8 ways to enjoy the winter weather in St. Clair County

When temperatures drop and winter coats and snow boots become the norm, you don’t have to give up being active outdoors.

“There are actually a lot of activities to do in St. Clair County during the wintertime, and sometimes they’re overlooked,” says Dennis Delor, Special Events, Marketing, and Volunteer Coordinator for St. Clair County Parks and Recreation.

All of the county parks located in St. Clair County are open year-round. Visitors can enjoy multi-season recreational opportunities at the parks such as hiking or fishing, and the snow expands their options to include activities such as sledding and even cross-country skiing.

Keegan Yaek brings his sled back up after going down the sledding hill at Columbus County Park in Columbus, Michigan.There are eight county parks totaling over 1,000 acres in St. Clair County: Blue Water River Walk, Columbus County Park, Fort Gratiot County Park, Fort Gratiot Light Station, Goodells County Park, Marine City Dredge Cut (currently undeveloped), Wadhams to Avoca Trail, and Woodsong County Park.

“Winter hasn't slowed down people that want to recreate,” says Delor. “During COVID we saw a huge spike in park use, because people felt that it was a very safe activity to do while they were social distancing. So a lot of these activities and winter sports have picked up interest and I think that trend is going to continue.”

To see a full list of park offerings or for park hours, visit stclaircounty.org/Offices/parks.

On ice

Carly Coventry, 5, who recently began taking skating lessons, practices at St. Clair's outdoor ice skating rink. "We live nearby and it's really fun for them, says Carly's father, Nic Coventry. "She can skate for free, it’s close to home, and it's better than being stuck inside. You can't make a snowman without snow, but you can ice skate."Communities all around St. Clair County have installed outdoor ice skating rinks for skaters to enjoy. New additions this year include an ice skating rink at Heritage Square in Marine City and at Palmer Park in Port Huron.

“Pretty much every community has at least one significant ice rink that they try to work in the winter months,” says Delor. “This is a big skating area. There's a lot of hockey and figure skating clubs. Kids, young adults, and even adults for that matter, if there's a frozen pond somewhere that they can get on — they will. So that’s a very popular outdoor activity in our area.”

Some snow required

The Wadhams to Avoca Trail is a 12 mile long trail located in St. Clair County that ranges from Avoca to Port Huron. Visitors enjoy this path year-round on foot, wheels, or even skis.When there is enough snow on the ground, opportunities for cross-country skiing enthusiasts can visit Goodells County Park or Columbus County Park.

Delor says that roughly five miles of trails at Columbus County Park is groomed for cross-country skiers.

“It really gives you that feel of being in northern Michigan,” says Delor. “The Belle River meanders through the property and the trails as they kind of zigzag through the woods, and it gives you a great sense of being in the outdoors.”

Snowshoeing, sledding, and fat tire biking are also popular activities during the wintertime.

A marker clearly identifies a path at Columbus County Park. Visitors enjoy recreation year-round at this 411-acre park which offers opportunities such as bird watching, horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, a sledding hill, and even groomed trails for cross-country skiing.Rachelle and Phillip Yaek and their two children Jase, 6, and Keegan, 5, live close to Columbus County Park. They visit the park throughout the year and like to use the sledding hill during the winter.

“We like to go hiking and then we go to the park and the kids will run up and down the hill if there's no snow and throw the rocks in the river,” says Rachelle Yaek.

Phillip Yaek pushes his son Keegan, 5, down the sledding hill at Columbus County Park.Ice fishing

Marshall Fick goes ice fishing on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021 at Wm.P. Thompson Pond located on 40th Street in Port Huron, Michigan. Hoping to catch Pike, Fick sets up a series of tip-ups and hooks Golden Shiners to use as bait. "It gets me outside," says Fick. "And the adrenaline rush when you run over to a tip-up, set the hook, and then feel this big 26 to 32-inch Pike on the bottom of it — that's what that's what I enjoy about it."Though freezing temperatures create a barrier of ice between you and the fish, this common and inexpensive pastime is still largely enjoyed throughout the winter. Access to Michigan’s Thumbcoast provides plenty of opportunities for ice fishing in the region.

Marshall Fick places a baited tip-up that's rigged with a motion detector into the water at Wm.P. Thompson Pond in Port Huron, Michigan. "I use tip-ups a lot at night," says Fick. "These little lights only go off when there's motion, so when this flag goes up then that light starts blinking."

For information on the fishing season and how to get started, visit michigan.gov/dnr.

Disc golf

The Ira Township Park Disc Golf Course located on Meldrum Road in Ira Township is a nine-hole disc golf course that is open year-round.Sunshine or in snow, disc golf is a great individual or group sport that can be enjoyed year-round.

In addition to various other disc golf parks around the county, the Ira Township Park has a nine-hole disc golf course that is open year-round. Don't have access to any golf discs? The Ira Township Library has golf discs available to rent during hours of operation.

Bird watching

Located along the Black River in Clyde Township, visitors of Woodsong County Park have nearly 45-acres to enjoy at the rustic park.
You don’t need be an eagle eye or go deep in the woods to participate in bird watching during the winter. You can catch a glimpse of a long-tailed duck at the Algonac State Park or a waterfowl at the Military Street Overlook.

“This time of year we get a lot of migratory birds, rare birds that travel the water corridors through the Great Lakes, and are either in search of food or warmer weather,” says Delor. “In past years, we've had snowy owls that have come and spent several days at the [Fort Gratiot] Light Station and along the river. So, there's an opportunity to see wildlife even in more urban parks.”

To see hot spots for bird watching in St. Clair County, check out BirdingTrails or Waxwing Eco Tourism and Birding.