Newaygo County was named after Chippewa Indian Chief: Naw-wa-goo, one of the signers of the Treaty of Saginaw in 1812. The county has over 230 natural lakes and over 350 miles of rivers and streams. Three huge dams were built after the turn of the century: Croton, Hardy and Newaygo. Croton and Hardy Dams remain today, with Hardy the largest earthen dam east of the Mississippi.
The Muskegon River continues to be the main attraction for summer cottage residents and fishermen, who find it nearly the best source for steelhead in the spring and salmon in the fall anywhere in Michigan. Hiking is excellent, as over half the county is contained in the Manistee National Forest.
Hiking is becoming a desired activity for Newaygo tourists. The ultimate reason to hike is for personal enjoyment, but there are other goals that can be achieved when hitting a trail. Most people enjoy hiking because it makes them feel good to exercise and enjoy nature. Here are three reasons why hiking is becoming so popular.
Getting outdoors – Most of us live and work indoors the majority of our everyday lives. To be outdoors and just enjoy being outside and experiencing all that entails can be the ultimate reason people like to hike. Fresh air, the sounds of birds and other animals, tall trees, blue sky, majestic creeks, flowing rivers and deep valleys all contribute to a sense of contentment and even inner connection to nature and the earth.
Physical Health – Hiking is a very physically healthy activity. It helps improve your circulation, strengthen muscles, build stronger bones, and contribute to overall as opposed to simple walking for exercise, work a variety of different muscles due to the uneven terrain that is found on hiking trails. Climbing, even if it is just up a steep embankment, will increase your strength and improve your sense of balance.
Emotional Health – Leaving the hustle and bustle of our daily routine to hike through trails and into valleys inevitably has a calming effect. Hiking is a great way to ease your mind. There is something that happens after your first few steps on the trail, all the heavy burdens you were carrying around in your mind become a little lighter and sometimes disappear. It becomes easy to open up your mind and think about issues and people. You may very well find your mind opening up to ideas or answers to problems that you had before. It is a great opportunity to contemplate subjects you may have consciously forgotten as well as some that may be fresh in your mind. Hiking simply “feels good”.
Here are a few recommended hiking trails in Newaygo County to explore and experience the great outdoors in Michigan. The following rails ranges from one to five miles long :
The Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary found its beginnings in 1938 when the US Forestry Service invited the Federated Garden Club of Michigan to participate in creating a sanctuary for native Michigan plants. The area consists of a small lake, a marsh and wooded area. There are over 150 different species of plants, wildflowers, trees and vegetation marked with posts that correspond to the trail guide available. The trail is about 1.5 miles long. A picnic area with grills and an outhouse is available for use by the trailhead. The sanctuary is located about 7 miles north of White Cloud. Head north out of White Cloud on M-37 and turn west at 5 Mile Road, then turn north onto Felch Ave and drive until you see the sign below. The entrance is right in front of the sign.
The Hardy Dam Rustic Nature Trail is a cooperative project of the Boy Scouts of America and Consumers Energy Employees. The trail is a three mile round trip, along the Muskegon River. The trail is unpaved and and winds over various types of terrain. Be sure to bring a good pair of tightly tied hiking boots as the trail in some places winds along the sides of some very steep hills. Also 26 species of trees are identified along the trail, identified with posts so be sure to pick up your trail guide by the trailhead. Parking is available right by the Hardy Dam at its northwest end.
Wetland Trail is a 1.25 mile boardwalk through a sphagnum bog. The project cost over 30,000 dollars and was financed by the Fremont Area Foundation. In some area’s the sphagnum is as much as 40 feet deep, highly unusual. The area is full of wildlife such as great blue heron’s, kingfishers, owl’s, turtles, and muskrats. The Trail is located on the east side of Pickerel Lake at Camp Newaygo. The trail is free and open to the public.
The Coolbough Natural Areas is a 400-acre preserve owned by Brooks Township and managed jointly with The Nature Conservancy. The diversity of habitats is one of the features of the Coolbough Natural Areas that makes any visit an exciting trip. Visitors have the chance to explore ponds and wetlands, hike through white pine and white oak forest, search for butterflies and wildflowers on prairie and barrens remnants, and listen to the bubbling waters of Bigelow and Coolbough Creeks. Hunting is allowed for white-tail deer on this preserve to reduce an unnaturally high deer population in the area and reduce threats too many deer pose to our conservation targets. The preserve features an extensive trail system with horseback riding permitted on designated trails. Bring your binoculars for spectacular views of wildlife. Location from Newaygo, take M-37 to Croton Drive (at the intersection immediately north of the Muskegon River). Turn east on Croton and go 3.7 miles to Barberry Avenue. Turn north and go one mile; Barberry will end at 58th Street. Turn east (right) on 58th, which will curve to the north to become Hazelwood. The parking lot is on the corner of 58th and Hazelwood.