Parks Update - October News, Events, and More!

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Ottawa County Parks & Recreation offers programming and volunteer opportunities year-round! Visit the Program and Events Calendar for details and registration. Call our Nature Center at Hemlock Crossing Park for more information: 616-786-4847.



Scroll down to find information about ways to get outside this fall, as well as upcoming programs, events, and much more. Thank you for reading!

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Hemlock Crossing Observatory Opening

October 8, 7-9 pm

Observatory Opening

After a long summer of hard work, the observatory is finally complete! You are invited to attend an Astronomy Open House. Rotate through stations to build a planisphere, explore tools used by astronomers, and walk a solar system model. Meet astronomers and find out how you can be more involved with out of this world explorations!

  • Tour the Hemlock Crossing Public Observatory
  • Build a planisphere
  • Explore tools used by astronomers
  • Walk a solar system model

CraneFest Bus Trip on Sunday, October 9

Meet at 12 pm at Hemlock Crossing (return 10 pm)

$75/person or $125/couple 

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED to secure a seat on the bus. 


OTTAWA COUNTY, MI  This fall experience something new with Ottawa County Parks! Each evening in early October thousands of Sandhill Cranes descend upon Big Marsh Lake near Bellevue, Michigan as they gather for their southward migration. CraneFest is a celebration of this spectacle. In their 27th year hosting the event, the Kiwanis Club of Battle Creek plans to have an Artist Village, live animals, non-profit information tables, food truck, children’s activities, and guided nature hikes. The highlight is to witness the flight of the cranes as evening falls on Big Marsh Lake. With naturalist and birder Curtis Dykstra as your guide, you’ll experience this spectacle in a truly special way.


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Register Button

Meet the Artists & Sale

October 15, 2-4 pm | Hemlock Crossing

Meet the Artists banner

You are invited to Meet the Artists of Ottawa County Outdoor Art whose work will be displayed at Hemlock Crossing, October 11 through December 31, 2022. Over one dozen artists will offer work depicting the beauty found in Ottawa County in their own style. Attendance is free and open to the public. A percentage of all art sales will go to the Ottawa County Parks Fund. Through painting, drawing and photography, you will be able to view the world around you in a unique way as seen through the eyes of an artist.

Follow them on Facebook at Ottawa County Outdoor Art to receive notifications about future events.

Mug Club Photo Contest

Have you taken a bird photo in Ottawa County in 2022 that would look great on our 2023 Mug Club limited edition mug? We want to see it! The winning photo and 2023 mug will  be revealed in December.

Submission deadline is October 31, 2022.

Mug Club registration button

How to Enter:
Submit original image files (up to 3/person) online:

Mug Club Membership
2023 Mug Club Memberships will be available for sale for $25. Members receive a limited edition mug and fun birding perks throughout the year. Funds raised through the mug club support birding programs. 

Sign up for birding updates for more information about mug club:

Open House Tours on Oct 16

On Oct 16, the Friends of Ottawa County Parks will be hosting open house tours at the Weaver House from 1-4 pm and at the Grand Ravines Lodge from 1-3 pm. 

stewardship banner

Volunteer Workdays

Do you want to get involved volunteering? Register online:

Beach Clean Up:  Oct 6  |  5:30-7 pm  | Kirk Park

Invasive Species Removal:  Oct 15   |  10 am-12 pm   |  Pigeon Creek Park

Invasive Species Removal:   Oct 15  |  1-3 pm   |  Hiawatha Forest

Invasive Species Removal:   Oct 20   |  5:30-7 pm |  Eastmanville Bayou

Beach Clean Up:    Oct 22  |  1:30-3:30 pm  |  Historical Ottawa Beach 

Bring work gloves, insect repellant, and appropriate attire for the outdoors. All tools, drinking water, and snacks will be provided. All ages welcome; 16 and under must be with an adult. Work days are cancelled if raining (or snowing).

Dark Sky Initiative

Dark Sky Banner

An ongoing partnership between the Shoreline Amateur Astronomical Association (SAAA) and Ottawa County Parks is on the verge of providing the first public observatory in West Michigan. Both groups will join with the public to celebrate the observatory’s Grand Opening on October 8. Once open, it will provide an opportunity for people to
enjoy the night sky and have close-up views of planets, star clusters, galaxies, and more through its high-powered telescope. We invite you to come and enjoy the festivities. While you’re there, stop by the information table to learn more about what you can do to help preserve (and improve) the night sky experience in Ottawa County.


A major threat to observatories around the world is light pollution. According to the 2016 “World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness, ”80 percent of the world’s population lives under skyglow. In the United States and Europe, 99 percent of the public can no longer experience a natural night. Light pollution is
harming our environment, wildlife habitats, and our quality of life. The good news is that there are things everyone can do to help erase light pollution in the backyards, parks, and communities we call home.

To ensure skies in West Michigan stay dark, we can all take steps to make a difference. The first is to recognize the power each of us has to collectively reduce light pollution in our communities. The second is to put that personal power into action. The
International Dark Sky Association lists six actions to help Save the Night. Some of the solutions are as easy as screwing in warm-colored LED lightbulbs or installing motion sensors to reduce the average illumination levels.

Visit this link to find more actions:

Ottawa County Parks, too, recognizes the importance of dark skies and is taking steps to reduce excessive lighting. Although there are places such as parking lots that need to be lit, there are environmentally responsible lighting options. We are replacing the parking lot lights to soft white ‘yellowish color’ of 3000K or less, as well as lowering the height of the fixtures to ensure they only point down to a specific area and not up. To ensure optimal dark sky conditions at the observatory, Ottawa County Parks installed new light fixtures providing both red and white light
options and the ability to turn off either or both light sources.

"These changes in lighting will certainly help when trying to observe and photograph faint galaxies, star clusters and nebulae,” says SAAA’s President Frank Roldan.

Ottawa County Parks and SAAA look forward to offering more programming and opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy the beauty of the night sky. Check out to view the SAAA’s full schedule of events for 2022.

For the full article, visit:

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Click on a program date to be redirected to our registration page for that program! 

October Programs

Kids & Family

Tuned into Nature

Registration required, $5/child; ages 2-4, with a caregiver
Sing songs, dance, and learn about nature together. We’ll make and move to music and go for a walk to explore it outdoors.

Wildlife Encounters - FOR KIDS!

Registration required, ages 5-12, with a caregiver
Learn about wildlife found in your backyard and parks.


Pages from a featured book will be posted along a path at one of the parks listed below for your family to read together. Stories are available during park hours. Registration is not required.

Celebrating Fall Changes Through Art 

Registration appreciated, ages 5+.

Invite your inner child and bring your family along to explore the colors, shapes and textures of trees through various art media. Materials and instruction provided. 

Art & Writing 

Wonder Walk 

Registration appreciated

Practice your nature journaling skills as we slowly meander the trails and follow what catches our eyes.                *Journals are not provided.

Introduction to Nature Journaling

Registration required, $5/person; ages 8+

Learn how to begin a nature journal, drawing basics, and some simple tricks. Then, join us on Wonder Walks to practice!

Marvelous Mushroom Abstract Art 

Registration required, $5/person; ages 8+

Create your own piece of abstract art based on fascinating fungi.

Fantastic Flowers & Skulls 

Registration required, $15/person; ages 8+

Practice painting and composition techniques based on the art style of Georgia O’Keeffe while learning about the native plants and animals of Ottawa County. No previous experience required.

Walking & Well-being

Themed Walks

Registration appreciated 

Further explore our parks and learn about a variety of topics. 

THRU Hikes

Registration required, $5/half day or $10/full day

Enjoy the changing seasons as you venture ALL THE WAY THRU these amazing parks with a naturalist guide.

Get to Know Your Parks 

Registration appreciated 

Get to know the natural & cultural history of each park. For more info:

Eat Green. Stay Active. Live Well.  

Registration required, $35 class fee; ages 18+
Rediscover healthy eating and the outdoors at its best. Get expert tips, recipes, latest nutrition news, and natural foodie finds!

Empower Walk

Registration appreciated, ages 18+
Have you ever wanted to hike in a county park but don’t feel comfortable enough to go on your own? Come enjoy a brisk hike, meet new people, and build familiarity with our county parks!

Land, Water, & Sky

Colors by Kayak

Registration required, $10/person (+20 for rental) 

Bask in the glorious fall colors along the Pigeon River by kayak.

History Bike Tour

Registration required, ages 18+ 

Pedal through time with us on the Idema Explorers and Spoonville trails. *Participants will need to bring their own bikes for this program.

In the Parks...after dark

Moonlight Night Hike

Registration required, $5/child; ages 10+

See which nocturnal creatures lurk as you explore by moonlight!

Full Moon Kayak Trip 

Registration required, $10/person (+$20 for rental); ages 18+ 

Experience the Pigeon River on a crisp autumn night under the light of the Hunter’s Moon. Kayak experience on the Pigeon River is required.


Birding Outings

Registration appreciated
Whether you are an avid birder or desire to experience birds beyond your backyard, join us for a birding program! Trail conditions vary depending on the park.

Waterfowl Birding Trip

Registration required, $10/session
Witness the spectacle of waterfowl migration! Part 1 will start at North Beach Park. Part 2 will visit one of Michigan’s premier waterfowl birding locations at the Muskegon Wastewater facility.