The Odyssey Tours Genevieve Casey Nature Sanctuary

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Bender Creek

A glimpse of Bender Creek running through the sanctuary. Photo by Dave Wendling

Yes, on July 18 we woke up to thunder and rain, but no one was complaining. How wondrous in this July drought to find ourselves going on a hike after a welcome thundershower. The rain stopped 10 minutes before our hike, and everyone’s spirits were up and we were excited to visit the 53-acre Genevieve Casey Nature Sanctuary in Oceana County. With the smell of wet grass and pine needles under our feet, another special Odyssey day had begun. Our guide John Hendrixon, steward since 2008, was waiting for us, and once again, we were happy to welcome three first-time participants to the Odyssey, including MNA Life Members Robert and Clarice Williams, who came all the way down from Higgins Lake to join our hike!

John began by sharing the story of Genevieve Casey and how this sanctuary dedicated to her came to be under the protection of MNA. As we entered the sanctuary we passed through one of the pine groves that Genevieve Casey herself planted years ago. If you come here in June, pink lady’s slipper can be found among the pines. When we entered the barrens, John explained how this land was lumbered and once farmed until the thin top soil was blown away following a series of very dry years that left only barren sand.  He stated that this area looks a lot different now than when Genevieve Casey owned the property. Indeed, you can envision the succession that has occured as you stand on one of the few bare sandy areas left in the sanctuary. There are large areas where hair-cap moss and various lichen have stabilized the sand.  Here can be found rein-deer lichen, British soldier lichen, and the earth star mushroom. In other areas are large patches of club moss and bracken fern. The three club mosses that are found here are common club moss, blue ground cedar, and southern ground cedar. As the soil stabilized, the trees and shrubs started moving in and are now well on their way to reforesting the barrens.


A little rain didn’t slow this group down! Photo by Marianne Glosenger

John then took us through the new 2011 addition to the sanctuary, guiding us along the proposed new trail that he had flagged. This addition, which doubled the size of the sanctuary, contains a large area of floodplain forest which gave a sharp contrast to the dry barrens.  We were able to hike along sections of the meandering Bender Creek which flows through the sanctuary and eventually into Stony Lake, and then into Lake Michigan. MNA is proud to protect Bender Creek and its floodplain along with the sensitive freshwater species that live within the creek, including trout, sculpin, and stickleback.  The find of the day had to be discovering several orchids growing in the floodplain!

With two loop trails that are well-marked and a new trail under development, the Genevieve Casey Nature Sanctuary will long be remembered by the visitors who shared a morning in its quiet beauty. We also remember Genevieve Casey herself, who recently passed away, and the wonderful contribution she made to MNA and nature itself.

[Ed. note: This entry was updated on August 15, 2012 to correct two spelling errors. Our apologies for the mistakes.] 

A Gem in Oceana County: Genevieve Casey Nature Sanctuary

By Chelsea Richardson

Showy Lady's Slippers in the sanctuary

Showy Lady’s Slippers in the sanctuary. Photo by Natalie Kent-Norkowski.

Genevieve Casey Nature Sanctuary is located near Pentwater south of Ludington in Oceana County. This diverse sanctuary was first owned by U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Daniel Webster, a well-known figure in 19th century American history, before eventually ending up in the hands of Genevieve Casey, whose family owned it for 40 years. Casey wanted to see the land permanently protected, so it was sold to the Michigan Nature Association in 2000.

Genevieve Casey’s large marsh in the north, groves of pine and cedar in the south and low shrubs and lichen barren area in the center make this sanctuary extremely diverse.

This sanctuary is home to a number of different wildlife and natural habitats. Some native plants in the area include pink lady’s slipper, brome grass, lichens and white pine. Along with white cedar, yellow birch, red shelf fungi, liverworts and dinner plate orchid that densely along Breeder Creek.

Whitetail deer, coyotes, beavers, otters and possums are some of the native wildlife that call this sanctuary home. Owls, partridges and blue and green herons have also been known to make an appearance at Genevieve Casey. Aquatic species within the creek include trout, steelhead and salmon.

Last year, MNA successfully acquired a 30-acre addition to the Genevieve Casey Nature Sanctuary. This addition brings Genevieve Casey to a total of 53 acres and is home to a trout stream and a variety of other habitats. Brook trout were noticed in the stream which makes it a very special place. Brook trout are an indicator of good water quality because they only live in clean, fast-moving and silt-free waters.

Trout stream

The high-quality stream at Genevieve Casey. Photo by Brad Hyde

The surrounding community has demonstrated their concern for this sanctuary by engaging local Boy Scouts in developing accommodations for physically disabled visitors to this sanctuary. In 2003, a marked trail, a footbridge and parking area were added to the sanctuary to better accommodate guests. Future projects have been earmarked such as distance markers, benches, plaques identifying the wildlife, a map of the trail and historical information.

If you would like to experience this beautiful sanctuary for yourself, join MNA’s 60th Anniversary Odyssey Tour on Wednesday, July 18 at 10 a.m. Call the MNA office at (866) 223-2231 or visit the MNA website to reserve your spot.

Please note, fishing is not permitted in MNA sanctuaries.

P.J. Hoffmaster Spring Activities

By Megan Clute

Hoffmaster State Park

Photo: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The month of March marks the start of spring events at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon. The Exploring Nature program will kick off on March 3 and continue through April 21 during which, the park will host nature hikes and activities every weekend (except April 7). Events range from fitness training on the sand dunes to youth activities such as the Forest Fairies Green Tips Hike and the All Things Green and Lucky Hike.

P.J. Hoffmaster is home to 10 miles of trails and is located along Lake Michigan’s shoreline. The sand dunes in the area also serve as a main attraction to the park. The beginning of spring is the perfect time to explore and participate in the activities being offered.

While visiting P.J. Hoffmaster, guests are encouraged to take a tour through Genevieve Casey Nature Sanctuary, located less than an hour away from the park. It is known for its hiking trails, coldwater stream, pink ladyslipper, and even a hog-nosed snake which was recently discovered in the area. For more information or directions to the sanctuary, give us a call at 517-655-5655.

We encourage you to check out the many educational activities offered at P.J Hoffmaster. If you’re interested in additional nature education materials, MNA has a wide variety of resources for your use. Visit the education section of our website to learn more.

For more information on P.J. Hoffmaster State Park or the Exploring Nature program, please contact Elizabeth Tillman at 231-798-3573. For more information on the MNA and its nature sanctuaries and plant preserves, please contact us at 517-655-5655.