Houdek Dunes Natural Area
At 342 acres, Houdek Dunes is Leelanau Conservancy’s largest and most diverse preserve. The landscape ranges from hardwood forests featuring some of the largest white birch trees in northern Michigan to Houdek Creek, a spring-fed trout stream and the primary tributary flowing into northern Lake Leelanau. Then there are dunes. These hills and mounds of sand are the result of glacial sediments being exposed 4,000 years ago when the ancient Lake Nippissing receded. The trails skirt active blowout dunes, cross stretches of open sand scattered with tracks and climb forested backdunes to views looking down.
The dunes form a barrier between Houdek Creek and upland hardwood forests whose foliage include aspen and red oak along with beech and maple in the sheltered valleys. The woodland pockets, created by dips in the dunes, are also responsible for Houdek’s most noted trees; large, healthy white birches. Thriving in the narrow ravines and hollows that shield them from the wind, many of the birches are more than a century old, an age that is highly unusual for this transitional species.
Portions of the preserve were logged more than a century ago and then farmed by the Houdek family. That agricultural past is still evident today in the form of remnant apple trees from orchards long gone and fence posts that indicate cattle grazing. Eventually the area was destined to become another golf course when the Leelanau Conservancy staged a campaign and acquired the tract in 1998 that included a mile of frontage on M-22 and 4,500 feet along Houdek Creek.
The trail system at Houdek Dunes totals 3.5 miles with three crossover spurs with the perimeter trails making for a pleasant hike of nearly 3 miles. The hiking is considered easy to moderate due to soft sand and a few moderately steep slopes.
|Difficulty - Moderate|