Michigan Wildlife Watching: Birds and Beautiful Trails at Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

Michigan Wildlife Watching: Birds and Beautiful Trails at Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve Swan Swimming

The Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve is a beautiful piece of property on the shore of Muskegon Lake near the mouth of the Muskegon River. This is a popular spot for walking, jogging, fishing, birdwatching, and picnics. The preserve also serves as an outdoor classroom for local schools and groups as it has many places that are perfect for observing birds and plants. We learned about this excellent spot for birdwatching earlier this year and have already made two spring visits. Let’s take a look at the trails and boardwalk at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve as well as a few of the birds we observed during our visits.

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve Canada Goose

The main trail starts from a large parking area and for the most part is a loop around the preserve. We headed to the right of the split, following along the shore and immediately seeing a variety of birds in the water. We saw mallards, swans, and bufflehead and a great blue heron flew overhead. As we continued on there were lots of robins and sparrows and a few red-winged blackbirds.

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve Wilder River Walk Observation

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve Wilder River Walk

After a short walk the trail reaches the Wilder River Walk. This boardwalk leads out to some great views of the water and there is a viewing platform that offers some great views of the Muskegon shoreline and the entire preserve. There were more red-winged blackbirds, finches, and a few grackles in this area, and plenty of prints in the sand showing this was a popular spot for small mammals to look for food.

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve Boardwalk Bridge

It is currently not possible to walk straight through on the Wilder River Walk boardwalk (more on that later) so you have to double back and pick up the main trail again. From here it passes a grassy area that is popular with butterflies in the summer and an old pear orchard (scan the QR code for more information).

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve QR Code Orchard Info

There is another viewing platform here that overlooks a small pond, where we found a pair of ducks enjoying a quiet afternoon. We then picked back up on the boardwalk, following it to its end at M-120 (you can join up with other trails from here).

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve Swan Nest

One of our favorite spots was on the boardwalk bridge, as we found a nesting mother swan in the tall reeds.

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve Picnic Pavilion

Returning back on the boardwalk to the main trail, we again passed the second viewing platform and then reached the picnic pavilion. There are many tables here and a birdfeeder and birdhouses for quiet observation.

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve Al Bell Wetlands Trail

Our other favorite part of the preserve was the Al Bell Wetlands Trail. This stretch was beautiful and is a popular spot for fishing. It looked like it would be a great place for herons and other birds looking for fish, and our visits saw the first signs of spring plants starting to come in.

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve Wilder River Walk Closed Section

The Wilder River Walk will hopefully be open for thru traffic again someday. According to the Muskegon Environmental Research & Education Society, the non-profit that cares for the preserve: “The boardwalk was built on dry land in 2007 along the shore of the Muskegon River. Over the years however, the level of the river and Muskegon Lake have risen dramatically and washed away a portion of the original riverbank causing a 250-foot section of the walkway to sink and slope towards the river. That section of the River Walk is now temporarily closed until repairs can be made.” Donations can be made to help with this project, as the preserve is all funded by private donations and maintained through volunteer work.

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve Tree Rings Info Sign

In total there is about a mile of trail here. There are many great places for bird and wildlife observation and this is considered one of the better spots in Muskegon for variety and quantity of birds. We’ve been impressed by our first two visits and we will definitely be making this a regular stop on our trips to Muskegon! Now let’s look at some of the birds we’ve seen here:

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve Trailhead

The Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve is located at 2529 Lake Ave. in North Muskegon. There is a gravel parking lot that can hold 20 cars. Trails are all flat and accessible; parts of the preserve might be a bit muddy of there has been recent rain.