The Wilder Side of Oakland County
Located near the town of Holly, Rose Oaks County Park remains one of the lesser-visited wildland gems of Oakland County Parks. That may change as the diverse user groups that explore, hike and ride the park’s 5.5 miles of equestrian-friendly trails spread the word of the park’s natural wonders and increased trail connectivity. With winter just around the corner, cross-country skiers will soon enjoy the solitude and beauty of the meandering back country trails.
Rose Oak’s 640 acres include forested uplands and productive wetlands that are part of the Shiawassee River Watershed. Glacial features are a delight for those with a passion for the earth sciences and the natural history of our county. Rich with photo opportunities, the trail system meanders around a series of kettle lakes. Kettle lakes were created during the last glacial retreat when enormous blocks of ice broke free of the retreating glacier and pushed down into the soft earth, creating the depressions that remain today as lakes. Hikers who follow the trail along the wooded west side of Richardson Lake are on a glacial moraine, an excellent place to stop and try to envision the great sheet of ice that shaped our county’s lakes and hills. Glacial erratics – some call these large rocks, “landscape boulders” – protrude from the sides of the moraine. They are another visible footprint of the glacier that pushed the boulders from the far north and then deposited them as the ice sheet slowly melted.
Wildlife species are abundant, including two reptiles protected by Michigan law as Special Concern Species: the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake and the Blanding’s Turtle. The Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake is also a candidate for Federal listing as a threatened species. Coyotes coexist quietly within the park, and even in these later days of November, Sandhill Cranes are present. The Sandhills will soon migrate and return to the park’s wetlands in early spring with great trumpeting fanfare.
Equestrians are especially excited about the newest wetland spanning boardwalk that allows access to previously unreachable upland. With the addition of the new boardwalk, trail connectivity within the park is a reality, not just a plan. The park has two entrances at the east entrance on Buckhorn Lake Road, and the west entrance on Fish Lake Road. The Fish Lake Road site is designed for equestrian trailer parking, but hikers and horses may enter from either.
A few weeks ago board members of the Highland Equestrian Conservancy (HEC) joined park staffers on a field expedition at Rose Oaks County Park and shared ideas on trail design with equestrians in mind, while accommodating all users. Perhaps Maryann Hagan, HEC eNewsletter Editor & Board Member said it best when she wrote,
“Rose Oaks is a beautiful destination for equestrians who want a peaceful trail ride on well-maintained park trails. The scenery is a breathtaking combination of woods, water and meadows and the boardwalks give riders a unique perspective from horseback, enhancing the bond with nature. The Highland Equestrian Conservancy looks forward to partnering with Oakland County Parks and encourages other equestrians to ride the trails and do the same. We are lucky to have this Oakland County treasure to enjoy.”
Text and photos by Jonathan Schechter, Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Parks.
Visit Oakland County Parks for information on Rose Oaks County Park and the other 12 parks managed by Oakland County Parks and Recreation. Follow Oakland County Parks on Facebook and Twitter for more fun in Oakland County!