Belle Isle’s best spots, according to someon...

Belle Isle’s best spots, according to someone who knows the island like it’s his job

Karis Floyd, DNR manager of Belle Isle Park, shares his recommendations for the best spots on Belle Isle — from bird-watching to catching the perfect sunset.

Main image: Belle Isle | Credit: photosbyChloeMuro/ Creative Commons

Karis Floyd wears a lot of hats as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources manager at Belle Isle Park and Milliken State Park and Harbor. He has a laundry list of responsibilities, including communicating with legislators, facilitating hiring, making sure all facilities are working properly and collaborating with urban planners. 

As a child, Floyd lived in close proximity to Belle Isle. He has fond memories of spending summer days there with his family — it was his grandmother’s favorite spot. It was also the place where he met his now-wife, and where they decided to have their wedding.

So, when Floyd was given the opportunity to work at Belle Isle 36 years ago, it was a no-brainer. Since then, he has been on the forefront of rebuilding the island — from bringing back the Belle Isle Athletic Complex and other beloved spots, to making sure far more areas are accessible for people with disabilities. Though state management of the park has caused tensions with some Detroiters who say the park has become unwelcoming and overpoliced, Floyd’s says his main priority is bringing more families to Belle Isle. 

Can’t get enough of Belle Isle? Check out Detour’s A to Z guide to Detroiters’ beloved island park.

Belle Isle Park staff including Karis Floyd
Karis Floyd pictured, back row at right. Courtesy Michigan DNR/Belle Isle Park Staff

Over the years, he’s talked to a lot of people, and he still gets a kick out of chatting with adults visiting the park who dare to venture down the Giant Slide.

“They’ll say, ‘Mr. Floyd, I certainly don’t feel like I felt when I was 12 or 13,’” he saidsays with a chuckle. “It still brings back memories. So that’s probably the most pleasing part for me… just hearing some of those stories.”

Since Floyd knows the island inside and out, we asked him for a few tips on where to hike, fish, watch the sunset — basically, all the best spots:

Best place for relaxation: Floyd’s favorite place on the island is near the park entrance. It’s part of the Sunset Point area, right past the Scott Fountain on the edge of the Detroit River.

Best location to catch a sunset: The beach or Sunset Point.

Best spot for wedding or engagement photos: The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, the Belle Isle Aquarium, the Belle Isle Casino and along the beach when the sun is setting.

Best spot for boating: On Woodside Drive by Lake Okonoka, Lake Muskoday andthe Flynn Pavilion.

Best fishing areas: The Shelter 9 area, The Blue Heron Lagoon and the western part of the beach.

Best hiking trail: The original hiking trail, which you can access by parking by the athletic complex. 

Best biking option: Bikers tend to ride along any of the designated bike lanes or on the trails throughout the park. 

Best places for wildlife sightings: The bird sanctuary out by the marble lighthouse and the eagle’s nest on Central Avenue. In the morning, you can still see some deer around the Lake Okonoka area. Of course, if you need more, you can go to the Belle Isle Nature Center — though currently closed, when open you can spot turtles, mudpuppies and more.

Allison Jacobs is the digital producer and lifestyle reporter for Detour Detroit. She was the former digital editor at The Detroit Jewish News, where she helped oversee their digital strategy and produced a four-part video series called “Bubbie’s Kitchen.” Over the years, she has contributed articles for The Detroit Jewish News and SEEN Magazine. She’s a stickler for honest reporting and creating content that educates, entertains and inspires. Follow her on Twitter: @ajacobs114