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Getting There; The Fiborn Karst Preserve is west of Trout Lake. Take route 40 west about 5 or 6 miles. After you cross a very small bridge the Quarry Road will take you north to the quarry and information kiosk. The Quarry Road is rough gravel.

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Beaver Pond Trail

 

Michigan is blessed with millions of acres of forests, much of it preserved as State owned land. Michigan is also a leader in the creation and maintenance of trails for public use. There are trails along historic railroad routes, trails along the shores of the Great Lakes and trails through old lumbering and mining sites. The Beaver Pond Trail is unusual in several ways. It is just a side loop off another trail. It is within the boundaries of the Fiborn Karst Preserve and it provides a view that is unlike any other that I know of in Michigan.

 

Beaver Pond Dam

The Fiborn Karst Preserve covers nearly 500 acres. The area was the site of a limestone quarry that operated in the early 1900s supplying Algoma Steel of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The abandoned quarry is a popular destination for hikers and history buffs. In the middle of the quarry are the ruins of the railroad house and the ore car loader. Both structures are interesting to visit, and both are now festooned with graffiti and chalk art.

This is a karst formation which means that there are sinkholes, springs and caves formed by running water. The streams and swamps drain into the Hendrie River, dissolving the limestone as the water flows. Another unique feature of this area is the Hendrie River Water Cave. It is the longest known cave in Michigan and has a stream running through it. The cave is narrow, difficult, and considered dangerous. Entry is restricted requiring a guide and a permit. Other caves exist in the area. All are wet and unsuitable for amateur explorations.

Fortunately, other features of the preserve can be enjoyed safely in all seasons thanks to the trails that are maintained there. The trailhead is found at the information kiosk where a simple map brochure is available. The Sinkhole Trail is a short loop that passes by shallow sinkholes and takes visitors to a creek that disappears below ground. The Ann Patrie Memorial Trail is longer, about one and a half miles. It skirts the edge of the quarry through second-growth forest, sinkholes and crevasses and eventually offers entry into the far end of the quarry. It is along the Ann Patrie trail where the Beaver Pond Trail loop is found.

The Beaver Pond Trail is marked by a small sign. The trail is a bit rough and has some difficult parts due to thick foliage and steep grades. Fortunately, the difficult parts are short and lead the hiker to the edge of hill that is steep enough to be regarded as a cliff. Standing on the edge of the precipice you are a couple hundred feet above a vast wetland that stretches at least a half mile into the distance. The swampy wetland is crisscrossed by several streams that eventually combine into a small river. It at this point that the area gets its name. Across the breadth of the river is an enormous Beaver Dam. It is easily the biggest beaver dam I have encountered anywhere in Michigan. The sight of the dam, the vast wetland dotted with beaver mounds and the wild forest in the distance make this a scene that one would expect to find only in the Canadian wilderness or the western mountains of America.