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Indian Springs Metropark: Hike-Bike Trail
You can view portions of the Huron Swamp and the woods of Indian Springs by hiking, skating or pedaling the park’s paved Hike-Bike Trail. The trail is a 5-mile asphalt ribbon that extends from the Meadowlark Picnic Area to a small loop in the northeast corner of the park. The roundtrip from the picnic area is an 8-mile walk or ride.
For the most part the trial is level and easy with exception one long hill near the beginning. Since the majority of it is through a wooded/wetland area, the best time of year for the Hike-Bike Trail is either late spring, when there is a profusion of wildflowers, or in the fall, when the leaves of the maple and oak that forest much of the area, turn shades of autumn. During late June and early July, Indian Springs usually has more than its share of mosquitoes and deerflies.
Beginning at the Meadowlark Picnic Area, you quickly cross the Park Road and then parallel it for the first mile through open fields. A descent of a steep hill soon follows after crossing the road. At Mile 1, you cross a feeder creek to the Huron River and then follow the path as it swings sharply to the north, leaving behind the Park Road and open fields and entering the woods, a far more interesting setting.
Even if you never stray from the trail (who wants mud on their shoes?), you can peer through the trees to view the wet ground and an occasional stagnant pond -characteristics of a swamp. In late spring and early summer, flowers, such as wood lilies, black-eyed Susans, and woodland sunflowers, add a dash of color to the ride. Both the kilometers and the miles have been marked on the path and just before reaching Mile 3, you pass the largest ponds, as well as some large open fields that were once farmed.
At Mile 3 is a junction in the trail, along with a rest area that has toilets and a picnic table. Go either direction on the 2-mile loop through woods and open fields before returning to the rest area, where you will backtrack to Meadowlark Picnic Area. Keep in mind that the hill everybody went flying down at the beginning is now a long uphill climb, especially for the short legs of six- and seven-year-olds on a bicycle. Luckily, at the top, under a large shade tree, is a bench where you can rest and enjoy a pleasant overview of the Huron River flowing south out of the park.
The Meadowlark Picnic Area has two shelters that can be rented along with tables, grills, a wood playscape, volleyball court and horseshoe pit. Adjacent to picnic area is Spray N’ Play which children can get soaked in the water spray area, climb a rock wall or a cargo net, or find their way through a maze. The toddler area includes a painted labyrinth and a sand pit with oversized scoopers for digging. Indian Springs also features a 6,707 yard, par-71, 18-hole course 18-hole regulation golf course (248-625-7870) with a driving range and club rental.
Completed in 2005 at a cost of more than $12 million (which included the Spray n’ Play park), the Environmental Discovery Center is a showcase interpretive area with a flaw. The facility overlooks a man-made pond and it most notable feature is a tunnel and glass viewing room that was designed to provide visitors a below-the-water view of pond life, including native Michigan fish and plants. But an algae problem in the pond has resulted in visibility of usually less than a foot and most people leave the room seeing little if anything. Still the wetland exhibits on the top two floors are interesting and make for a good place to start for families with young children.
The Indian Spring Nature Center is also an attractive building that uses solar energy for heat and has natural lighting. Along with bathrooms, lounge, and a classroom, there are interesting exhibits, both hands-on and live animal displays. One, entitled “The Huron River from Ice to Erie,” traces the history of the river and diagrams its 115-mile route from its mouth in Lake Erie to its headwaters, the Huron Swamp that lies just outside.
Indian Springs is open from 8 a.m. to dusk daily and the Environmental Discovery Center is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Memorial Day to Labor Day and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year. The nature center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. daily in the summer and 1-5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends during the school year. The Spray N' Play is open year round, with the water spray area open Memorial Day to Labor Day. A vehicle permit fee is required to enter the park.
The park can be reached from M-24 (Dixie Highway) in Clarkston by heading west on White Lake Road and following the park signs 5 miles to the posted entrance along White Lake Road. It can also be reached from M-59 by turning north on Ormond Road and then east on White Lake Road.
Contact the Environmental Discovery Center (248-625-6640), the park office (800-477-3192) or the Metroparks Authority at 800-477-2757 or (www.metroparks.com).
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