Railroad Point Natural Area
In 1998, with the help of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, Benzie County secured a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant and purchased 66 acres on Railroad Point, the largest undeveloped parcel remaining on Crystal Lake. Railroad Point Natural Area has since been expanded twice, most recently in 2012, and now includes 209 acres that extends from the shores of Michigan’s ninth largest lake south to the Betsie River, a state-designated Natural and Wild-Scenic River.
When combined with the adjoining, state-owned Crystal Lake Outlet property, the preserves protect 4,300 feet of lake frontage or more than half of Crystal Lake’s publicly-owned shoreline. Inland Railroad Point features upland forests, wetlands, steep-sided bluffs and portions of Outlet Creek, the warm-water stream that connects the lake to the Betsie River. Such a diverse habitat supports an equally wide range of wildlife, from whitetail deer, bobcats, black bears, otters and coyotes to birds such as wild turkeys, great blue herons, wood ducks and the red-shouldered hawk, a threatened species in Michigan.
Two trails provide access into Railroad Point. The multi-purpose Bestie Valley Trail skirts Crystal Lake for a mile on the northern edge of the natural area while the Mary Margaret Johnson Trail, open only to foot traffic, heads inland from Mollineaux Road to views of Crystal Lake. Even though they are not connected, a short segment of Mollineaux Road allows you to combine the trails for an enjoyable bike-and-hike outing.
The Mary Margaret Johnson Trail was completed in 2011 to replace the old logging roads visitors were using. The foot trail dips and climbs as it follows the natural contours of the terrain for a round-trip hike of 1.3 miles.
|Difficulty - Easy|