

Anyway, highland rec area has some decent trees scattered around too. ... RK#map-tab

In particular there is a big tuliptree (might be a cottonwood, I forget exactly) right off of D loop:
highland.png (104.15 KiB) Viewed 1451 times
3'-4' dbh. Not real tall but was still in good health, the last time I was there....uh 10 years ago.

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