barney's lake trails - beaver island
Beaver Island, in Lake Michigan, is the largest island in the archipelago and is known as the Jewel of the Great Lakes and, also, America's Emerald Isle. The interior of the island holds a treasure trove historic and natural destinations. One of the most popular, for an easy hike, bird watching, and even a little fishing, is the trail network at the Barney's Lake Nature Preserve.
The trails, which include old logging and farming tracks, take you through a surprisingly rich variety of habitats for such a small area. Managed by the Little Traverse Conservancy, habitats include open meadows, hardwood forest, sedge meadows, and cedar swamp. The trail begins in an open meadow that once held the homestead of Barney O'Donnell's farm. The buildings are gone, but in their place are huge lilac bushes. The meadow is also home to an expanse of milkweed; expect to encounter some of the 40+ species of butterflies found here, including migrating monarchs, in late autumn. The pathway leads into the old orchard, and to a fork in the trail, where the first sign post is located.
Various loops can be taken through a total of about 1 ½ miles with only gentle elevation changes. These trails have become an important stop on the Beaver Island Birding Trail, due to the amazing numbers and varieties of birds. The abandoned farm fields now contain a mix of plant life that supports all manner of insects. The insects provide the food supply the birds require after the exertion of long migratory flights. Common Loons can be seen on the lake. Bald Eagles and ospreys can be seen hunting in the skies above. There has recently been an osprey nest high up in a nearby cell tower. The marshy areas attract sandpipers, warblers, thrushes, and American Bitterns. The mix of low shrubs and wildflowers along the trails attract a dozen different song birds.