Dolan Nature Sanctuary (Michigan Nature Association): Scenic Hiking Beside the Coldwater River
The Michigan Nature Association has done an amazing job of purchasing, preserving, and protecting land and water throughout our state for the last 70+ years. The MNA now operates a network of more than 180 sites, which means there’s always a new one to go explore! We recently had the chance to check out the Dolan Nature Sanctuary in southeastern Kent County, where we enjoyed a peaceful hike through the woods and alongside the Coldwater River.
The Dolan Nature Sanctuary is popular for both hiking and fishing, as the Coldwater River is a popular trout stream. The trails are well marked and mostly follow the river, offering up scenic views and plenty of chances for viewing plants and wildlife.
The trail heads into the woods from the parking area and passes a small pond before some wooded planks help hikers navigate a swampy section. In about 1/4 mile the trail reaches the river, where a North Country Trail sign notes that the trail is an out-and-back .75 mile segment that dead-ends at Bear Creek. A QR code leads to an NCT web page that notes that the Colwater River is home to 32 species of fish including Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Brook Trout.
We loved hiking this trail in early spring and being able to finally see some green in the landscape after months of snow and cold. A few plants had managed to peek out already, including Dutchman’s Breeches, Bloodroot, and Skunk Cabbage. There are many different kinds of trees that can be found here too, including different types of maple and birch.We saw a few garter snakes and frogs, and could hear birds during most of our hike (robin, chickadee, cardinal, blue jay). While we didn’t see anyone actively fishing the river, we did hear a few large fish splash around.
Located just north of Freeport and within a short drive from Lowell, Caledonia, Middleville, and Cascade, the Dolan Nature Sanctuary is a great place for a quiet and scenic hike. You’ll find the parking lot on the east side of Baker Rd. roughly a quarter mile south of 100th St.