“Nature’s Megaphone”: Oddly Shaped Audio Device Amplifies Michigan Woods

Nestled deep in the woods of Cheboygan County is a giant wooden funnel that brings the sounds of nature to life like never before.

AFTON, Michigan – Where better to hear the sounds of nature than deep in the woods. Imagine when you got there, you could turn up the volume.

Thanks to a group of high school students from northern Michigan and the generosity of the people who run the Little Traverse Conservancy, a place like this exists, and it is one of the very few in the United States.

“It’s not the easiest destination to get to but once there you won’t want to leave,” said Anne Fleming, 53, spokesperson for the Conservatory of the Petite Rivière. “It’s in the middle of the Andrae / Banwell nature reserve complex which is located in the southeast corner of Cheboygan County.”

After a 30-40 minute hike on the Pigeon River and over hilly, wooded terrain, you will come to the huge structure perched on a ridge overlooking the wilderness.

“We call it Nature’s Megaphone,” Fleming said. “Because of the way it’s built, it enhances the sounds of nature.”

When you sit inside the megaphone, outside sounds are amplified. The chirping of some birds, inaudible outside the structure, is easily recognized inside. The light wind blowing through the trees is much stronger, and if you stay completely still, you can also hear the swift waters of the Pigeon River racing in the distance.

“We intentionally hid it deep in the woods for a reason,” Fleming added. “It’s super peaceful.”

The Conservancy discovered large wooden audio devices in 2019 when the group’s stewardship and technology coordinator stumbled upon an online blog.

“These objects were placed in a forest in Estonia, which is a country in northern Europe,” Fleming said. “We thought why not build one and put it in the Michigan wilderness.”

Members of the Conservancy developed a few models, then contacted construction trades teacher Larry Liebler at Petoskey High School. Liebler makes his students work on community projects all the time, so it didn’t take much convincing to get him to make the megaphone.

“The 12-by-8-foot megaphone was completed in May 2019 and shortly thereafter delivered to where it is today,” Fleming said. “It has become something that people visit again and again.

“Nature is who we are and what really keeps us healthy and happy.”

For those who don’t want to travel to northern Michigan to check out the megaphone, Ken-O-Sha Park (1353 Van Auken SE) in Grand Rapids recently installed one.

Directions to Northern Michigan’s “Megaphone of Nature”:

Take I-75 North to Indian River (Exit 310); take the M-68 4.5 miles east; turn left onto Old Onaway Road (look for the Lake Cochran public access sign); Go north on Old Onaway Road 1.8 miles to Riverwood Trail and turn right; At the “T” intersection with Big Sky Trail, you will see the “Andrae / Banwell Preserve” sign in front of you.

Plan a hike of about a kilometer from the entrance to the megaphone accordingly.

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About Elaine Morales

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