Birge/Mertaugh/Nye/Wallace Management Unit
Size: 813 acres
Frontage: 1.2 miles on Lake Huron (more than 6,400 feet on Mismer Bay and more than 4,500 feet on Search Bay).
Land Description: The Birge Preserve includes an impressive complex of cedar wetlands, hardwoods, a small lake, and more than 6,400 feet of frontage on Mismer Bay. The northern Lake Huron shoreline is some of the most biologically productive habitat in Michigan. A short trail to Loon Lake provides opportunities to see beaver, bald eagle, osprey, and many other mammals and birds. Abundant native wildflowers including orchids, lady slippers, gentian, asters, marsh marigold, Indian paintbrush, and iris can be found throughout the property.
Trails: There are three parking areas and three different trails. The northerly parking area provides access to a 2-mile long trail which traces a historic road bed and then ventures into the forest. This is often groomed in the winter by a local volunteer. Further to the south, a quarter mile trail and boardwalk leads to the Loon Lake viewing platform. The Mertaugh Addition parking area is on the Lake Huron side, and has a bench overlooking Mismer Bay. And a third trail to Search Bay is available from the most southerly parking.
History: The original 171-acre preserve on Point Brulee was donated to the Conservancy from long-time Hessel residents Oliver and Edna Birge in 1992. According to Oliver, the old wheel road crossing the property is a section of the oldest road in the area. Many additions have been gifted and purchased over the years, and trail improvements continue each year.
Directions: From the Mackinac Bridge, follow I-75 north about 14 miles to M-134. Take M-134 east 11 miles and turn right on Pt. Brulee Road. ( From Hessel take M-134 west 2.4 miles to Pt. Brulee Road). On Pt. Brulee, travel .7 mile to Wheel Road trailhead parking (on right) or go 1.1 miles to shoreline parking area on left. The Loon Lake trailhead is about halfway between the two parking areas.