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Ingham Conservation Center
Kitty corner to the Ingram Conservation Center is a working farm called Rolling View. How appropriate.
In the agricultural heart of Ingham County, the Ingram Conservation District property is a 200-acre green space that is scattered with remnants of its farming past, from old barns to equipment abandoned in fallow fields. But the center also features wetlands, ponds, hardwood forests and wildlife that thrives there. Winding across the tract is a 5-mile network of foot paths that provides urban dwellers an opportunity for a walk in the country.
Split by Dexter Trail Road, the tract was purchased by the state in the early 1900s to showcase Michigan’s abundant wildlife. In 1917 it became the Mason State Game Farm for the purpose of breeding and releasing game, including Canada geese that had disappeared at the turn of the century. The game farm was closed in 1994 and in 2000 the Department of Natural Resources sold the property to the Ingram Conservation District as a way to preserve it as a natural green space and keep it open to the public.
The trail system is a combination of old two tracks, foot paths and mowed lanes with more than 3 miles of it located in the 120-acre portion south of Dexter Trail. Both sections of the trail make for short, easy hikes that are ideal outings for families, particularly in the fall to enjoy the changing colors. The trail description here includes a 2.4-mile loop in the southern half of the center and a 2-mile loop in the northern half.
South of Dexter Trail
This 2.4-mile loop is the most interesting hike at the Ingram Conservation Center and begins at the parking lot outside the ICD office. From the parking lot you follow a nature trail developed by Girl Scout Troop in 2000, a 2-track that descends past a stone building and across a dam that has turned Mud Creek into a marshy pond. Pause and look for waterfowl and other wildlife. Just beyond the dam a stairway leads you to the creek below the dam where the spillway has created a scenic waterfall.
The trail skirts the creek briefly before breaking out of the woods into a grassy meadow and passing a junction with the West Loop within sound of the traffic on Dexter Trail. Follow the main trail as it swings south and winds through a mixture of forests and fields. Near Mile 1 head west, first following a paved farm road briefly before swinging onto the Southwest Loop to hike through an old field past some discarded farm equipment. Continue south from the Southwest Loop at Mile 1.3 into the center’s most interesting stand of hardwoods.
In less than a quarter mile the trail heads north, leaves the woods to skirt around a pine plantation and then continues its northerly direction mostly as a mowed lane through fields. To the east is Mud Creek that becomes. At Mile 2.2 you reach an observation tower, a Boy Scout eagle project in 2008 that provides a limited view of the Mud Creek wetlands to the east and great view of an open meadow to the west. At dawn and dusk it possible to spot whitetail deer here.
Soon after that you reach a five-way junction of two-tracks. Follow the one that heads east to re-cross the dam and return to the trailhead parking lot at Mile 2.4.
North of Dexter Trail
The north half of the center is a 2-mile loop that for the most part is a walk through the open meadows and old farm fields. You begin next to the education center where a two-track has a vehicle gate across it. Quickly the two-track swings left but you head right, following a mowed lane through an open field. You soon swing west (left) past an old farm building and then north (right) to skirt the west side of the prairie that includes climbing a pair of hills. From each one you can look down at the cluster of farm buildings in the center and the marshy pond at the south end of the prairie.
You continue around the open prairie and at Mile 0.7 reach a junction with the Northeast Loop. This 0.4-mile spur leads you up and around a forested hill before returning to the junction at Mile 1.1. You can then continue west onto the half-mile Prairie Loop past the buildings spotted earlier. You return to the main trail at Mile 1.6 and finish the hike by skirting the marshy pond, a good spot to look for waterfowl.
A picnic pavilion is located just off the trail on the north side of Dexter Trail.
The trails are open to the public from dawn to dusk daily and there are no entrance fees. The Ingham Conservation District office is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Friday by appointment.
From US-27, south of Mason, depart at exit 64 and then head east on Kipp Road until it ends at a junction with Dexter Trail. Head south (right) on Dexter Trail for 2.2 mile and the Ingham Conservation District office will appear on the right side of the road at 1031 W. Dexter Trail.
For more information contact the Ingham Conservation District (517-676-2290; www.inghamconservation.com)
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