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Allegan SGA: North Swan Creek Loop

Trail Details

County
Allegan
Regions
Lake Michigan
Latitude
N 42° 33' 11.16"
Longitude
W 085° 58' 43.32"
Distance
5.2-mile loop
Trail Type
Foot path, two-track
Terrain
Swan Creek, wetlands
Difficulty
Moderate
Nearest City or Town
Allegan
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Lightly used North Swan Creek trails are located on the north side of the 118th Avenue Bridge dam and form a 5.2-mile loop. They are not marked quite as well as those on the south side thus harder to follow but loved by anglers. From late March to early May, North Swan Creek Loop is popular with anglers who explore the creek’s pools and runs for spawning steelhead entering from the Kalamazoo River and for brown trout, which are stocked in the creek. Both cold water species are stopped by the 118th Avenue dam.
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Description
Lightly used North Swan Creek trails are located on the north side of the 118th Avenue Bridge dam and form a 5.2-mile loop. They are not marked quite as well as those on the south side thus harder to follow but loved by anglers.

From late March to early May, North Swan Creek Loop is popular with anglers who explore the creek’s pools and runs for spawning steelhead entering from the Kalamazoo River and for brown trout, which are stocked in the creek. Both cold water species are stopped by the 118th Avenue dam. On the other side of the barrier, Swan Creek Pond is a warm-water fishery with good populations of bass, bluegill, crappies, and northern pike.

The Michigan DNR stocks more than 3,000 brown trout annually at the 118th Avenue Dam but also further upstream at the 116th Avenue and 112th Avenue. In the Kalamazoo River near Saugatuck more than 30,000 chinook salmon are planted and eventually they return to the river system, including Swan Creek, to spawn.

The following description follows North Swan Creek Loop in a counter clockwise direction. The east side trail stays closer to the creek and involves more climbing as it skirts the bluffs. The west side of the loop remains mostly on the edge of the bluff and is an easier hike. In places the west side trail parallels two-tracks that doubles as a ski trail in the winter and can be used as an alternative route back to 118th Avenue. Ski trails are marked with blue blazes, the hiking trail with yellow blazes.
Amenities & Services
Difficulty - Moderate
Dog Friendly
Foot Path
Two-Track
Trail Guide

The 118th Avenue trailhead and parking area for North Swan Creek Loop is on the east side of the dam and features a red gate to block vehicle traffic. To the north the trail is a well-beaten path as this is a popular fishing spot for anglers to cast for brown trout.  You descend to the creek, cross a footbridge alongside it and then continue with more climbs and descents as the trail skirts  the side of bluff.

North Swan Creek begins in a somewhat mature forest, where you will encounter fallen trees across the trail, but eventually moves into the pine barrens that feature a canopy cover ranging from 10 to 60 percent. Due to the thin canopy, pine barrens support a number of rare species, including lepidoptera such as the Karner Blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) and the barrens buck moth (Hemileuca maia).

From the pine barrens you emerge at Koopman Marsh, an emergent wetland characterized by erect, rooted, herbaceous hydrophytes. This vegetation is present most years.  At the open marsh, a popular place to turtle watch, the trail heads left and follows a dike to reach The Tubes, a local name for the pipes Swan Creek flows through. You use The Tubes to cross the creek then bypass another red gate and at Mile 2.5 arrive at the 121st Avenue trailhead, a large parking lot encircled by tree trunks.  Turn left at a yellow marked tree stump to return via the west side of the loop.

In the beginning North Swan Creek doubles as both the ski trail – marked in blue – and the hiking route until yellow blazes veer off to the left in roughly a half mile.  The alternative is to simply follow the ski trail to a two-track that doubles up as a ski trail in the winter and is reached in a mile. From there continue south on the forest road to 118th Avenue.

But keep in mind the hiking trail from the 121st Avenue trailhead to the two-track is marked and clear to walk on.  This trail stays on the bluff, but has occasional sharp descents and climbs.  But most of the hiking trail stays closer to Swan Creek and can be a more pleasant experience as you continue through a mature forest that open up to views of the creek.

At Mile 3.5 you pass through the old Swan Creek Campground and then cross the two-track that served as an entrance road. In another mile the hiking trail merges into the two-track/ski trail and continues south to reach 118th Avenue at Mile 5. It’s a quarter-mile walk to the east (left) on the paved road to reach the trailhead parking lot.

Facilities

There are no sources of drinking water or other facilities at the 118th Avenue trailhead of North Swan Creek Loop or the 121st street trailhead.

Hours & Fees

The trail is open year round and in the winter is part of the Allegan State Game Area Ski Trail.

Directions

The state game area lies just west of the town of Allegan, which is almost halfway between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. It is reached by departing US-131 onto M-222 (exit 55) and heading west 10 miles. In Allegan, the state road merges with M-89, which should be followed north to Monroe Road on the edge of town where there is a state game area directional sign.

Travel west on Monroe Road, a scenic drive that curves around Lake Allegan, for 7 miles. You then merge with 118th Avenue and reach the dam. On the east (near) side of the dam is a small parking area and trail sign for the northern loop.

Information

A half mile from the North Swan Creek Trailhead is the is the Allegan State Game Area Headquarters (269-673-2430), where additional information can be obtained.


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