Pigeon River Country is rugged, remote, wild, and scenic. It was protected for the benefit of people and for the longevity of wild life. It is protected in perpetuity for you. To enjoy, to admire, and to study.

The effort to protect and restore the natural communities of Pigeon River Country began a century ago in 1919 with unfaltering passion, awe, and a deep love of wild places. Since that initial grassroots movement, a diverse group of public and private sector leaders forged ahead making the conservation and responsible management of over 100,000 contiguous acres their living legacy. The Pigeon River Country Association (PRCA), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, was born out of this passion in 1971 and the Pigeon River Country Discovery Center (PRCDC), an educational unit of the PRCA, was built in 2018 to educate and inspire a new group of conservation-minded supporters. The PRCDC is dedicated to increasing visitors’ awareness of and appreciation for the land, the wildlife and the history of the Pigeon River Country and to fostering a new generation of stewards and protectors of this unique place, The Big Wild.

The Big Wild is biologically rich and offers visitors, young and mature, a restorative retreat into the wilderness of northern Michigan. The blue-ribbon trout streams, caerulean sinkhole lakes, and reintroduced elk population are a reminder of what is most important: healthy forests, high-quality watersheds, and thriving populations of flora and fauna. The Pigeon River Country Discovery Center receives about 1500 visitors a year and serves as an interpretive gateway to this natural treasure, offering visitors a preview of the dynamic history of 100 years of land conservation before they head out to explore on their own. 

Each of the seven rooms of this historic log cabin has a different theme. Original documents and photographs, quotations and recorded interviews educate visitors about the forest’s history, the people who loved it, the controversies that shaped it, and its many recreational offerings. Multi-format exhibits highlight the delicate balance of forest life, man’s role in that balance, and the results of good decision making over the last century.

The Discovery Center is managed by a team of volunteers whose enthusiasm is unmatched and whose work-ethic is to be admired. These individuals believe that the rugged and remote quality of Pigeon River Country should be celebrated, shared and fervently protected for the benefit of those who have yet to step foot on its pine-needled trails. The PRCDC volunteer leadership believe we all have a responsibility to protect Pigeon River Country’s biological diversity, to help increase knowledge about the natural world, and to create community around this beautiful natural resource. 

The Pigeon River Discovery Center serves people of all ages and physical abilities through its ADA accessible interpretive displays, public and school programs, and as an important trailhead to myriad recreational opportunities. Studies have shown that time in nature improves the health and well-being of people. Exposure to the outdoors decreases depression and increases mental health. An environmental learning center like the Discovery Center interprets ecology and cultural history with the guidance of trained docents to help people positively experience nature and develop intimate relationships with its forests, rivers, and wildlife. The Discovery Center Steering Committee believes this connection to nature is more important than ever, and they are tasked with an annual fundraising strategy to keep the PRCDC’s mission alive and impactful. 

The Discovery Center’s programs are solely supported by the extreme generosity of individual donors, foundation grants, local business sponsorships, and a modest endowment housed at the Otsego Community Foundation. The PRCDC’s long-range goals are, 1) to develop and host environmental education programs for visitors of all ages, 2) to cultivate and inspire stewards and protectors of the forest, 3) to teach visitors about the history of Pigeon River Country, primarily to show that good conservation decisions over the last 100 years has brought the land back from burnt-over, lumbered land to the lush forest we see today, 4) to acquaint visitors with the myriad recreational opportunities the forest provides. 

Donors and volunteers are the true champions of the Pigeon River Country Discovery Center, and the Steering Committee is committed to building a resilient educational facility for all to enjoy in perpetuity. By giving a gift to the Discovery Center, you join 100 years of like-minded ambassadors who believe that leaving a legacy honoring healthy forests, high-quality trout streams, and thriving populations of flora and fauna is essential to the health of humankind.