Natural Education Reserve - Keystone Rapids & Boardman Pond Trails
In 1909, the Keystone Dam, the third dam in what today is the Natural Education Reserve, was built across the Boardman River and when it washed out in a heavy rainstorm in 1961 it not only changed the course of the river but also the destiny of the area.
Without the Keystone Dam, the 12-acre impoundment behind it disappeared, leaving behind a half mile stretch of whitewater, some of the most impressive whitewater in the Lower Peninsula. Even more significant to many was Consumers Power’s offer after the catastrophe to sell the entire area, including the still standing Boardman and Sabin Dams, to Grand Traverse County for $1. The county accepted the offer and in 1976 the Natural Education Reserve was officially dedicated.
Today the long, narrow reserve spans 525 acres and includes more than 5 miles of the Boardman River. North of Cass Road is the Boardman Valley and the Sabin Pond Trails and the Boardman River Nature Center. South of Cass Road is the Boardman Pond, Lone Pine and Keystone Rapids Trails.
Both sections of the reserve are popular but the Keystone stretch of trails on the east side of the river are particular popular in the April and May when spring runoff create Class II rapids, drawing the attention of kayakers and other whitewater enthusiasts. The trail described here also includes the paved, barrier-free Lone Pine Trail for a 3.5-mile round-trip from Keystone Rapids Trailhead in which in the first half mile hikers will have a good view of the whitewater and any daredevil paddlers playing in it.
On the west side of the river is the Boardman Pond Trail, a point-to-point path that makes for a 1.5-mile round-trip from its trailhead on Cass Road. Currently the two segments are not connected although long-term plans call for joining Boardman Pond with Keystone Rapids. The addition of such a segment would create an unbroken, 5-mile route from South Airport Road to Beitner Road.
Keep in mind that parking at the Keystone Rapids Trailhead and Beitner Park across the street is limited and on weekends can be busy with the lots often full. If that’s the case, less than half mile to the north on Keystone Road is Oleson Bridge Trailhead where there is ample parking and a short spur to the Keystone Rapids Trail.
|Difficulty - Easy|
|Difficulty - Moderate|