I visited the Fen for my second time in the heart of winter. This visit was dramatically opposed to my first, which was in the summer months three years prior. Waldron Fen is south of Alanson off of Banwell road; this preserve has a plowed parking area located at a reasonable distance from the road. This makes it an excellent location to take children as they can run around a reasonably safe place without too much worry of being immediately near traffic as you tend to their siblings or yourself with the complexities of equipping or stowing snowshoes or other gear.
I want to recommend this as an excellent destination for four-legged companions; however, dogs are not permitted as it is a natural area for ground-nesting birds. The presence of canines would damage that habitat and possibly the birds themselves. This preserve has established itself as a nesting area for the kestrel, the smallest North American falcon. Nesting boxes for these birds were installed on the south side of the preserve.
If you were to visit at the right time of year, you could sit back with a spotting scope and watch for them. Goose, duck, grouse, and sandhill crane, are the most abundant species in Waldron Fen, but it is home to a mixture of other birds. As I walked into the preserve from the parking lot, I was startled by the sudden launch of a grouse who was sitting only a few feet from the trail. I was saddened that I could not catch a glimpse of it but making a quick getaway is their nature.
The preserve has a series of short hops from trail intersection to intersection. As with all the LTC preserves, there are maps at each intersection to assist in navigating the property. This particular preserve offers two short loops near the parking area so that one can easily enjoy a short hike of a mile or two and not have to get too far from the car. The land is mostly flat, making it an easy walk for the young or the less exercised among us.
For the more adventurous, there is the 1.22-mile loop, which goes around the wetland. This is an excellent trail to snowshoe, but it is exposed to the wind as it is surrounded by mostly open land. Along this trail, you will enjoy every angle of what this preserve has to offer. About a third of the way around the Fen on the south side, an observation platform overlooks the wetland.
This structure is accompanied by a few benches to take a rest upon or to await the call of your favorite species of avian. This preserve is conveniently located near Petoskey and Harbor Springs, a destination for the area’s birder population. And with the relative ease of access to the Fen, it is enjoyed by birders of all ages. It is worth noting that when writing, the trail along the southern edge of the preserve has been diverted to allow some privacy for the nesting area of the kestrels.
The detour will take you right up near to the edge of the wetland and offers some stunning views. Other amenities of note at this preserve would be the pavilion near the parking area. This would be the right spot for a post-hike picnic or just a resting place before returning to your daily life duties.
I would recommend this preserve for birding, those with younger children, and those who would make the most of a flat hike through the woods. This is a beautiful place to enjoy most of the year; I would suggest packing bug spray in the spring and summer months.