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Shiawassee Basin Preserve
Just a short drive north of the quaint village of Davisburg is the Shiawassee Basin Preserve, Springfield Township’s largest park at 515 acres and home to one of Michigan's largest, most pristine prairie fens.
Prairie fens are a type of wetland fed by surface or groundwater and are usually associated with the headwaters of streams, rivers, and or lakes. In this case Davis and Long Lakes and the Shiawassee River the flows between them. In Michigan, fens are one of the most biologically-rich ecosystems, providing habitat and clean water for hundreds of native plants and animals, many of them rare or endangered species.
Within Shiawassee Basin Preserve they include the Poweshiek Skipperling, a state threatened butterfly species found in less than 20 sites in Michigan; the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, the state's only venomous snake; the rare Huron River Leaf Hopper, and large colonies of rare white Lady's Slipper, a native wildflower.
At the south end of Shiawassee Basin, accessed from an entrance off of Davisburg Road, there is a picnic area, soccer and baseball fields and the Springfield Township Civic Center. But the vast majority of the park is undeveloped. At the Eaton Road entrance facilities are limited to a parking area and a trail system that leads to a small lake, a fitting destination for a short hike.
In all, the hike is less than a mile but this is a place where you want to walk slowly and observe quietly, whether you’re hoping to spot wild raspberries on a morning in August or wildlife at dusk such as nesting blue herons, deer, fox or even a pheasant scooting across the open meadow.
From the parking area a trail dips into the woods and quickly arrives at a marked junction. One path is posted Woodland Trail, the other Meadow Trail. The Woodland Trail begins as a mowed lane that descends steadily through the forest before turning into a foot path when it bottoms out. You climb briefly and within 0.4 miles from the start arrive at a second marked junction.
Head down the path posted Overlook and within a hundred yards or so you’ll arrive at large observation deck overlooking a small, marshy lake. To the left a short trail leads down to the shoreline but the deck is the best place to be if you’re intent on seeing if anything wild is milling around.
After backtracking to the Overlook junction, head north (left) to follow the Meadow Trail for the return. You begin in the woods and climb a bit before breaking out into rolling meadows that at the turn of the century were farm fields. This section of the trail ends ends within a third of a mile when you arrive at the first junction, just minutes from your vehicle for a hike of less than a mile.
At the Eaton Road entrance of Shiawassee Basin Preserve there is a picnic table and parking but no source of drinking water.
The park is open from 8 a.m. to dusk. There are no vehicle or entry fees.
From I-75 depart at exit 98 and head east on Holly Road briefly and then south on Tindall Road for 0.7 miles. Turn west (right) on Rattalee Lake Road for 1.1 miles and then south on Eaton Road. The entrance is posted 0.6 miles to the south on Eaton Road.
Contact Springfield Township at (248) 846-6558 or online at www.springfield-twp.us.
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