Sunday, December 16, 2012

Grand Ledge

Grand Ledge is a small town, a little over an hour's drive northeast of Kalamazoo, named for the sandstone bluffs on the Grand River.  The ledges and a series of narrow islands on the river made Grand Ledge an important tourist destination in the late 1800s.  While the resorts and paddleboat tours are long gone, Grand Ledge still makes an attractive daytrip. 

A 1987 Geological Society of America report [pdf] describes the ledges, their formation, their fossils, and their geology. "The Ledges of the Grand River are the best exposure of Pennsylvanian age rocks in the state of Michigan. Besides their scenic beauty, the Ledges and additional outcrops of the surrounding vicinity provide a unique setting in which to explore and investigate an ancient near-shore marine beach environment." 
Fitzgerald County Park provides the easiest access to the ledges, with plenty of parking ($5 vehicle access fee) and a stairway down to the Ledges Trail.  The park has a few other short nature trails in a downstream forested area.  Other amenities include a playground, disc golf course, restrooms, picnic areas, ball diamonds, a theater, and a small nature center.  The sandstone in the park is covered with velvety lichen, mosses, and ferns.

Across the river, the sandstone is bare and Oak Park offers a section that is open to rock climbing.  It may be the only natural climbing area in southern Michigan.  Some argue that it should be closed to climbers.  
The site of the Seven Islands Resort is now a Grand Ledge city park known as Island Park.  A pedestrian bridge connects the long narrow island to the town.  A paved path runs the length of the island and then continues upriver to Jaycee Park.

Google identifies the footpath running from Grand Ledge to Fitzgerald County Park as the "Riverwalk" but local signs label it the "Ledges Trail".  It's not a boardwalk but a dirt path halfway down the riverbank.  It's under a mile from Island Park at the edge of the business district to the railroad bridge that marks the boundary of the county park.

1 comment:

Plants Amaze Me said...

Grand Ledge looks very interesting, for some reason I've never been there. After reading your post I'm planning a trip to Grand Ledge.