Logo collage with photos of birds

NEWAYGO COUNTY BIRDING TRAIL

The Newaygo County Birding Trail has been designed to guide you to a diverse collection of locations throughout the county. The “trail” is a loosely ordered driving route to over 30 locations that run the gamut from county parks to rural back roads. Rivers and streams, wetlands and savannahs, dense forests and agricultural land are all featured, ensuring you will see the greatest number of species possible. Whether you spend a few days and visit them all or choose the sites that look the most interesting to you and visit them in a day, there’s no right or wrong way to utilize the trail.

ABOUT NEWAYGO COUNTY

Newaygo County has long been a sportsperson’s paradise. People come from across the Midwest to fish our lakes and rivers and hunt in our National Forest, but what many may not know is the incredible opportunity Newaygo County offers for birders of all levels.

Why birding?  Newaygo County features thousands of acres of prime birding habitat.  Over 230 natural lakes, 350+ miles of rivers and streams, over 100,000 acres of the Manistee National Forest, undeveloped lands that hold swamps and marshes, oak savannas and mature forests, and a bounty of wildlife—including nearly 250 species of birds.

Ready to make the trip?  Check out our lodging & campground partners here.   If you’re up for a grander adventure, backcountry camping is allowed within the Manistee National Forest without a permit.

Locations with Fees

Many of our sites do not require fees, but there are several locations administered either by Newaygo County or the National Forest Service who do charge to access their sites.

For Newaygo County Parks, passes are required year-round and can be purchased on location in season; a day pass purchased at one park will be good for each park for that day. Passes can also be purchased for a week or a year. For more information go to https://www.newaygocountymi.gov/departments/parks/rates-fees/

For National Forest Service sites, day-use fees can be paid on site in season; access is free at some locations off season. A day use pass purchased at one location can be used for other NFS locations in the same day. An annual pass can be obtained for the Huron-Manistee Forests by contacting any agency office. An Interagency Pass, good for admission to most Federally run lands including National Parks and wildlife refuges, can be obtained by visiting https://store.usgs.gov/

eBIRD

On the website, each location will have a link to its corresponding eBird Hotspot. If you are not familiar with eBird you are encouraged to visit their website www.ebird.org and make an account, then download the app on your smartphone. Each location will have a list of reported species and you can get directions to each from the app. We also encourage you to use the eBird hotspots to record your sightings.

MIGRATION

As with nearly every county in Michigan the best birding is typically during spring/summer/fall. Timing your visit to when birds are arriving will help you see the most diverse number of species. Different families of birds tend to migrate at different times of the year. Waterfowl typically move through and into Michigan in April and again in November; the best locations to see these birds are Fremont High School, Sheldon Park on Fremont Lake, and Croton Dam. Shorebirds migrate in May and June and fall migration starts as early as August; these birds are best seen at the Fremont Waste Water Plant.

Short-distance migrant songbirds begin their journey to Newaygo County in March, but the biggest push begins in mid-April and continues through late May when neo-tropical migrants head north. Some of these species pass through on their way to breeding grounds farther north but many stop in Newaygo County to nest. Fall migration may begin for some species as early as late August.

Some songbirds are here year-round and winter birding can certainly be productive though limited. Species such as Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White and Red-breasted nuthatches stick it out in the winter, and in certain years we are visited by “winter finches,” northern species such as Common Redpoll and Evening Grosbeak, but this can vary wildly from year to year. Waterfowl can often be found in our lakes and impoundments into the winter as long as the water remains ice-free.

BIRDING TIPS

No special equipment is required to enjoy birds. Just being out in nature can be a satisfying endeavor. But if you really want to know what is around you, there are some tools that can help. A good pair of binoculars is the most helpful. Get the best you can afford as the quality of your optics will affect how well you see birds. Take some time to research which style and magnification is best for you and learn how to use them. For birds at a greater distance such as waterfowl and shorebirds a spotting scope is helpful. A field guide is essential to identifying what you see, and there are now smartphone apps as well as print books available. The Merlin Bird ID app can help you identify what birds are singing near you and is a great tool to help you learn bird songs and calls, but always visually identify what Merlin thinks it’s hearing as it’s not infallible.

Birds are most active at dawn, so heading out early will increase your chances of seeing the most birds. Different species of birds occupy different habitats, and knowing which birds prefer which type of habitat is helpful with identification. Grassland birds such as meadowlarks, Bobolink, and Upland Sandpiper will be found in open areas with herbaceous plants, pastures, and hay fields that are left uncut until after nesting season. Sora and Viginia Rail are wet meadow and marsh birds. Even within a forest different species utilize different vertical zones; some occupy the canopy, some prefer the midstory, some will be on or near the ground. We have done our best to include birding locations that encompass the greatest variety of habitats.

And remember—always bird the parking lot! Many birds love edge habitat, that transition zone between open areas and woodland, making the parking lots some of the most productive at any given location.

BIRDING ETHICS

For the health and safety of the birds we love as well as for the enjoyment of them by others, ethical behavior in the field is paramount. Our actions should cause as little disruption to the lives of the birds as possible. Keep your voices low, stay out of critical habitat, don’t trespass on private land. If you are using the playback of bird songs and calls keep it to an absolute minimum, and never use playback during the nesting season, when all of a bird’s attention needs to be on successfully raising a brood. For more information about birding ethics please read the American Birding Association’s Birding Code of Ethics at https://www.aba.org/aba-code-of-birding-ethics/

Newaygo, MI

NORTHERN REGION


 

#1 Kropscott Farm Environmental Center

​Location: 65234 W Baseline Rd., Fremont

GPS: 43.554381, -85.961359

Parking: Park in lot near Baseline Road

Fees: None

Amenities: Nature trails

Habitat: Virgin woodland, grassland, agricultural, vernal ponds

Notable Species: Grasshopper Sparrow, Bobolink, American Pipit

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L8928302

Where to Explore: The area around the buildings is good year-round for songbirds and woodpeckers.  Wrapping NW around the farmhouse, a dirt trail leads through farmland where a good variety of grassland birds can be found, including Grasshopper Sparrow.  At the NW corner of the fields trails wind through a mature beech-maple forest where Red-tailed Hawks nest.  The trails pass vernal ponds where Ovenbird calls echo through the woods. The site also has an observatory for night-sky viewing.

http://www.newaygocd.org/about-the-farm.html

 

 

#2 Hesperia Pond/First Island
 

​Location: North Maple Island Road and A Street, Hesperia

GPS: 43.5741713, -86.0387493

Parking: A Street parking lot on west side of North Maple Island Road

Fees: None

Amenities: Restrooms at ballfields

Habitat: Riparian, floodplain, fields, woodland

Notable Species: Spotted Sandpiper, Marsh Wren, Red-shouldered Hawk

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L8928302

Where to Explore: Located along the White River, this is Hesperia’s only eBird hotspot. Park in the A Street lot and cross over to the bridge and on to the first island, then take the dock to the second island. The dock and islands give great views of the lake and the waterfowl and shorebirds that use the pond during migration. In summer look for herons, gulls, and nesting blackbirds along with several marsh species.  (If you are a serious lister please be aware that Maple Island Road is the border between Newaygo and Oceana Counties. The parking lot and ballfields on the west side are in Oceana County, the pond and islands to the east are in Newaygo. The eBird hotspot is in Newaygo County.)

Mallard photo by Jen Selwa

Mallard photo by Jen Selwa

#3 Beaver Creek at Dickinson Ave.

Location: Between 8 Mile and Lincoln

GPS: 43.683525, -86.01927

Parking: Roadside along Dickinson (private, bird from road)

Fees: None

Amenities: None

Habitat: Mix of riparian, mature woodland, grassland, agricultural, and wetland

Notable Species: Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Sora, Virginia Rail

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L14733111

Where to Explore: This .07 mile stretch of Dickinson Ave hosts an impressive diversity of habitat. Beginning south of the creek the road is lined with shrubs, then transitions to open woodland along Beaver Creek. Past the creek is a pond and wetland, then a small farm with some cultivated fields and pastures south of Lincoln Street. You will find a variety of songbirds in the shrub and woodland, waterfowl and marsh birds around the pond, and grassland birds at the farm. You can park and walk this stretch or easily bird from your vehicle.

Sora photo by Tori Martel

Sora photo by Tori Martel

#4 Big South Branch Pere Marquette River at Dickinson Rd

Location: Dickenson Ave and 16 Mile Road, Troy Township

GPS: 43.785621, -86.01737

Parking: Roadside (on either Dickinson or 16 Mile)

Fees: None

Amenities: None

Habitat: Riparian, floodplain, backwater

Notable Species: Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L30169087

Where to Explore: The southeast corner of W 16 Mile and Dickinson is a mix of river, backwater, and floodplain. The woods along Dickinson are mostly maple but along 16 Mile it transitions to cedar and hemlock. There is some roadside parking on Dickinson near the bridge but use caution birding here as there is some traffic and sight lines are short. There is also some roadside parking along 16 Mile east of Dickinson. Look for waterfowl and wading birds in the backwaters, thrushes, warblers, and other songbirds in the hemlock.

LIMITED CELL SERVICE

 

#5 16 Mile Road at Wet Meadow

Location: 16 Mile Road at Wet Meadow, Bitely, Private–bird from road

GPS: 43.785152, -85.937698

Parking: Roadside along 16 Mile

Fees: None

Amenities: None

Habitat: Mostly grassland/wet meadow bordered by mature forests

Notable Species: Marsh Wren, Virginia Rail, Wilson’s Snipe, Red-headed Woodpecker, Rough-legged Hawk (winter)

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L11462616 

Where to Explore: Either park on the roadside and walk or drive slowly along this extensive wetland complex. To the north is a shrub-dominated wetland, to the south is a wet meadow/grassland, each containing unique species. This is private property so please stay on the road.

LIMITED CELL SERVICE

Virginia Rail photo by Tori Martel

Virginia Rail photo by Tori Martel

 

#6 16 Mile Road at Cedar Creek/North Country Trail

Location: 16 Mile Road at Cedar Creek/North Country Trail, Bitely

GPS: 43.785261, -85.911225

Parking: Roadside along 16 Mile

Fees: None

Amenities: None

Habitat: Mix of riparian, marsh, and mature woodland

Notable Species: Golden-winged Warbler, Broad-winged Hawk, Olive-sided and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L11462132

Where to Explore: 16 Mile Road is dirt, but the area around the bridge is paved. Park at either end of the bridge, being sure to bird both sides of the road along the floodplain. The North Country Scenic Trail crosses 16 Mile just west of the bridge and provides access to a greater variety of habitat. South on the trail will take you through edge habitat as the floodplain transitions to forest and then on to a wooden bridge across Cedar Creek and a dense thicket of alder. North on the trail follows a marsh and into mature forest. There are a great variety of birds in the area, and this is an excellent location for migrating warblers in autumn.

LIMITED CELL SERVICE

Yellow Warbler photo by Jen Selwa

Yellow Warbler photo by Jen Selwa

 

#7 16 Mile Road at Cedar Swamp

Location: 16 Mile Road at Cedar Swamp, Bitely

GPS: 43.785261, -85.90094

Parking: Roadside

Fees: None

Amenities: None

Habitat: Wetland/swamp, mix of shrub and cedar, bordered by mature mixed forest

Notable Species: 12 warbler species including Northern Waterthrush and Canada Warbler ​

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L11462144

Where to Explore: Park on the shoulder and walk along 16 Mile. The wetland extends approximately 1/10 of a mile and is bordered by mature forest. On the south side the habitat is shrubby while the north side is dominated by white cedar. Listen for Northern Waterthrush and watch for dueling Blue-winged Warblers in spring, as well as any of the other ten species of warbler reported here. This is private property so please stay on the road.

LIMITED CELL SERVICE

Black-and-White Warbler. photo by Tori Martel

Black-and-White Warbler photo by Tori Martel

#8 Nichols Lake North Recreation Area

Location: 3967-3999 Cleveland Dr W, Bitely

GPS: 43.733392, -85.906851

Parking: Paved. Day use area has 6-8 spaces—please do not park in angled parking meant for vehicles with trailers. Parking is also available at the trailhead. Universal accessibility

Fees: Day use $5, free with Interagency Pass

Amenities: Vault toilet, boat ramp, picnic area. Camping is accessible from 11 Mile Road.

Habitat: Mix of lake, lake shore, wetland, and mature mixed deciduous forest. A scope is helpful to scan the lake.

Notable Species: Cerulean Warbler, Winter Wren, Common Loon, Black-billed Cuckoobler ​

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L25509046 

Where to Explore:

This 153-acre lake is home to loons, bald eagles, a variety of songbirds, and attracts migrating waterfowl in season. There are two boat launches, an improved launch at the day use area and an unimproved launch at the south end, as well as a rustic campground. The eBird hotspot is at the day use area and this is where a Cerulean Warbler was found carrying food in the summer of 2023.

To access the improved boat launch, turn south off Cleveland Dr and take the road to the right that goes down the hill. There is parking for cars near the day use area—please do not park in the trailer parking spots. Birding can be done from the boat launch, the parking lot, and from the day use area. If you have a boat, birding the shoreline can also be quite productive, but keep in mind this is a no-wake lake for only part of the day and can be busy on the weekends. There is also a second parking lot almost immediately after turning off Cleveland Dr that serves as trailhead parking for the North Country Scenic Trail if you are interested in hiking. Managed by the National Forest Service.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/hmnf/recarea/?recid=18698 

Common Loon photo by Tori Martel

Common Loon photo by Tori Martel

#9 McDuffee Creek Nature Preserve

Location: 11510 N. Walnut Avenue, Bitely

GPS: 43.761594, -85.760965

Parking: Lot off Walnut, 8-10 vehicles

Fees: None

Amenities: Picnic shelter with fireplace

Habitat: Oak savannah, alder/cedar swamp, riparian, vernal ponds, early successional forest with some mature oaks and white pine

Notable Species: Ruffed Grouse, Barred Owl, Bald Eagle, American Woodcock

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L29524993

Where to Explore: The 300-acre McDuffee Creek Nature Preserve is managed by The Land Conservancy of West Michigan and opened to the public in 2023. The Preserve is a mix of habitat including an oak savannah, which the Conservancy is actively managing, and is bisected by both McDuffee Creek and the Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette River.  Two trails, totaling about two miles, are accessible from the west parking lot on Walnut. The trail to the north travels along the north side of the Pere Marquette and into early successional forest before looping back to the parking lot. The second trail is to the south of the parking lot and is accessed by walking south along Walnut Ave. It winds through the oak savannah before also looping back to the parking lot. This trail will eventually connect to a new trail being developed on the east side of the preserve, which will also be accessible from 14 Mile. The trails are wide and either grass covered or dirt, but are uneven in places with some stumps, especially in parts of the savannah. Use care when while on the trails as this preserve is a work in progress.

McDuffee Creek Nature Preserve

Magnolia Warbler photo by Jen Selwa

Magnolia Warbler photo by Jen Selwa

 

#10 Upriver Nature Preserve

Location: 13113 N. Walnut Ave, Bitely

GPS: 43.791244, -85.761841

Parking: Gravel lot with room for 8-10 vehicles

Fees: None

Amenities: Marked trails

Habitat: Successional to mature mixed woodland, riparian, floodplain, rare sand prairie

Notable Species: Bald Eagle, Fox Sparrow, Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L29572235

Where to Explore: This 146-acre West Michigan Land Conservancy property protects over 5,300 feet of the South Branch of the Pere Marquette River, and in fall when the salmon are spawning it can be a great place to see multiple Bald Eagles fishing. Two trails lead from the parking lot and connect, making two loops of approximately one and two miles. The trail that leaves from the south side of the parking lot winds through a mixed forest and over hills of glacial moraine, then descends into wetland as it nears the river at the northwest corner of the property. Woodland birds can be found in the hilly section but by far the best birding is along the river and its adjoining wetlands. Additionally, there is a rare sand prairie remnant on the north side of the river along Walnut Ave. There are no trails in this section, and this is fragile habitat so please look for grassland species from the road.  Be aware that there is a private residence whose driveway splits off as you enter the parking lot, so take care not to trespass.

https://naturenearby.org/portfolio_page/explore/upriver-nature-preserve/ 

 

#11 Poplar Ave at 13 Mile

Location: Poplar Ave at 13 Mile, Bitely (private—bird from road)

GPS: 43.744156, -85.721774

Parking: Roadside

Fees: None

Amenities: None

Habitat: Grassland with small wetlands/vernal ponds and hayfields

Notable Species: Dickcissel, Bobolink, Upland Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe, American Kestrel

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L14165651

Where to Explore: Park on Poplar Ave north of 13 Mile and walk, or drive slowly north along Poplar Ave. The area features hay fields, left uncut until late June or early July, affording grassland birds the opportunity to nest. Many of the birds use the trees and shrubs along Poplar to perch and sing, especially the Dickcissel. There are also several small ponds/potholes that increase diversity. American Kestrels perch on utility wires and Northern Harriers cruise above the grasslands. Winter is a good time to look for Rough-legged Hawks. Private, please stay on road.

Dicksissel photo by Tori Martel

Dicksissel photo by Tori Martel

#12 12 Mile Road at Oak Ave.

Location: 12 Mile Road at Oak Ave. Monroe Twp. (private–bird from road)

GPS: 43.728118, -85.700013

Parking: Roadside

Fees: None

Amenities: None

Habitat: Mix of agricultural fields, grasslands, and wooded riparian/wetland

Notable Species: Swamp Sparrow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Warbling Vireo, Eastern Meadowlark

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L25033294

Where to Explore: This section of road is bordered by private property so please stay on the road. Park on 12 Mile Road as Oak Ave is paved and busier. This location is a nice mix of agricultural, riparian, mature woods and thicket where you may find both grassland and woodland species. Private, please stay on road.

Eastern Kingbird photo by Tori Martel

Eastern Kingbird photo by Tori Martel

#13 12 Mile Road at Hemlock, Norwich Twp

Location: 12 Mile Road at Hemlock, Norwich Twp. (private, bird from road)

GPS: 43.728276, -85.6535776

Parking: Roadside

Fees: None

Amenities: None

Habitat: Grassland, agricultural fields, pasture, bordered by woodland.

Notable Species: Vesper Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Upland Sandpiper, Yellow-billed Cuckoo

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L25033369

Where to Explore: You can either park your car along the road and explore on foot or bird from your vehicle. Look for Upland Sandpiper perched atop fence posts and power poles along 12 Mile. Be sure to bird the corner of 12 Mile and Hemlock as well as north along Hemlock for grassland birds. The open pastures are a good place to watch for raptors in winter.

Upland Sandpiper photo by Tori Martel

Upland Sandpiper photo by Tori Martel

 

#14 Richmond Woods Nature Preserve

Location: 8000 N. Centerline Road, Brohman

GPS: 43.6964969, -85.8002603

Parking: Gravel lot with room for 6-8 vehicles

Fees: None

Amenities: Marked trails

Habitat: Mixed deciduous forest, wet meadow, spruce bog

Notable Species: American Bittern, Red-headed Woodpecker

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L13265470

Where to Explore:

114-acre reserve run by the West Michigan Land Conservancy contains land in both the White and Pere Marquette River watersheds. From the parking lot there are two trails, one to the east which leads to an emergent wetland where American Bittern have been seen. To the west, across Centerline Road, is another wide trail leading to the spruce bog. At the reserve boundary you can either turn left and pick up the trail that loops back to the parking lot or go straight to access National Forest land and a second spruce bog at Richmond Lake. The open woodland is attractive to Red-headed Woodpeckers and the wetlands attract many species of wading birds and waterfowl.

Richmond Woods Nature Preserve

 

 

#15 Benton Lake Day Use Area

Location: 2900-2998 W Pierce Dr, White Cloud

GPS: 43.670242, -85.89327

Parking: Large, paved lot with parking for up to 20 vehicles

Fees: USFS $7.00/day, free with Interagency Pass

Amenities: Vault toilets, boat launch, campground (seasonal)

Habitat: Lake/wetland, early successional forest

Notable Species: Trumpeter Swan

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L29436763​

Where to Explore: Where to explore: the day use area is situated between the campground and boat launch. Explore the day use area and walk the park road through the campground and to the boat launch. Benton Lake is a no wake lake so is great for canoeing or kayaking.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/hmnf/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=18894&actid=29

 

#16 Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary

Location: 4794 N Felch Ave, White Cloud

GPS: 43.6392198, -85.8308387

Parking: Large gravel lot

Fees: USFS $5.00/day, free with Interagency Pass

Amenities: Restrooms, hiking trails, picnic shelter, parking for individual and larger vehicles.

Habitat: Lake, wetland, creek, mixed deciduous forest

Notable Species: Broad-winged hawk, Wood Thrush, Alder Flycatcher, Pied-billed Grebe

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L3012806

Where to Explore: Loda Lake is an area that includes a small spring-fed lake, a bog-like wetland area, a creek and riparian marshy areas, oak forest, pine plantations, and an early successional old farm site, and is the only wildflower sanctuary in the National Forest system. The sanctuary contains a self-guided walking tour trail through a variety of habitats and clocks at number two on Newaygo County’s eBird hotspot list.

The trail winds through oak-maple woodlands, alongside a stream and floodplain, through old pine plantations, and on a boardwalk through a shrub swamp and emergent wetland. The shorter loop trail is approximately ½ mile; the full loop is approximately 1.5 miles long. The trail offers a moderately easy hike over relatively flat ground and offers 39 numbered viewing stations described in a trail guide. The guide contains a map of the trails and a description of the different species that may be observed at each station and can be obtained by contacting the District Office in Baldwin, Michigan. In addition to the approximately 125 species of birds reported here there have also been more than 500 species of plants identified. The sanctuary is open year-round but may not be plowed in winter.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/regions/eastern/LodaLake/index.shtml

Pied-Billed Grebe photo by Jen Selwa

Pied-Billed Grebe photo by Jen Selwa

 

#17 Diamond Lake County Park

Location: 3351 N. Mundy Ave., White Cloud

GPS: 43.6145745, -85.8136432

Parking: Yes

Fees: Newaygo County Parks $7.00/daily; gated in winter but accessible on foot

Amenities: Restrooms (seasonal), camping (seasonal), pavilion

Habitat: Open water, mature woodland

Notable Species: Philadelphia vireo, Orchard Oriole, Common Loon

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L4840908

Where to Explore: This 150-acre County Park has ample room to hike and birdwatch. From this park you can also access the famous Birch Grove Trail which links to the North Country Scenic Trail and accesses Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary. Around Diamond Lake look for raptors, wading birds, and migrating ducks and geese. The mature woodlands host many species of songbirds in spring and summer including vireos, warblers, orioles, and many others.

https://www.newaygocountymi.gov/departments/parks/diamond-lake-park/

 

#18 White Cloud County Park/North Country Trail

Location: 680 E Wilcox Ave., White Cloud, MI 493349

GPS: 43.548775, -85.786026) ​

Parking: Large unpaved lot at trailhead.

Fees: Newaygo County Parks, $7.00/day

Amenities: Restroom (closed in winter), hiking trail, camping (seasonal)

Habitat: Open woodland, wooded riverbank, ball field

Notable Species: Red-headed Woodpecker, Least Flycatcher, Black-and-white Warbler

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L29435688

Where to Explore: This 80-acre County Park offers a variety of habitat including a half mile of frontage along the scenic White River. The park sits atop a high bank along the river that holds a mature woodland with hemlock and oak, while the far bank is floodplain. Parking in the day use lot gives you access to the connector for the North Country Trail, which heads west behind the ballfield where it splits in two. Take the trail to the left to head down to the river and Flowing Wells Artesian Wells Park but note, the trail is steep at times. This park is typically the summer habitat for a significant number of Red-headed Woodpeckers. You may see raptors nesting in the trees. Look for songbirds along the river, including several species of warblers, woodpeckers, and Brown Creeper. If you are a paddler this section of the river hosts the White River Blue Water Trail. Access is gained at Rotary Park east of M-37 and it ends at Flowing Wells.

Website: https://www.newaygocountymi.gov/departments/parks/white-cloud-park/

Red Headed Woodpecker photo by Tori Martel

Red Headed Woodpecker photo by Tori Martel

SOUTHERN REGION


 

#19 Newaygo County Welcome Center

Location: 4684 S. Evergreen Dr., Newaygo

GPS: 43.469597, -85.774471

Parking: Yes

Fees: None

Amenities: Port-a-Potty, bird feeding station, tourist information, picnic tables, fire rings, potable water, toboggan run (winter)

Habitat: Open parkland, mature woodland

Notable Species: Least Flycatcher, Philadelphia Vireo, Pileated Woodpecker

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L30228346

Where to Explore: The Newaygo County Welcome Center and Sports Park is a great place to start your tour of the southern half of Newaygo County hotspots. The facility sits atop a hill overlooking Little Lake Placid and features a bird feeding station with webcam. A spur trail (blazed in white) that leads to the North Country Trail (blazed in blue) is accessible behind Graves Lodge. The trail is steep and is recommended only for those in reasonably good condition. This spur will take you down along Little Placid Lake and to the bottom of the toboggan run. Return to the Welcome Center on the same trail. Bird around the grounds and watch the feeders, and/or take the spur loop down and back for closer views of the lake. Look for waterfowl in season and a variety of songbirds.

#19-A Twinwood Lake Campground

Location: Basswood Dr, White Cloud

GPS: 43.4760393, -85.7676746

Parking: Limited

Fees: USFS $5.00/day or Interagency Pass

Amenities: Restroom, camping, hiking trails, boat launch. Plowed in winter.

Habitat: Open woodland, open water with marshy shoreline, riparian

Notable Species: Blue-winged Warbler, Wood Duck, Yellow-billed Cuckoo

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L9886902

Where to Explore: Twinwood is an undeveloped lake with a richly diverse habitat including a wetland, a tributary of Bigelow Creek, oak forest, and large white pines. Views of the lake from the boat launch reveal waterfowl in season as well as wading birds, and Bald Eagles have been known to nest here. A trail leading from the east end of the parking lot passes behind the campsite next to the lot and winds along a Bigelow Creek tributary. This is an old section of the North Country Scenic Trail and while it is no longer on any maps is well-traveled and easy to follow , eventually coming out on 40th Ave. Much of this hike is through a floodplain and is lined with towering white pines. This is a good place to find a variety of songbirds including several species of warbler as well as Wild Turkey. The wet margins of the lake and along the Bigelow Creek tributary hold American Woodcock. 

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/hmnf/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=18886&actid=29

#20 Toft Lake

Location: South Spruce Ave, Newaygo

GPS: 43.486639, -85.742252

Parking: Dirt lot on east side of South Spruce Ave, (unmarked—use eBird hotspot for navigation)

Fees: None

Amenities: Trail around lake

Habitat: Mature mixed woodland, marsh, open water

Notable Species: Wood Duck, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L29436346

Where to Explore: The small Toft Lake trailhead parking lot is on the east side of Spruce Ave. Follow the trail from the parking area to where it splits, taking the fork to the left to head down to Toft Lake. The site hosts an early woodland Native American site that dates back 3,000 years and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Waterfowl nest here, including Wood Ducks, along with a good number of songbirds.

Scarlet Tanager photo by Tori Martel

Scarlet Tanager photo by Tori Martel

#21 Sandy Beach County Park

Location: 6926 E. 30th St., White Cloud

GPS: 43.495150, -85.630662

Parking: Ample paved parking at trailhead

Fees: $7.00/day

Amenities: Restrooms/Port-a-Potty, campground, boat launch, beach, pavilion, trailhead

Habitat: Open water, lake shore, mature mixed forest, open parkland

Notable Species: Magnolia Warbler, Red-headed Woodpecker, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L26726233

Where to Explore: Sandy Beach County Park encompasses 130 acres on the west shore of the 4,000-acre Hardy Dam Pond. The main attraction here is the Dragon, a new hiking and mountain biking trail that encircles Hardy Dam Pond. When the park is open and operational, park in the paved lot at the south end where you can access the trail and have views of Hardy Dam Pond. Off season park at the north end near the Port-a-potty and access the trail from E 30th Street. Explore in either direction along the Dragon through mature mixed forest, search the campground for species who prefer open habitat, and scan the lake for waterfowl. PLEASE NOTE the Dragon is a mixed-use trail and is very popular with mountain bikers. Pay attention to activity on the trail, not just the birds.

https://www.newaygocountymi.gov/departments/parks/sandy-beach-park/

#22 Croton Dam

Location: Croton Dam, Croton Drive, Newaygo

GPS: 43.435534, -85.665974

Parking: Tailwater Parking (west side), Charles Bessemer/Muskegon River Park (downriver, west side), Fishing Access (east side)

Fees: None

Amenities: Restrooms at Fishing Access parking lot and at Charles Bessemer, paved trail

Habitat: Mix of open water, riparian, woodland

Notable Species: Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L1114127

Where to Explore: Croton Dam offers a variety of habitats and multiple areas to explore and ranks as the number one eBird hotspot in the county. The main attraction is the open water around the dam which attracts a wide variety of waterfowl in early spring and late fall, but the woods along the river and the North Country Trail are always good for songbirds.

Access to Croton Pond, which lies above the dam, is easiest from the large Tailwater Parking area on the north side of Croton Dr west of the Muskegon River. This also serves as trailhead parking for the North Country Scenic Trail. Walk northeast between the dam and the powerplant to access Croton Pond.  There is also a paved ramp that allows access to the river below the dam. There are no facilities at this location, and access to the dam is strictly forbidden.

On the south side of Croton Drive but still north of the river is Charles Bessemer/Muskegon River Park. This location offers ample riverside parking and access to the mature woods along the NCST as well as vault toilets at the boat launch along the river.

On the south side of river, you will find the Fishing Access parking lot with upper and lower sections connected by stairs and bisected by a paved trail, also part of the NCST. There is a restroom here and more stairs that allow access to the river below the dam.

Osprey photo by Jen Selwa

Osprey photo by Jen Selwa

#23 Newaygo Prairie Sanctuary

Location: 5600-5998 S Poplar Ave, Newaygo

GPS: 43.448881, -85.722606

Parking: Roadside

Fees: None

Amenities: None

Habitat: Prairie, mature woodland

Notable Species: Vesper Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L4689663

Where to Explore: The Newaygo Prairie Sanctuary comprises 110 acres of prairie habitat owned by the Michigan Nature Association.  In late spring and summer, look for dry prairie species like Savannah, Vesper, and Grasshopper sparrows along with Eastern Towhee and  several woodpecker species.  There are no established trails, so use care while exploring the site, keeping an eye out for the boundary and prickly pear cactus. There are a few areas on the shoulder on both S Poplar and E 56th Street to park.

https://michigannature.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=locationgallery&action=listing&listing=93

#24 Coolbough Natural Areas

Location: E 58th Street and South Hazelwood Ave, Newaygo

GPS: 43.450173, -85.728346

Parking: Dirt lot

Fees: None

Amenities: Marked trails

Habitat: Oak savannah, prairie, wetland, ponds, riparian

Notable Species: Winter wren, Swamp Sparrow, 14 species of warblers

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L2402806

Where to Explore: This 400-acre reserve protects a wide variety of habitat, most notably a rare sand prairie and oak savannah, and this creates many opportunities for a wide variety of bird species. There are several well-marked trails looping through Coolbough. Visitors have the chance to explore ponds and wetlands, hike through white pine and white oak forests, search for butterflies and wildflowers on prairies and barrens, and listen to the bubbling waters of Bigelow and Coolbough Creeks. This used to be a small farming village and remnants of the settlement are still visible in some places. Stay on the trails as hazards may be hidden below the grass. Managed by The Nature Conservancy and Brooks Township.

https://newaygocountyexploring.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Coolbough-Field-Guide.pdf 

 

#25 DNR Fisherman's Trail

Location: South side of Croton Drive just west of Basswood, about a mile and half east of Newaygo

GPS: 43.425811, -85.772695

Parking: Dirt lot with room for three vehicles

Fees: None

Amenities: None

Habitat: Remnant prairie, mature woodland, riparian, bottomland/floodplain

Notable Species: Osprey, Wood Thrush, Wild Turkey, Winter Wren

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L30234198

Where to Explore: The DNR Fisherman’s Trail is a path through a large state-owned conservation area that is open to the public. The half-mile path is well-traveled and easy to follow, although unmarked. It begins in the small parking lot next to a remnant prairie then travels south into mixed deciduous forest before descending into a low-lying area with a beech-hemlock forest. The trail ends at the confluence of Bigelow Creek and the Muskegon River. The diversity of this site brings a nice variety of species. Be aware there are some short steep sections on this trail as it descends to the river.

#26 Ed Henning County Park

Location: Ed Henning County Park 500 Croton Rd., Newaygo

GPS: 43.419404, -85.789200

Parking: Free parking in large lot on left side of entrance road before gate.

Fees: $7.00/day (past entrance gate)

Amenities: Restrooms, campground, boat launch, sheltered pavilion

Habitat: Mix of parkland, woodland and riparian

Notable Species: Eastern Screech Owl, Carolina Wren, Baltimore Oriole, Osprey

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L840611

Where to Explore: Park in the large lot on the left side of the entrance road and walk along the disk golf course which winds through the woodland on the bluff above the river. You can also walk down to the river and boat launch area. Watch for raptors and herons along the river and a variety of songbirds in the woodlands and open grassy areas around the campground.

https://www.newaygocountymi.gov/departments/parks/ed-henning-park/

Baltimore Oriole photo by Tori Martel

Baltimore Oriole photo by Tori Martel

#27 Newaygo River Front Park

Location: Newaygo River Front Park 105 River St. Newaygo

GPS: 43.419541, -85.807544

Parking: Located at both ends of the park

Fees: None

Amenities: Porta-potty, paved pathway, playgrounds

Habitat: Parkland, woodland, riparian

Notable Species: Orchard Oriole, Northern Waterthrush, Bald Eagle

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L19042723

Where to Explore: The entrance drive is a great walk for wetland warblers such as Northern Waterthrush and Yellow Warbler along with Baltimore and Orchard Orioles. Head north on the paved walkway along the river, watching for raptors and herons as well as Belted Kingfisher.  The riverfront walk ends at a second park at the railroad bridge and Muskegon River access.

https://newaygo.gov/parks-recreation.php 

Northern Waterthrush photo by Tori Marel

Northern Waterthrush photo by Tori Marel

#28 Garfield Township Memorial Cemetery and Walkway

Location: Garfield Township Verteran’s Memorial Walkway, 7190 Bingham Ave, Newaygo

GPS: 43.424665, -85.857876

Parking: Large lot

Fees: None

Amenities: Paved trail with several loops

Habitat: Pine plantation, woodland, agricultural

Notable Species: Black-throated Blue Warbler, Willow Flycatcher, Swainson’s Thrush

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L15734425

Where to Explore: The entrance to the walkway is behind the Garfield Township Hall.  The first loop of the walkway, which winds through a mature red pine stand, can be good year-round for chickadees, titmice, and robins.  In spring and fall, migrant warblers abound.  The second loop, connected to the first by a paved path that skirts an agriculture field, is in a mature hardwood forest that is great for flycatchers and vireos in warm seasons and woodpeckers and kinglets in winter.  Over 75 species have been sighted on the trail.

Great-Crested Flycatcher photo by Jen Selwa

Great-Crested Flycatcher photo by Jen Selwa

#29 Fremont Waste Water Plant

Location: Fremont Waste Water Plant, 6250 W 72nd St, Fremont (limited access)

GPS: 43.423712, -85.955472

Parking: In lot when gate open, sand pit on 72nd Ave if closed

Fees: None

Amenities: None

Habitat: Sewage ponds

Notable Species: American Black Duck, Lesser Scaup, Pectoral Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L1574253

Where to Explore: This site can be a challenge to bird as there is no public access along the dikes. But with over 100 species reported, 18 of which are waterfowl, it is well worth the effort. It is the best place in the county to see shorebirds, primarily during fall migration. A spotting scope is recommended since the settling ponds are viewed from a distance.  When the entrance gate is open, view the ponds from the parking area.  When the gate is closed, a second entrance is just farther west on 72nd St.  This entrance leads to a sand pit from where the ponds can be viewed.   In the event the secondary entrance gate is closed, you may park at the gate and walk back to the viewing area.  There is no access to the pond dikes, viewing is only from the parking lot or sand pit.

Tree Swallow photo by Jen Selwa

Tree Swallow photo by Jen Selwa

#30 Sheridan Park/Fremont Lake

Location: 5260 Lee Ave, Fremont

GPS: 43.441243, -85.963671

Parking: Paved lot at township hall

Fees: None

Amenities: Port-a-potty seasonally, picnic tables, playground, boat launch

Habitat: Woodland, wetland, shrub, parkland, lake

Notable Species: Common Goldeneye, Redhead, Greater Scaup

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L11437143

Where to Explore: Sheridan Park is located north of the township hall and includes a small park and mature woodland. A wetland extends along the road to the boat launch and the shrubby habitat along the shore is good for sparrows and other songbirds. Fremont Lake is a good place to see large number of waterfowl during migration.

#31 Fremont High School

Location: Fremont High School, 5421 S. Warner Ave, Fremont (limited access)

GPS: 43.457016, -85.948062

Parking: At southeast corner of main parking lot

Fees: None

Amenities: Paved parking and walkway

Habitat: Wetland to open water

Notable Species: Snow Goose, Canvasback, Ruddy Duck, Tundra Swan

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L7083849

Where to Explore: This site is open to birders WHEN SCHOOL IS NOT IN SESSION.  Park near the SE end of the school and follow the sidewalk around to the south side of the building overlooking the marsh.  With an all-time list of over 100 species, this marsh is great for spring migrating waterfowl and hosts fall shorebird migrants.  Songbirds are plentiful along the marsh as well as along the entrance road from Warner Ave.  Birding is best in seasons when the water is not frozen.

Red-Winged Blackbird photo by Jen Selwa

Red-Winged Blackbird photo by Jen Selwa

#32 Branstrom Park

Location: North of Fremont on Darling Ave, past the main entrance, park near the north entrance

GPS: 43.477734, -85.943184

Parking: Multiple paved parking lots

Fees: None

Amenities: Restrooms, picnic tables, playground, trail system, paved walkway

Habitat: Mature woodland, wetland

Notable Species: Magnolia Warbler, Carolina Wren, American Redstart

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L7050982

Where to Explore: This 100-acre park is accessible from multiple points. The recommended birding area is the path from the parking lot on the east side of Darling Ave which extends west into the park past wetlands, where waterfowl and osprey are often seen (there are no facilities at this location). Ten or more species of spring warblers are possible here. The park has extensive hiking trails totaling around two miles that can be accessed more easily from the main entrance.

https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/michigan/branstrom-park-area-trails

#33 Camp Newaygo Wetland Trail

Location: E 52nd St. & Centerline Rd, Brooks

GPS: 43.460356, -85.799754

Parking: Small lot at trailhead on 52nd Street, accessed from Centerline Road (not at the main Camp Newaygo entrance)

Fees: None

Amenities: Boardwalk

Habitat: Wetland, ponds, woodland

Notable Species: Veery, seven species of woodpeckers, 14 species of warblers

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L7004837

Where to Explore: The Wetland Trail is on a Sphagnum (quaking) bog and over the years over 120 species have been reported here. Upon entering the trail, the boardwalk winds through thick alder and fern habitat. The thick vegetation gives way to an open bog with many white pine skeletons where 7 species of woodpecker forage and nest.  Wetland warblers such as common yellowthroat and yellow warblers are common here. On the open bog, there is an observation deck with benches.  The boardwalk ends in a woodlot where the trail skirts the bog shore and forests dwellers like Baltimore orioles live.  The second leg of the boardwalk winds past a small open-water site then ends back at 52nd street which leads back to the parking lot.

PLEASE NOTE: The boardwalk is in various states of repair and is NOT an ADA-accessible trail. The wooden boardwalk can be very slippery in wet conditions and some sections are prone to flooding. Use caution while navigating this trail.

The Wetland Trail

#34 Blanche Lake Park

Location: 300 N Park Dr, Grant

GPS: 43.339818, -85.801377

Parking: Paved, 20+ vehicles; handicap parking

Fees: None

Amenities: Toilets, boat launch/beach, fishing dock, picnic tables, disk golf course trail

Habitat: Lake, open woodland, parkland

Notable Species: Least bittern, Ring-necked Duck, Pied-billed Grebe

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L20036276

Where to Explore: This park is located on Park Drive just off East State Road across from the Grant Elementary School.  Blanche Lake Park is a mix of open woodlands, small grass fields and lake shore. Here you should find herons, resident songbirds, and woodpeckers. In the spring and fall look for migrant waterfowl and warblers. This is a public area with easy access and a well-marked Disk Golf course that you can follow. Blanche Lake is accessible by boat from the beach.

https://cityofgrantmi.com/cityparks.html

#35 Old Rice Lake Muck Flats

Location: Old Rice Lake Muck Flats Corner of Oak Ave and 110th Street, Grant Township

GPS:

Parking: Roadside

Fees: None

Amenities: None

Habitat: Agricultural fields, canals, sometimes flooded fields in spring

Notable Species: Horned Lark, Lapland Longspur, Brewer’s and Rusty Blackbirds

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L840597

Where to Explore: This site is private land and must be birded from the roadside.  Oak Ave connects to many dirt roads that follow drainage ditches where open-country birds can be found.  Sparrows of several species along with blackbirds are common.  Migrant shorebirds such as American Golden and Black-bellied Plovers stop-over in the fields and their cousins, the Killdeer, are common in spring, summer, and fall.  Rusty blackbirds are found on the power lines in fall. This is also the site where the Ferruginous Hawk Erieau was spotted in June 2023.

Killdear photo by Tori Martel

Killdear photo by Tori Martel

 

#36 Ensley Nature Preserve

Location: Ensley Nature Preserve, 6985 136th Street, Ensley

GPS: 43.310380, -85.629463

Parking: Large gravel lot

Fees: None

Amenities: Porta-potty, walking trails, pavilion, playground

Habitat: Mature forest and wetland

Notable Species: Acadian Flycatcher, Black-and-White Warbler, Ovenbird

eBird Hotspot Link: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L1771831

Where to Explore: This 40-acre park has two miles of well-marked trails that wind through the woods and along a hill above a wetland. The trails provide access to a variety of habitats and there are plentiful benches along the trails. An observation deck at the far end of the property allows for views of a small lake. This is one of the few places in Newaygo County to find Acadian Flycatcher.

Ovenbird photo by Tori Martel

Ovenbird photo by Tori Martel

Ensley Township Nature Preserve

Find the Right Birding Site

Birding by Car

Do you have time limitations? Are you of limited mobility? These are roadside sites that don’t require any walking and can be birded from your vehicle. The sites listed below will make a 3 to 4 hour exploration of northern Newaygo County’s varied habitat.

  • Beaver Creek at Dickinson (#3)
  • Big South Branch Pere Marquette at Dickinson (#4)
  • 16 Mile Road at Wet Meadow (#5)
  • 16 Mile Road at Cedar Creek (#6)
  • 16 Mile at Cedar Swamp (#7)
  • Poplar Ave at 13 Mile Road (#11)
  • 12 Mile Road at Oak Ave (#12)
  • 12 Mile Road at Hemlock Ave (#13)
  • Newaygo Prairie Sanctuary (#23)
  • Old Rice Lake Muck Flats (#35)
Birding by Kayak/Canoe

Want to combine your birding outing with a paddling adventure? These sites have small lakes with unimproved launches suitable for small boats, but can also be birded from land.

  • Nichols Lake North Recreation Area (#8)
  • Benton Lake Day Use Area (#15)
  • Twinwood Lake Campground (#19-A)
  • Sheridan Park/Fremont Lake (#30)
  • Blanche Lake (#34)
County Parks

These sites are operated by Newaygo County Parks and Rec and have bathrooms (in season), paved roads, and other amenities including trails and campgrounds.

  • Diamond Lake County Park (#17)
  • White Cloud County Park (#18)
  • Newaygo County Welcome Center (#19)
  • Sandy Beach County Park (#21)
  • Ed Henning County Park (#26)
Accessible Trails

These sites have either paved or wide, flat trails for easy walking.

  • Hesperia Pond/First Island (#2)
  • Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary (#16)
  • Croton Dam (#22)
  • Newaygo River Front Park (#27)
  • Garfield Township Memorial Cemetery and Walkway (#28)
Hiking Trails

These sites require a longer/more strenuous hike or require walking over uneven ground and may not be so good for those with mobility issues. Trails are generally two miles or less.

  • Kropscott Farm Environmental Center (#1)
  • McDuffee Creek Nature Preserve (#9)
  • Upriver Nature Preserve (#10)
  • Richmond Woods Nature Preserve (#14)
  • Toft Lake (#20)
  • Coolbough Natural Area (#24)
  • DNR Fisherman’s Trail (#25)
  • Fremont Waste Water Plant (#29)
  • Fremont High School (#31)
  • Branstrom Park (#32)
  • Camp Newaygo Wetland Trail (#33)
  • Ensley Nature Preserve (#36)