Grand Traverse Bay is 32 miles long, 10 miles wide, and up to 620 feet deep in spots. Traverse City is situated at the south end of the bay where the Boardman River empties into the West Bay or arm. The Bay is divided into two arms, West Bay and East Bay, by the Old Mission Peninsula. The entire Bay region has always been a magnet for waterfowl and shorebirds. It is interesting to note that the historically low water levels of the past few years have now made this an exceptional Bay for viewing and scoping birds. The development of spits in key areas have given the birds a buffer between the active shoreline and roadways.
It is very common to see large rafts of waterfowl including redheads, bufflehead, goldeneye, scaup, and mergansers. Rarer species such as long-tailed ducks, white-winged scoters, and red-necked grebes make annual appearances but in far fewer numbers. Clinch Park and East Bay Park are public areas that offer parking and a significant amount of water to scope. The southwest corner of West Bay where M-72 intersects the bay is an exceptional area with a small feeder creek and a number of spits frequented by gulls and terns.
The Boardman River drains into the Bay from Boardman Lake in Traverse City. This exceptional lake is less than a mile from the Bay and it is a favorite of local birders. A variety of waterfowl are present on the lake whenever it is not iced over. During periods of migration there have been some unusual sightings of waterfowl, gulls, and shorebirds. Medalie Park at Logan’s Landing, (off Airport Road, east of Cass Road), is a good viewing spot, especially if you have a scope. Also try the NMC University center parking lot off Cass Road and around the lake behind the library at Hull Park.
Directions: Grand Traverse Bay is a very large expanse of water that is anchored by Traverse City to the south. There are a number of access points and lots which will provide easy viewing. Boardman Lake can be accessed from the Bay via Cass Rd. on the west side and Woodmere Rd. on the east side.