Michigan’s Golden Triangle

A web of rivers flows clear and cold through a swath of the Lower Peninsula in northern Michigan, comprising a “golden triangle” of blue-ribbon trout streams. The exact boundaries of the triangle may be open to interpretation (roughly delineated by the cities of Boyne City, Grayling, and Manistee, with Traverse City as its hub) but the rivers are storied among anglers: the Manistee, the Au Sable, the Boardman, the Betsie, the Jordan. Together, these and lesser-known streams make this corner of the state a premier fly-fishing destination for anglers of brown, rainbow, and brook trout.

Flowing east out of Grayling, the famed Au Sable runs over a pea-gravel bottom, coiling through the tall pines of eastern Crawford County. How strong is the fishing culture here? Trout Unlimited, the conservation organization dedicated to protecting trout fisheries and their watersheds, was founded along the banks of the Au Sable in 1959. Grayling is the hub for fishing activity, a town named for an indigenous game fish (which, ironically, died out in the 1930s because of rising water temperatures from logging along the river’s banks). The Boardman, considered a secret jewel by locals, twists gently through Grand Traverse County before melting into the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay.

Ernest Hemingway knew a thing or two about fishing, and he favored streams like the Jordan, which flows north through Antrim and Charlevoix counties, Papa’s childhood vacation home. Framed by weeping willows and grassy banks, it’s considered to have some of the purest and coldest spring-fed water of any Lower Peninsula river, the perfect habitat for brown trout. In contrast to the Jordan, the Manistee flows wide and lazy on its run to Lake Michigan. With its heavily wooded banks, a drift boat is the best way to work this river, renowned for enormous lake-run brown trout.

Canoeing—with or without fly rods in hand—is also a popular way to navigate many northwestern Michigan rivers and some areas (especially the Au Sable near Grayling) can get downright raucous with river traffic on summer weekends. But with hundreds of river miles, it’s still pretty easy to avoid the crowds and find your own private moment somewhere in Michigan’s golden triangle.

The Dutch Community of Holland

In the melting pot of the U.S., this western Michigan town was long an anomaly—after its founding by Dutch religious separatists in the 1840s, it remained more than 90 percent Dutch for over a century. Its ethnic makeup has diversified in recent decades, but residents of this tidy community of 35,000 still know it’s the Dutch touch that is its biggest draw.

Holland rolls out the welkommen mat with a variety of Dutch attractions, but none can top the spectacle of endless fields of blooming tulips bobbing in the breeze come late April. The city has designated 6 miles of signed “tulip lanes” that lead visitors down tulip-lined streets and past brimming tulip beds around town. The best view of blooms is at Veldheer Tulip Gardens, the nationally known bulb producer. Don’t miss the drive-by view of its 30 acres of tulips, where more than 5 million bulbs in a rainbow of colors burst forth each spring. Adjacent to the gardens, the DeKlomp Wooden Shoe and Delft Factory remains the only working delftware factory in the U.S. Visitors can watch craftspeople carefully hand-paint the delicate blue-and-white patterns on earthenware using true delft glaze, and carve out authentic klompen (wooden shoes) on well-worn Dutch machinery.

The city’s treasure is De Zwaan (“the swan”), built in 1761 and the last authentic windmill the Dutch government allowed to leave the Netherlands. It presides over Windmill Island municipal park, which is also home to other reconstructed Dutch structures, such as the 14th-century Posthouse and a Dutch carousel. Dutch Village re-creates an entire 19thcentury Dutch scenario, complete with canals, brick buildings with tile roofs, a farmhouse, Michigan 533 and flowering gardens. The atmosphere is kept lively with music, craft demonstrations, and regular performances by high-kicking klompen dancers.

The Dutch factor gets cranked into high gear during Holland’s Tulip Time Festival, a 10-day extravaganza often touted as the “Best Small Town Festival in America.” Holland goes all out for the event, with countless costumed Dutch dancers, food (think smoked wurstel and spiced windmill cookies), three parades (one alone has dozens of marching bands), and townsfolk wearing meticulously researched costumes passed from generation to proud generation .

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