Encompassing some 106,700 acres of state land, the Pigeon River Country State Forest (PRC) is home to numerous wildlife species, including black bear, bobcat, osprey, bald eagle, and elk. It is the largest contiguous block of state-owned land in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The Pigeon River was likely named for the flocks of passenger pigeons that frequented the region until the 1880’s.
Logging from 1860 to 1910 and periodic fires continuing into the 1930’s largely leveled PRC forests. Michigan designated part of the area as a state forest in 1919. Tree planting and fire suppression began soon after. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) from camps at Pickerel Lake and the intersection of Osmun and Clark Bridge roads built the log PRC headquarters buildings, roads, bridges, and Pickerel Lake CG. The crews also planted acres of pine, established miles of firebreaks, and improved streams. Large parts of the PRC came into public ownership when farms on the sandy glacial soils failed and were abandoned. The state also purchased large acreages of the PRC with hunting and fishing license revenues. P.S. Lovejoy was particularly instrumental in consolidating the state’s holdings; he saw Pigeon River Country as a rare natural place, the “Big Wild.”
A major oil and gas deposit was discovered under the PRC in 1970. Through the combined efforts of concerned citizens, court cases, legislative involvement, and negotiations, a plan was formulated for hydrocarbon resources development limited mostly to the lower third of the PRC. The state, in response to the controversy, puts its share of revenue from oil, gas, and mineral production on tax reverted lands statewide into the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. The fund has purchased more than 13,000 acres from among privately owned blocks of land within the forest boundary. Efforts continue to consolidate contiguous forest acreage to improve habitat for flora and fauna and enhance the wild character.