Wilder Side of Oakland County
“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares drop off like autumn leaves.” John Muir
Sunday, October 18 was the perfect autumn day. Eastern bluebirds flitted under apple trees as gusty winds created colorful cascades of fiery-orange leaves. The wind gave lift to milkweed seeds carried aloft by a shiny white, silky fuzz known as milkweed floss. A steady crackling from aspen leaves that clung tightly to their twigs, refusing to break free with the winds, was muffled by the chatter of thousands of blackbirds that settled into lofty oaks. A lone Bald Eagle soared high above, and just beyond the golden field of the magnificent prairie grass we call big bluestem, a kettle lake shimmered in sunlight and offered refuge to migrating waterfowl. John Muir would have smiled.
On this perfect day, the Lost Lake Nature Preserve was formally dedicated and opened to the public for passive outdoor recreation. Lost Lake Nature Preserve is a wildland gem with a fascinating human and natural history. It straddles the northern border of Oakland County’s Holly Township and the southern end of Genesee County’s Grand Blanc Township, reinforcing the concept that nature knows no borders.
The preserve is rich with an incredibly diverse array of flora and natural beauty including glacial moraines crowned with oaks, shagbark hickory trees, and woodland wildflowers. Wetlands of all types encompass almost 50% of the preserve’s 538 acres providing quality habitat for many creatures including Great Blue Heron, Osprey, Sandhill Crane, mink and numerous species of reptiles and amphibians. Kettle lakes were created during the last glacial retreat by giant blocks of ice that broke free from the glacier and sunk into softer earth, and two are found at the preserve.
The second-growth hardwood forest, that surrounds the lakes and saddles up against the prairie, assures excellent habitat diversification for deer, coyote, red and gray fox as well as squirrels, including the northern flying squirrel. A primitive 2.1 mile loop trail meanders through the forest and meadows to provide a panoramic view of Slack Lake. The trail also takes visitors along the edge of the remnants of the historic private airfield runway that is reverting back to prairie.
Jill Lewis is the Executive Director of the Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy (SMLC), the agency that manages the preserve. “SMLC is pleased that our beautiful Lost Lake Nature Preserve is now open to the public. Visitors can enjoy hiking, bird watching and scenic views as the trail progresses through a changing landscape from forest to prairie to lake views,” she said. “It is our hope that as people experience this regional natural treasure they will be inspired to get involved and support local conservation efforts.”
The Six Rivers Land Conservancy holds a conservation easement on part of the property assuring its protection. Executive Director Christopher Bunch added, “This preserve is a hugely important piece in creating and preserving the Emerald Arc of natural and agricultural land that surrounds our region. We are thrilled to be partners and to help insure this preserve will be protected forever. The conservation easement we hold ensures that regardless of who controls the property or what different ideas they may have about management; it will remain in its natural state. In this project we provided the back up to SMLC, helping to defend the property from threats like the Rover pipeline project that was defeated last year, and ensuring it will be here for future generations to enjoy.”
Park agencies and nature-lovers in both counties are rightfully proud of their accomplishments and cooperation. Oakland County Parks Executive Officer Dan Stencil shared, “Lost Lake Nature Preserve is an excellent example of the private non-profit land conservancies and public parks and recreation agreeing to collaborate to preserve one of Southeast Michigan’s natural jewels.”
For more information on Lost Lake and the Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy, or to get involved in protecting the natural legacy of Genesee and Oakland counties visit www.smlcland.org. For information on the Six Rivers Land Conservancy and their Adventure League that leads hiking, biking, paddling and snowshoeing events visit: www.sixriversrlc.org.
Photos and text by Jonathan Schechter, Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Parks.