Grand Beach Marsh Preserve
Located along Grand Beach Road in Grand Beach, this 11-acre gem 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 preserve is made up of several distinct vegetation zones. In the pond and marsh area, the water table is close to the surface, so the area of the pond and depth of the water in the central depression of the marsh fluctuates. In some years, water may fill the entire open area of the marsh; in others it may all but disappear. The groundwater that fills the marsh is acidic and low in nutrients, which fosters a wetland plant community that is much more common along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, but rare in Michigan. Surrounding the marsh is a grassy area well adapted to the fluctuating water levels of the wetland, thriving in both wet and dry conditions. On the lake side of the marsh is the remnant of an old sand dune formed from windblown sands from Lake Michigan. The dune is now colonized by red oak, red maple and sassafras trees.
This property was originally acquired by The Nature Conservancy in 1984 and designated as the Grand Beach Marsh Preserve. In 2009, The Nature Conservancy transferred the property to Chikaming Open Lands, which currently manages the preserve to protect the unique ecology of the marsh, and to encourage recreational use.
A half-mile hiking trail loops through the woodland alongside the marsh. From Grand Beach Road, turn onto Deer Park Drive, where you will see the preserve on the left. Parking is along the roadside. No bicycles or motorized vehicles. No Hunting. Leashed dogs are welcome. Please stay on marked trails.