Jensen was trained in his native Denmark to regard nature as an enlivening force of human life, and he used this principle throughout his work. For Edsel and Eleanor, he built an island that was allowed to grow wild as a bird sanctuary, created a great lawn that points in the direction of the summer sunset, and designed a swimming pool surrounded by native Michigan trees and plants.
The astonishing thing about Ford House is the diversity of habitat. Lake St. Clair is a regionally important bird area because it hosts hundreds of thousands of diving ducks every winter. Bald Eagles, which nest nearby, are often seen over the water or sitting on a tree along the shoreline in all seasons. The grounds attract raptors and forest passerines as year-round residents. In spring and fall, the grounds are a notable migrant trap. This is a testimony to Jensen’s use of native trees and plants that make up the landscape, which remains beautiful in all seasons.
At a Glance
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The historic estate of Edsel and Eleanor Ford that is now a privately run museum. Freshwater lake and shoreline, mixed use mesic forest, manicured lawn, a diversity of gardens.
Flat. Easy walking on a mix of paved roads, lawn, wood-chipped path. Certain locations are usually mushy, but the ground can be particularly muddy or flooded after heavy rain or high lake levels. Snow covered and icy in winter. Bird Island has a wood-chipped path; wheelchair accessibility is difficult.
205 species. Breeding: Mallard, Canada Goose, Red-tailed Hawk, Warbling Vireo, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Baltimore Oriole, Blue Jay, White-breasted Nuthatch, Tufted Titmouse, Gray Catbird, American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee, Yellow Warbler, Barn Swallow, Tree Swallow. Migratory: Brown Thrasher, Golden- and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Northern Parula, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Palm, Nashville, Tennessee, Black-and-white, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, and other warblers, Scarlet Tanager.
When to go
Bird checklist, paved parking, restrooms, restaurant with outdoor dining.
National Historic Landmark. Grounds open from 8 a.m.-dusk Tuesday-Sunday, and access is free to members. A grounds pass is $5 for non-members, with an additional fee for a tour of the historic house.
A spotting scope is particularly helpful when searching for ducks and other waterfowl.
For more info
Ford House, (313) 884-4222, [email protected]
Belle Isle State Park, Hotspot Near You No. 13
A large island park in the Detroit River, about 30 minutes south from Ford House on Lake Shore Dr./Jefferson Ave.
Lake St. Clair Metropark
About 15 minutes north of Ford House. The park is a mixed-use facility with a nature center and nature trails. In spring, it is a notable migrant trap. In late winter, the shallow water of Lake St. Clair attracts thousands of ducks and other waterfowl.