Nearly 3 miles on Lake Huron along Mismer Bay and Search Bay
The Birge Preserve includes an impressive complex of cedar wetlands, hardwoods, a small lake, and significant Lake Huron frontage. The northern Lake Huron shoreline includes 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 Dwarf lake iris can be found throughout the property.
There are three parking areas and three different trails. The northerly parking area provides access to a 2-mile long trail that traces a historic roadbed 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 lead 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 the third trail to Search Bay is available from the most southerly parking.
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 street area. Many additions have been gifted and purchased over the years, and trail improvements continue each year. The 77-acre Kerri and Margo Mertaugh Addition to the Mertaugh Family Nature Preserve was added to this complex in 2021.
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 0.7 miles to Wheel Road trailhead parking (on the right) or go 1.1 miles to the shoreline parking area on the left. The Loon Lake trailhead is about halfway between the two parking areas.