Grab your binoculars and camera for a tour of the birds and wildlife along the Byway - a day to enjoy the out-of-doors.
Along CSAH 16, the "spine" of the Byway, visit Island Lake Woods, a 158-acre tract of land managed by the Department of Natural Resources. In September of 2003, a footbridge was installed on the Veteran's Walking Trail that takes visitors over Hay Creek to the north side of the parcel, and over a wetland to high ground for a view of the mixed forest of red and white pine, spruce, aspen and oak. Follow the Ridge Path to the Wetland Walk, completed in 2005, and walk the 500' boardwalk across the wetland. Rest a few minutes on the bench located about 150 feet down the walkway. If you're peppy and nimble, walk the whole 500 feet to the island which was used over time by travelers from Native Americans to Zebulon Pike as a natural look-out area. Take a look yourself and find out why.
Then travel 8 miles east on CSAH 16 to the Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area, a 110-acre parcel that has been specially designed to attract wildlife. During the summer, Wednesday morning visitors are treated to an interpreted tour of the area by a local naturalist. After exploring at Uppgaard WMA, head back onto CSAH 16 to see another quirky tid-bit of nature; it's easy to see the floating grassy island in the center of Rush Lake just west of Ye Olde Wharf - that is, if you're here during the right time of year. This island only floats for part of the year, then sinks.
If you turn south, there's great bird watching on Cross Lake, or further south on CSAH 3 at Big Pine Lake, connected to the Whitefish and Ossawinnamakee Chains through creeks and streams only. Stop at Pelican Brook, a little stream that flows out of the Ossawinnamakee Chain and into the Pine River. The brook is one of the few natural spawning areas of the popular bait minnow, the Red-tailed Chub and it was the site of the first minnow seining permit ever issued in Crow Wing County. The year was 1903. Turn west on CSAH 11 and view the Osprey nest on the platform high atop the pole. The nest is similar to a Bald Eagle's nest, with additions made each year. The Osprey feed almost entirely on fish, taking their prey at or just below the surface.
Just a half-mile further, turn into the Chiarella Forest Management Area at Timberlane Drive. This 77-acre tract is planted primarily in Norway pine; walking trails pass through the newly planted pines and through an older oak forested area. A few more steps and a meadow greets you. Stroll through and catch a glimpse of the bluebirds. Across the road is Shaffer Lake, a marshland with several floating bogs. It's a haven for wildlife. Back in the car, turn south, then west again on CSAH 11. Just west of the new Eagle View Elementary School, turn left onto Nickel Road and stop at the Lowell Wildlife Management Area at Rice Lake, labeled a shallow lake by the DNR and one of the few remaining natural wildlife lakes in the area. It's home to a variety of fur bearers, waterfowl, and reptiles. The lake provides aquatic habitat for small fish species and is often abundant with wild rice.
Still full of energy? Drive the northern segment of the Byway, around the north side of the Whitefish Chain where there's wildlife watching at Ox and Loon lakes on CSAH 66, and some of the best bird watching spots along the meadowland on CSAH 1. East of CSAH 15 about 1/2 mile on the Driftwood Road is the DNR walleye stripping station. During the early spring walleyes are intercepted here and stripped of eggs as they enter the Pine River to spawn.