In northwest Michigan, midway between the cities of Manistee and Cadillac, the Manistee River is home to a pair of Consumers Energy hydros that can produce enough electricity for a community of up to 20,500 people.
Built in 1925, Hodenpyl Hydro can produce up to 17,000 kilowatts (kW). Meanwhile, Tippy Hydro, built in 1918, is Consumers Energy's second-largest hydro and can generate up to 20,000 kW.
Consumers Energy — one of Michigan’s largest landowners — owns about 2,000 acres around Hodenpyl Hydro and 400 acres near Tippy Hydro. But over the years the company has sold almost 40,000 adjacent acres to the U.S. Forest Service and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Today, these lands provide prime public recreation.
Known locally as “Big Manistee” or just “The Big,” so as not to be confused with its smaller southern neighbor, the Little Manistee River, the Manistee River stretches about 170 miles from its headwaters near the village of Alba to Manistee Lake and then Lake Michigan. It also cuts through the Manistee National Forest.
How it Works
The Manistee River is one of Michigan’s premier canoe floats and finest steelhead, salmon and trout rivers in Michigan. The clear, cool water and natural woodlands provide championship fishing and excellent wildlife watching and recreational opportunities year round.
Tippy Hydro’s tailwaters are popular for salmon and steelhead fishing. Reservoirs at both sites also offer pike, bass, walleye, trout and pan fish.
Hunters are attracted by the riverlands’ abundance of deer, squirrels, rabbits, partridge and woodcock. Morel mushrooms also are thick near Tippy Hydro, attracting hunters each spring.
Boat launches, boat rentals, campgrounds, picnic sites, hiking trails and swimming areas are located around the two reservoirs. Northern Exposure campground on Hodenpyl Hydro pond, with 260 campsites, provides the ideal base to explore this area.
A suspension foot bridge over the Manistee River just downstream of Hodenpyl links the Manistee River trail with a segment of the North Country National Scenic Trail, forming a 20-mile hiking loop. A barrier-free shoreline observation deck at Veteran’s Memorial Park on M-115 near Hodenpyl Hydro provides excellent wildlife viewing. A large wild turkey population inhabits the Tippy area, and eagles are often seen there.
The Manistee River hydroelectric projects are also included as “watchable wildlife” viewing areas in Michigan’s Wildlife Viewing Guide. Consumers Energy works with the USDA Forest Service and other entities to build and maintain these areas and assist in providing viewing opportunities.
Wildlife habitat efforts on the Manistee River were first certified in 1999 by the Wildlife Habitat Council.
The company manages a 3,614-acre project area around the Tippy and Hodenpyl hydros through its comprehensive wildlife and forestry management plan for the river.
At Tippy, about 20,000 bats use the hydro’s spillway chamber as a summer roosting, autumn swarming and winter hibernation location. The company helps fund and support an Eastern Michigan University bat research project while also minimizing disturbances during hibernation to avoid accidental harm to the endangered Indiana bat, which has been recorded at the hydro, along with more common brown bats and Eastern pipistrelle bats.
The river management plan also includes programs to monitor bald eagles and reintroduce trumpeter swans.
Other activities include a timber management plan, which involves the thinning of red pine stands, and placing and monitoring nest structures for bluebird, wood duck, purple martin, osprey and American kestrel.
Capable of producing 17,000 kilowatts, the hydro began generating electricity in 1925. Located near the village of Mesick in Wexford County, it is named for Anton G. Hodenpyl, a Wall Street financier who oversaw the holding company (Commonwealth and Southern) that Consumers was part of from the early 1900s.
The scenic turnout, one mile south of Mesick on M-37 near Hodenpyl Hydro, was named one of the top 10 places to view fall color by AAA Michigan in 1997. The turnout provides an expansive view of the Manistee River at Hodenpyl Hydro pond.
With a capacity of 20,000 kilowatts, Tippy is Consumers Energy’s second-largest hydro and began operating in 1918. It is located near Wellston in Manistee County, about 25 miles west of Cadillac. Originally named Junction Hydro, it was later renamed Tippy to honor Charles W. Tippy, a company director from 1922 to 1933.
The successful removal of Stronach Dam, which is just upstream of the Tippy Hydro pond on the Pine River, was completed in 2004. The Stronach Plant was retired in 1953 and the six-year long dam removal project restores the free-flowing river conditions on the lower stretch of the Pine, a favorite among canoeing enthusiasts.