Grass Lake Natural Area: Sedge Meadow & Woodland Loop
We love boardwalks. Wooden trails keep our socks dry, our boots clean, and our kids out of the doghouse when they inadvertently wear their tennis shoes on a muddy outing. But most of all, where there is a boardwalk there is usually a swamp, marsh, or bog surrounding it.
That’s the best part — exploring these environments that are packed with interesting plants and wildlife without being knee-deep in black ooze. At the Grass River Natural Area there is an abundance of boardwalks — in fact, some trails are nothing but boardwalks, because a good slice of this 1,443-acre park is either sedge meadow, marsh, or cedar swamp.
The Grass River itself is only 2.5 miles long and just chest deep. It’s a crystal-clear waterway that connects Lake Bellaire to Clam Lake as part of Antrim County’s Chain of Lakes. But the extensive floating sedge mats and other wetlands that surround the river are so intriguing that they prompted a fund-raising effort to purchase the land and dedicate it as a natural area in 1976. They’ve been building boardwalks ever since.
Grass River has nine trails that total 7.5 miles including a Rail-Trail bisecting the natural area. Most of the paths are classified as Upland Trails and wind through forests that range from pines to beech, aspen, birch and oaks, making the area a popular destination for fall colors. Three Wetland Trails — Fern, Sedge Meadow and the Dock Access Trail — are the boardwalks that keep your boots dry in the marshes. These provide access into Grass River’s most intriguing habitat.
The trails at Grass Lake are, for the most part, interconnected loops of relatively short distances, making them ideal for family outings even with children as young as three or four. Also drawn to the natural area are birders — 147 species have been sighted — and wildflower enthusiasts. In the winter Chippewa, Nipissing, and Algonquin Trails are groomed for cross-country skiing while all other trails are open to snowshoers.
The hike described here is a combination of the Wetland Trails with the Upland Trails of Woodland, Wildfire and a short portion of the Rail Trail to create a 2.6-mile loop. Trails at Grass River are well marked and easy to follow. Mountain biking is banned in the natural area while dogs are allowed only on the Algonquin and Rail Trail and must be on a lease.
|Difficulty - Easy|