The Bow Lakes region of the National Lakeshore is an isolated area of about 1,000 acres southeast of Glen Lake and north of M-72. It is accessed off of Baatz Road where Fritz Road jogs. This area was added to the boundary of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in the early 1980s because of the unique glacial topography including kettle bogs and lakes.
Since the purchase of the land, the area was not developed and visitor access was very limited due to lack of trails and parking. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with the support (volunteers and funding) of the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes was asked to developing a small parking lot, loop hiking trail, and interpretive signs to facilitate visitor use of the area as described in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore’s 2009 General Management Plan.
The Friends gladly took on the project and began work in 2014 starting with an Environmental Assessment (E/A), which was completed in October 2014, finding no significant impact. The proposed trail route was further studied throughout 2016-2018 to be sure it would not negatively impact the fragile habitats in this part of the Park. Trail construction was done completely by hand. Much of the trail was completed by September 1, 2018, and completed in the summer of 2019 with a Grand Opening Celebration on October 20, 2019.
The completed trail is approximately 3.0 miles long, and the first section, which leads from the parking lot to an overlook with an interpretive sign (yet to be installed) at the top of one of the glacial kettles is universally accessible. A small parking lot and trailhead signs are located near the intersection of Baatz and Fritz roads.
We are excited to open this part of the park for use by school groups on educational field trips to teach about the effects of the glaciation of this region and about some of the unique bog habitats. This area is also one of the best areas in the Park to observe spring wildflowers. The high elevation creates good conditions for lake-effect snow in the winter and as a result, this area provides some of the best snowshoeing in the Park
The Park Interpretive staff is developing interpretive signs to describe the geological formations and unique habitats in this area.
The project was led by the Park Roads, Trails, and Grounds staff and supported by local youth corps groups (YouthWork – 8 weeks and SEEDS – 2 weeks) and volunteers from Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes. Grants in support of this project have been received from the American Hiking Society, the Biederman Family Foundation, and Rotary Charities of Traverse City. We had 30 individual volunteers and groups from Marion High School, Cherry Republic, and CMU Alternative Spring Break students worked over 500 hours on the project.
The southern 500 acres of this area is owned by the National Lakeshore at this time, but the property will be acquired in the area on a willing-seller basis as parcels become available if there is sufficient funding. At some point in the future, when the Park owns all of the land in the Bow Lakes Region, the Kettles Trail may be extended into the northern part of the region.
Here are some photos from the Kettles trail.
The following photos show volunteers, Youth Corps, and Park Service staff building the Kettles trail in 2018 and 2019.