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Grand Mere State Park

Michigan is home to a number of wonderful state parks. Grand Mere State park is on of those parks. Located in Berrien Township in South Western Michigan near the Indiana border,  this park boasts 985 acres of land and one mile of Lake Michigan waterfront. Natural sand dunes, deep blowouts and unforgettable Lake Michigan views make Grand Mere a park that stands out from the rest.

The park is known for its natural, untouched beauty. Three little known Michigan lakes are found here: North Lake, Middle Lake and South Lake. These three lakes are not your all sports lakes, they are shallow lakes more suitable for wildlife and duck blinds.   

Rather than describe what you will find on the nature trails trough the park, we are including information found in the” handout available at the park.

Grand Mere State Park

Self Guided Nature Trail

1. The Great Sauk Trail: One of the principle Native American Migration Routes in Michigan passed close to the Grand Mere area. During the 1600’s and 1700”s several different tribes traveled through the area to each the St. Joe River. These tribes would camp along the shores of the inland lakes where they could fish as well as hunt beaver, muskrat, waterfowl, frogs and turtles before moving on.

2. Musclewood: (Carpinus caroliniana, bluebeech, hornbeam)Thrives in moist rich soils mainly along lakes and streams in the understory of hardwood forest. It is readily identified by it’s muscle-like ridges of the trunk. It’s other name, Hornbeam, is from the words “horn” (for toughness) and “beam”  (for tree) referring to it’s very tough and hard wood.

3. South Lake: When the glaciers retreated, they left an area know as the Great Lakes Basin. In addition to the five largest freshwater lakes in the world, many smaller freshwater lakes are found across the terrain of Michigan. Here is South Lake, sister to North Lake. Two lakes, south of this lake, have since filled in are now wooded swamps, and remnants bogs. The waters from this inland lake system drain into Lake Michigan from an outlet off North Lake.

4. Tree cavities: Whether found near the ground or high up, tree cavities are beneficial nesting boles for many woodland creatures. Opossum, squirrel, fox, raccoon, bats and wood ducks are just a few of the animals that use tree cavities to raise young or seek safety. Cavities are formed when tree limbs and knots decay and fall off, exposing the sapwood and heartwood.

5. White Oak: (Quercus alba)* The classic White Oak of Eastern U.S. is found growing in moist well-drained uplands and lowlands. It is slow-growing, long-lived (500-600 years) and differs from it’s cousin in the Red Oak by having round-lobed leaves instead of bristle-tipped lobes of the red oak. It’s acorns mature in one season and are an important food crop for squirrel and deer. It’s also called “Stave Oak” because it’s wood, when cut into narrow strips (staves), is an outstanding material for making light barrels for whiskey.

6. Ferns: In place of flowers, fruit and seeds that enable most plants to propagate themselves, ferns have spores. Spores are a single-celled reproductive organ. They are dust-like and are hidden on the underside of the frond and upon maturity, burst, and scatter where they germinate. Ferns are characterized by compound leaves (frond) with divided leaflets. The four most common ferns found here are bracken, royal, sensitive and cinnamon.Red Oak: (Quercus rubra)* The red oak, whose leaf lobes are bristle-tipped, produces acorns that mature the second year. Read oak demands more moisture than white oaks, but they also tolerate colder climates. In the northern Lower and Upper peninsulas, red oak can be found on sandy, well-drained soils with white and red pines. It is an important lumber tree, it’s wood being used in flooring, furniture, fence posts, railroad ties and pilings. It is a rapid grower and is an important landscaping tree for parks and lawns.

8. Tipovers: In bottom land wood communities where the water table is close to the surface, the root complex of trees have a tendency to spread out laterally rather than grow downward. As the trees mature, much of their mass is above ground and they literally become top heavy without a deep root system to stabilize them. Periodically during strong storms with high winds, a tree will blow over, pulling it’s root system out of the ground. Occasionally, enough roots remain in the ground to keep the tree alive and it continues to grow literally laying down on the job. Otherwise, it will probably decay and provide food and shelter for forestland creatures.

9. Witch-Hazel: (hammamells virginiana) The interesting note on this tree is the time of flowering. Flowers appear in October and November and continue well after leaf fall. The tree is shade-tolerant, slow growing and short-lived. The forked twigs were used by water diviners or “well witchers” to seek water. Witch-Hazel astringent is obtained from the leaves, twigs and bark and used in lotions and medicinal extracts.

10. Sassafras: (Sassafras albidum) Favors well-drained soil and ample sunlight. It is easily identified  by three distinct shapes of leaves on the same tree; unlobed, 2-lobed “mitten” and 3-lobed (rarely 5-lobed). Oil of sassafras is distilled from the bark of the roots. It is used to flavor medicines, candy, tobacco and soap. Sassafras tea, made from the rood bark (which has a distinct root beer odor) was used as a spring tonic to “thin the blood”.

*Oak Trees: Oaks are divided into two groups, white and read oaks, each group is comprised of many species. There are more than 400 oak species in the world. The white oak group is characterized by leaves with rounded lobes and acorns tat mature in their first year. The red oak group has leaves with bristle-tipped lobes and acorns that mature in their second year.



Written by Dave.