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About Explore the Shores

Though it’s a basic compound — two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen — water is essential to life for almost every living creature, including people. As the need for water is universal, so too should access to water be universal.

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.

County History Revolves Around Water

The history and heritage of Manistee County revolves around its water. Before the earliest settlers — natives who began farming these lands in 500 BC — nomadic tribes had followed the rich resources of fish and game along the Manistee River for thousands of years. When industrial pioneers moved in to the area, water was the natural infrastructure they depended on. Over the years, industry declined and tourism moved in to help drive the Manistee County economy. As we embrace our history and our future, we are learning that economic development actually justifies environmental protection, stewardship and watershed management.

Our Commitment

With this understanding, Explore the Shores is also committed to enhancing the economic health of the area by drawing 1 million new visitors to its sites by the year 2020.