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Highland Recreation area is one of the more unique Parks in Southeastern Michigan. Mainly because so much of it dates back so far and remains unspoiled.

The old Ford Lodge at HAVEN HILL. Only the foundations remain

Like the Haven Hill estate built by Edsel Ford in the late 1920s, and the designated Natural Area that surrounds the Dammed Haven Hill lake Edsel formed when he first purchased the land.

The Ford Fountain area. Secluded and peaceful setting.

The Ford Pool. Now appears to be in the middle of the forest.

Much of what is now Highland Recreation area was either part of the Edsel Ford Estate or the Dodge Brothers hunting retreat, or was just old family Farmsteads. All these parcels of land eventually came together to form Highland Recreation area. Most have not seen anything else but original Homesteading since the late 1800s, until they where either  purchased or donated to the state of Michigan to eventually form the Park.

 

The diversity of habitats and the huge differences of micro environments due to the ever rolling hills that make up the Park, have produced some of the most unique settings of any Park in S.E. Michigan. Many of the highest points in S.E.MI. are in the Park itself.

The Park is also home to many, many natural Springs. These Springs, along with the changing elevations, again, have formed some micro ecosystems that support many different kinds of plants and animals.

The Ford Estate Dog Kennels

If you are looking for a truly diverse Nature experience, or want some Natural History that dates back to the earliest Homesteads, or want to experience some of the lifestyles of Edsel Ford and his family at what was their Estate, then Highland Recreation is your destination.

Although it is always beautiful at Haven Hill in Highland Recreation area, no matter what time of year, Fall is the most special of times for exploring the history there. After much of the thick foliage and ground cover has dies off, there is much to be reviled.

Right now is a perfect time at Haven Hill. There are still some very colorful trees with leaves on them, but enough of the thick ground cover has gone away to expose much of the old forgotten Nature Trails and historical features that get swallowed in the Spring and Summer months.

We suggest you download the two maps we offer here on the Blog, and also head over to the Haven Hill Project web site, and get an idea of some of the historical sites you would like to visit on your Fall Colors exploration tour. The Colors happening in the far west end of the old Ford private Nature Trails are just spectacular! Or if you are really energetic……take the long 5 mile journey, all the way around Haven Hill lake and through the heart of the Haven Hill Natural Area. Again……you will experience some of the very best Fall colors anywhere in S.E.Michigan.

No matter what you end up doing at Haven Hill at this time of year, the lack of thick cover, no insects or Skeeters, and the combination of history and Nature will make for just a wonderful afternoon Fall experience you will not soon forget.

See you all out on the Trails at Haven Hill, Highland Recreation area!

Highland Recreation area and especially the Natural area surrounding Haven Hill can be a delight to Hike and explore. But at this time of year you need to have a few precautions in mind.

The area is flourishing with Poison Ivy. This little bugger just loves the soil and ecosystems there and grows both on the ground and vines up many trees along the trails. Precaution is the best way to deal with Poison Ivy. Be aware of just how this plant looks and eventually being able to spot it, will become second nature. It is worth the learning effort.

The other precaution to take while enjoying a hike around the Haven Hill area, are Ticks. They have become plentiful not only here at Highland Recreation area, but through out the state. DEET and other repellents can help, but checking yourself and your clothing after a Hike is one of the best ways to not walk away from an adventure at the Park, carrying Ticks. This means your Doggie friends too.

Here is a good reference and ID sheet for Ticks in Michigan. Again….just a bit of learning here and some prevention can give you a Tick free hike and a much more enjoyable time at the Park.

TICKS ID & PREVENTION SHEETS

In preparations for this Saturdays Natural area HIKE with Hiking Michigan, out at Highland Recreation area, Rich & Chris, Trail Leaders for the HIKE, went on a couple of picture pre-hikes in the area.

Beautiful as always, in any season, the Natural area showed all the signs of getting ready to Spring alive. Tiny sprouts, Lilly-pad blooms underwater and snails clinging to the edges of the Haven Hill lake Dam. With all the warm rain and extra warm temps. scheduled this week, it is hard to say just what will be blooming through out the Natural area, this Saturday at the HIKE.

Rich & Chris have a lovely route selected for us that circles back through sections of the old Ford Estate on Haven Hill. So it will be a day of Nature & History at Haven Hill, Highland Recreation area, Saturday, 3/17/12, starting at 12noon and meeting at the Circle parking area. If we get lucky…..Haven Hill expert Darrin, will be on hand for questions and to share some of his extensive knowledge of the history and foliage of Haven Hill.

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Here is the latest map for the Haven Hill section at Highland Recreation area. The map includes the Haven Hill designated Natural Area, as well as the Haven Hill Historical area too. All Trails Markers and signage is listed, as well as many of the historical and natural features located in the area. A “must have”, for exploring the Nature & History of Haven Hill.  HAVEN HILL AREA MAP

On March 17th, the Haven Hill Project, along with Hiking Michigan, will be doing an expanded Hike of the haven Hill area at Highland recreation area. The Hike will cover most of the Haven Hill designated natural area, located north of haven Hill lake. The lake created when Edsel Ford dammed the small creek in the area.

The Hike will circle through the many unique environments of the Natural area, and then head south into the rarely seen or used, Ford Private nature Trails. These private nature trails where created by the Ford family for the private use by the family and guests to the haven Hill Lodge. Wooden staircases embedded into hillsides, Benches overlooking Ornamental Ponds and many unique waterway Bridges dot this very interesting Nature Trails area of the Park.

The Hike will also circle back through the Lodge and Carriage house section of Haven Hill, to give everyone a well rounded view and idea of a major portion of the Edsel Ford estate at Haven Hill.

Come out and join us for this extended afternoon of Nature and Historical Hiking at Haven Hill, Highland Recreation area. Hikers will meet at the Circle Parking area and head to the haven Hill lake Dam, to begin the afternoons Hiking experience. Hope to see you all starting at 12pm, Saturday, 3/17/12 at Highland Recreation area.

You can download a detailed Flyer for this Hike here: HAVEN HILL AREA HIKE

We will be announcing the release of some very special Maps for Haven Hill and the entire Ford Estate. This special edition maps will be released in varied sizes and printed on Archival, heavy stock papers. Years worth of mapping, research and GPSing went into these special maps.

In the next month, we will also be releasing a paperback version and hopefully the hardcover version of our COMPLETE HISTORY book of Haven Hill. Various politics and silliness has delayed the release of this already complete and published book. We will have more details announcements shortly, on both the various Maps and Book release. Stay tuned.

I got to Highland around 11am, in the pouring rain. I sat in my car, fielding telephone calls from Hikers who where not coming out in the rain. Didn’t blame them, it had been raining since yesterday night. About 11:30am it let up a bit and I went outside the car and shot a few pictures, that I thought I would use for this rain canceled Hike.

12 noon rolled around and the rain let up to a semi-drizzle and 15 people show up in full rain gear. I was glad I brought mine, and didn’t assume we would cancel on rain. Silly thought on my part……we have NEVER canceled because of rain. :-)

We all headed up Haven Hill and roamed around the Pump-House, Carriage House, Lodge remains, Toboggan Run & Dog Kennel. Mike had all the coordinates for the three USGS Markers on the Hill. We found them all. Also explored some of the light posts that lit the Toboggan run at one time.

From there we headed back down the side of Haven Hill, to the Pool & Tennis court. Always an amazing place to see a huge built-in Pool in the middle of the forest. We went a short distance from there, over to the Fountain area. Another enclosed Ford area, with what was probably a beautiful shallow Fountain in between two small hills in the forest. A quite and natural spot. We talked there about the Estate, the Ford family and some of the details of the infrastructure of the Estate as a whole. A huge system of water pipe, underground electrical conduits and cutting edge Septic system.

We all wandered back to the Circle parking lot and decided to get some food at a local restaurant. Had a great time at the Restaurant. Lots of good laughs and stories. With the long walk and rainy conditions, it produced huge appetites in the Hikers. We ate enormous amounts of food and Deserts.

For what was suppose to be a rain-out Hike, we had an excellent time in unique conditions at Haven Hill. We all stayed pretty dry with our rain coats and hoods. Turned out to be an excellent day.

NOTES: I was appalled at the vandalism and destruction to almost every remaining building and amenity at Haven Hill. Stolen copper flashing from the Carriage house, shroud covering the Toboggan lift stolen, old light poles pulled from the ground, Gang graffiti, and many other things that are adding to the quick deterioration of the entire area. Cannot understand why a number of things are not being done to help keep what is left of the Estate, intact. A person visiting the Estate, even 1 year ago, would hardly recognize what was there before. In a couple of years now, there will only be remains that hardly resembles what was really there. It is a shame at what is happening there, both in Vandalism and lack of proper care.

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We have updated one of our main maps that covers the entire eastern side of Highland Recreation area. This whole east side of the Park, was the old Edsel Ford Estate. The updated map has been re-GPSed, and all the various Park Trail signs are also indicated on the map.

The Estate buildings and infrastructure is well marked on this new map, so exploring on your own can be done. We hope this map will enthuse many of you to go out to Haven Hill and wander the old Estate and the Haven Hill Natural area as well. Have fun in this great combination of history % nature in one setting.

DOWNLOAD THE NEW PARK MAP HERE:

Don’t miss the History Hike on Sunday, 11/27/11, 12pm-3pm, at Highland Recreation area. Here is a smaple of some of the places we will be visiting.

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