Grand Beach Marsh Preserve
Access: Open to the public
Acreage: 11 Acres
Directions: Traveling along US-12, turn west onto Grand Beach Road. Following the road north, there are two trail access points along the left-hand side. The first is along Grand Beach Road, and the second is along Deer Park Drive. Click here for a link to Google Maps.
Parking: Parking is available along the roadside at both access points.
A half-mile hiking trail loops through multiple habitat types, including a coastal plain marsh, oak forest, wet prairie, and sand prairie. Water levels in the wetland are directly connected to groundwater as well as seasonal precipitation. In some years, water may fill the entire open area of the marsh; in others, it may all but disappear. In the center of the wetland, there is an open pond-like depression. Surrounding the pond area is a wet prairie area well adapted to the fluctuating water levels of the wetland, thriving in both wet and dry conditions. On the lake side of the Preserve is the remnant of an old sand dune formed from windblown Lake Michigan sands. The dune is now colonized by red oak, red maple, and sassafras trees. Between the marsh and Grand Beach Road lies a strip of oak forest along with a small remnant sand prairie area.
This Preserve is an outstanding example of a globally rare Central Coastal Plain Marsh. Found primarily along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, coastal plain marshes were formed on sand deposits left by glaciers in areas where shallow depressions reach groundwater. The marsh's wetland plant community, which is fostered by acidic, low-nutrient groundwater, is more common along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts but rare in Michigan.
The property was originally acquired by The Nature Conservancy in 1984 and designated as the Grand Beach Marsh Preserve. Chikaming Open Lands accepted the property transfer in 2009. Currently, Chikaming Open Lands continues to manage the preserve to protect the unique ecology of the marsh for educational and recreational uses.