The Wetland Trail – A Unique Ecosystem

The Wetland Trail – A Unique Ecosystem

 

I’ve mentioned before in a previous blog that I work for TrueNorth Community Services, the parent company of Camp Newaygo. Unless people attend one of Camp Newaygo’s public events such as their “Dinners on the Ridge” series this summer (July 20 or August 10) most people probably never get a chance to set foot on the grounds. One part of Camp Newaygo that IS open to the public, 365 days a year, sunup till sundown, is the Wetland Trail.

Wetland Trail sign

First of all – how do you find it? It isn’t that difficult, but directions are helpful. Take Centerline Rd. north off of M-82, just west of M-37. After a mile or so, you’ll cross over the channel that connects Pickerel and Emerald Lakes. Right after that, on your left is the main entrance to Camp Newaygo. Go right on past that and the road will curve around until Emerald Lake is on your right. Just past that, on your left will be a dirt drive with a bunch of small signs for the Pickerel Lake residents and cottages down there. If you look closely, you’ll also see a small sign for the Wetland Trail. Go down this little road for maybe a couple hundred yards and you’ll come to a small parking area on your right. It can only fit, maybe 5 cars… but you’ll very likely be the only one there. You’ll also see a large Wetland Trail sign here, so you’ll know you’re in the right place.

 

The trail takes you through a sphagnum bog. Sphagnum is a genus of approximately 380 accepted speciesof mosses, commonly known as “peat moss.” Accumulations of Sphagnum can store water, since both living and dead plants can hold large quantities of water inside their cells; plants may hold 16–26 times as much water as their dry weight, depending on the species. And no, I’m not that smart – I stole that from Wikipedia. You can read a bit more about this particular trail and bog on the Camp Newaygo website here; https://campnewaygo.org/facilities/the-wetland-trail/

 

The complete trail isn’t very long. I’d say maybe a mile, but it can easily be looped for a longer hike. The next thing you should be aware of is that the trail is mostly made up of “floating” sections of boardwalk. That means during times of high water, like this spring, you may step onto a section of boardwalk and find it “sinking” a bit, and you might get your feet wet. I only bring this up because even though I had been on this trail dozens of times before, I forgot the last time I walked there in mid May and wasn’t wearing the kinds of shoes I wanted to get wet! LOL. Honestly, for the vast majority of the year, you’ll stay completely dry on the boardwalk, but as each season on the Wetland Trail offers visitors unique experiences – I say it’s worth visiting at least once a quarter.

Wetland Trail boardwalk

There are two ½ acre hidden lakes that are only accessible via the trail, and both offer exceptional photo opportunities. My favorite part about it is the wildlife. Birders, in particular will love it. If you’re quiet, and still, this unique ecosystem comes to life. It IS a bog though, so during warmer weather, bug spray is advisable.

 

The first section of the trail takes you through a deep green tunnel of foliage and to the first small lake at the end of a short off-shoot from the main boardwalk. The water is almost always dead-calm making for breathtaking reflections of the surrounding trees – especially in the fall. After a bit more in the “green tunnel”, the trail cuts right through the center of the bog and things open right up. You may be tempted to step off the boardwalk onto what looks like solid ground. Don’t! You’ll very likely sink into the bog up to your thighs.  Also – this is a fragile ecosystem, so staying on the boardwalk is a must. After this wide open section, the trail heads onto solid ground for bit before heading back onto the newest sections of boardwalk. You’ll pass the second small lake, before ending back at the access road. You may take a left and walk down the road back to your car, or turn around and loop back. That’s what I always do. You’ll notice things going back that you missed on the way out. Take your time. Stand still, watch, listen… and smell. That is nature in its pure form and it’s right here in Newaygo County.       

by Chris Kuebler

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