Explore The Shores

Welcome to Explore the Shores

Explore the Shores consists of a network of sites and destinations around Manistee County lakes, rivers, beaches, marinas and marshes where visitors can experience universally accessible meaningful time on the water while learning about the region’s history and the importance of protecting our natural resources.


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About Explore the Shores

What is Explore the Shores?

Explore the Shores is a network of sites designed to provide barrier-free accessibility, educational opportunities and a connection to recreation and fishing in Manistee County, where fresh water is in abundance.

In its inception, the program was the result of Manistee County being chosen by Easter Seals for implementation of its Rural Solutions Project, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Since then, it has grown into a collaborative effort of public and private organizations facilitated by the Manistee County Community Foundation and the Alliance for Economic Success that recognize the most vital resource Manistee County has to offer is its water.

Manistee County Has an Abundance of Water

And when we say there’s an abundance of water here, it’s no exaggeration. Manistee County boasts 276 miles of rivers and streams; 45 miles of federal wild, scenic or natural rivers; nine lakes greater than 50 acres in size; coastal waters including 24 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and three coastal lakes — Manistee, Portage and Arcadia.

In addition, the county features 73 acres of wetlands, 50 parks, 143 square miles of National Forest, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians tribal and reservation lands, the Arcadia Dunes Preserve and Arcadia Marsh, the Little Manistee Weir and three commercial and recreational ports and harbors.

We feel honor-bound to share these amazing resources with everyone. We’re determined: For the nearly one in five people in the U.S. who are physically limited by disabilities — 35 million Americans — access to water will no longer be a luxury.

Universal Access to Water

Universal accessibility also creates opportunities for the millions of families with small children. At the Explore the Shores sites, families can share meaningful time on the water without danger while also learning to become water stewards.



Filer Township Magoon Creek Universal Accessibility

The Charter Township of Filer has been awarded $71,100 from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund to create an Explore the Shores site at Magoon Creek Natural Area. This site will include educational signage and universal design amenities, including a picnic table and bench with companion seating, to ensure the use of and enjoyment by people of all ages, needs and abilities.

Homestead Township Platte River Property Purchase

Homestead Township has been awarded $222,000 from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to purchase 52 acres on the Platte River to turn into a public park. The property includes almost 1/3 mile of frontage on the Platte River, a federally designated Blue Ribbon Trout Stream. The site will be become the first Explore the Shores (ETS) site in Benzie County.

Onekama Portage Lake Universally Accessible Kayak and Canoe Launch

Onekama Township has been awarded $75,900 from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund to create an Explore the Shores site at Portage Lake. The site will include a kayak and canoe dock/launch that will be accessible to people of all ages, needs, abilities, and skill levels. In addition, new parking spaces and pathways will make access to the launch accessible to everyone.

Past Explore the Shores Projects

There are 24 Explore the Shores project sites. Founded in 2008 as a partnership involving the National and Michigan Easter Seals organizations and community members, the vision of the program is to attract 1 million more people to Manistee County by 2020 to enjoy a network of over 50 Explore the Shores destinations. Each site features universal access to facilitate, a number of recreational opportunities-ranging from outstanding fishing to simply watching nature.

Since its inception, AES has helped communities secure over $9 million for Manistee County in grants and charitable contributions from 24 sources to create access to Lake Michigan, fishing piers, fish cleaning stations, anglers paths, children’s play areas, fishing platforms, scenic overlooks and others.

Want to Read About Other ETS Projects?

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