The Inland Waterway Preserve is tucked away off of a dead-end road leading to the locks in Alanson. This preserve can be a little hard to find, so have your map pulled up as you navigate your way in. This is a small preserve with a ton of potential. Nestled in at the north end of Crooked Lake, it is adjoined to two more extensive preserves on its western borders.
The preserve itself sits along the Crooked River and offers a small area to put in or pull out a paddle craft for lunch. While there is only one trail in or out of the preserve, hopefully, it will be connected to the two other preserves one day. I recommend this preserve if you are seeking a place to relax in nature. It is a great place to sit and watch the floating oddities go by in the summer months or to meditate in the serenity of winter’s stillness.
The hike in can be a little challenging in the winter as the snow can be profound, so I recommend snowshoes. Avoid getting too close to the water as the snow cover covers the false ground, and you will easily find yourself up to your knee in water and mud. As most of the area is not accessible by the trail, a short bushwhack will find you in areas less tamed by humans. Shrubby trees to the southern end of the preserve seem to catch ice and snow in the most beautiful formations.
A clearing in these trees is right along the waterway near some old pilings is an excellent spot to get off the beaten path with the family for a picnic. Essential to keep in mind, as there is a lot of wet earth this close to the river, the land can easily be damaged by foot traffic. It is best to keep to the established trail and not to venture too far off. There is no parking area for this preserve except for the roadside, and the access is not currently maintained in the winter. The road is not a very busy one, so it is reasonably safe, but you will want to keep little ones, and furry friends close by.