Birding · Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Spring · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Ely Lake Campground is on the southwest side of the Wakazoo Trail and would be great for a nature day/weekend spending time in the non-motor lake for swimming, canoeing, or SUPing.
There is a section south of 120th Avenue and west of 48th Street with very large old trees. Avoid this area on very windy days for the chance of falling branches, Whenever you're in this area, look up throughout your jaunt.
The Allegan State Game Area is 50,000 acres, and the Department of Natural Resources encourages outdoor activity all year round in this region. The only time to avoid the area is November 15 through November 30th, which is deer hunting season with firearms.
The Wakazoo Loop, entirely marked with yellow blazes on the trees, is unique because it is the only trail of length in southwestern Michigan. As such, it's perfect for backpacking, snowshoeing, or hiking. This dirt loop trail circles through the Allegan State Game Area traversing along Swan Creek and winds through pine oak-pine barrens (also called oak-pine savanna). There is a unique community of plants and animals that have adapted to life on the dry, sandy soils of this area.
To access this loop, park at the pull-off on the north side of 118th Ave just east of the bridge that crosses Swan Creek. From here, hike over the bridge to pick up the western limb of Swan Creek Trail (North and South)
on the south side of the road. The trail follows the perimeter of Swan Creek Pond as it heads south, then continues to follow Swan Creek to the junction with Wakazoo Trail (aka Northwest Trail)
about 2.6 miles into the hike.
Take a right onto Wakazoo Trail (aka Northwest Trail)
which heads west towards Ely Campground. There are a few road crossings along this trail, so just stay alert. You'll reach Ely Lake around six miles into the hike; here there is a campground, restrooms, a picnic area, and even a swimming spot in the lake. This is a great spot to stop for a break!
From Ely Lake, continue east/northeast before crossing 116th Avenue. Here, the Wakazoo Trail (aka Northwest Trail)
heads north through the woods, crossing several roads; again, please use caution at these crossings. About 9.8 miles into the hike, the Wakazoo Trail (aka Northwest Trail)
turns east again and crosses a pipeline easement around 11 miles in. Continue east, following the yellow blazes but use caution around 11.8 miles as there are some very old and dying trees in the area. In strong wind this could be a dangerous spot.
Keep on keeping-on and the trail will turn southeast at about the 13 mile mark. From here it's a straight shot back to Swan Creek Trail (North and South)
. At the intersection of Swan Creek Trail take a right to head south. Once you reach the road, turn left to cross the bridge to get back to your car.
There are some clear areas of plains where old fragile trees have been cleared and some other areas where large trees still exist. The varied terrain of this loop is, without a doubt, an experience you want to be a part of.
The whole trail is relatively flat and easy to hike on, though there might be the occasional log on the trail. A portion of the trail between Ely Lake and Swan Creek, called the Ely Lake Swan Creek Connector
, has an batch of briar, but this is easily avoidable by hiking on the equestrian trail that runs beside the Ely Lake Swan Creek Connector
portion. A section of the trail between 118th Avenue and 120th Avenue takes place on 52nd Street rather than in the woods, and a portion is on the equestrian trail marked with white splashes on trees. In the spring, the trail around Ely Lake may be a little damp, but can be avoided by going around the wetlands.
Flora & Fauna
Warblers, scarlet tanager, and wood thrush are among many of the bird species, where flowering cactus, Wild lupine, swamp milkweed, bergamot, sassafras trees, and squaw root are among the noticeable flora.
History & Background
This trail was named after Chief Waukazoo by the Boy Scouts, with a bit of a change in spelling. Chief Peter Waukazoo, along with Reverend George Smith, moved the Ottawa Native Americans from the Old Wing Mission near Holland, Michigan to a new location, Wakazooville, in Leelanau County, Michigan in June 1849, which is now part of Northport.
Shared By: Lucy Murphy