This loop can be accessed from the entrance road. To hike it counter clockwise find the trailhead just west of the camp office. (To hike clockwise, follow the river upstream and you will find it.) The trailhead is found where a log "edging" leads to a small bridge (needs repair May 2007, but not a problem to go around it). There is a sign beyond the bridge. Walk south in a wooded band with a campground loop on your left and a small marshy creek on your right. There are several foot bridges, but also some damp areas to cross.
Local community efforts have now added a nice nature walk loop which leaves the trail here on a bridge to your right, with benches for resting. You can walk this loop in just a couple of minutes and return to the main trail over the same bridge.
About 6 minutes from the trailhead you will make a turn left (east) to stay on city property. There is a wide cut which continues straight into the woods, but this is private property. Follow this boundary with the Old Engine Club display area on your left, and a fence line on your right for 3 minutes to the corner of the wooded fenceline where you will now continue straight. (There used to be another fence-line here, but the area was bulldozed in 2000 and the city says that this will become more parking.) Cross this muddy area on a tractor trail into the middle of an area littered with old farm machinery. You will climb up a little rise.
Turn left to follow the wooded edge at the top of the rise past a pile of pulled stumps, and watch for a wide turn into the trees to the right. The trail winds around in a wide bend to come back to a point near where you recently turned to the right, at a wooded corner. This section is the most difficult to follow. You can skip it if you want, and just follow the tree line to where the next paragraph begins.
Angle northwest, enter the woods through thick bracken and cross another plank bridge (6 minutes since leaving the Engine Club area). You will find yourself in a two-track on a ridge between two swampy areas. Directly ahead of you is a grassy meadow, the former waste water treatment lagoon, now drained. You can just see the Scottville water tower above the trees. Follow the north edge of the old lagoon. You just make a slight jog right then left and continue along the edge of the meadow.
Follow the north edge of the field, and soon there will be enough water flowing to your left that you could call it a creek. Pass through a band of white cedar and to the left of a band of 4 hemlocks. These mark the edge of the bottomland. It has been about 3 minutes along the lagoon. A plank puncheon has been added here over a muddy area. (When the river is high this is as far as you will be able to walk.) Another plank bridge will take you across the creek. The next few steps are usually the muddiest of this trail. There is a marker post, but it is very short. Angle to your right after you cross the bridge and a few more steps will lead you to the Pere Marquette River, about 1 minute from the lagoon. The remainder of the trail follows the river (west and south) on a low ridge which separates the river (on your right) from the swampy bottomland (on your left). In 5 minutes you will see a bluff rise on the north bank of the river, which will fade away from the bank again in just another 2 minutes. Continue to follow the river and you will arrive back at the park in 7 minutes. Another wet spot in the walk is here, just before the mowed grass where the bottomland spills into the river. 3 more minutes in the grassy area along the river will complete the loop.
Comment, December 2002. Yup I've hiked that thing! It's so much fun! I loved the fish though! I caught a lot but never keep them to eat them!! Have fun and it's the best place to go.
Access- Parking on the east side of Scottville Road- enter south of the river. Loop drives closed in winter, but plenty of parking spaces available anyway.
Restrictions- No swimming in river- dangerous current. No bikes on trail. "Absolutely no motorized vehicles."
Distance and time- 1.5 miles, about 35 minutes. Mileages were measured on a topographic map and verified by pacing, at which I am fairly accurate.
Trail Markers- are 4x4 posts cut at an angle on the tops and in some places red square markers have been added but not along the entire route. In some places, especially the beginning there are now white diamonds too.
Treadway- saturated and packed soil with some forest litter in wooded areas. Definitely muddy at certain times of year. Footing is stable, but plan on wet shoes.
Marking- not adequate, posts are occasional, and it is easy to lose the trail on its eastern side. (But hard to get really lost - continue to angle left and you will eventually find the river, and the bridge across the creek.) If the treadway was completely covered with new snow it would be difficult to follow in some places.
Ecosystem- Bottomland hardwood swamp near the river. Some areas which are a little higher are covered with bracken fern.
Most recent date this info personally checked on foot- Dec 2, 2009
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This is a wonderful wander along the Pere Marquette River- just wear boots or "mud shoes" and enjoy! You can park on either the east or west side of the river, but this description is written from the east side, to make the walk as long as possible. Subtract about 6 minutes (about 1/4 mile) if you park on the boat ramp side.
Leaving the parking area follow a paved path which angles to the bridge past a small gazebo. Cross carefully on the bridge, there is no real sidewalk and cars do not travel slowly on this road. Just past the guardrail, turn left on the grass. You will be between the river and a marshy area, and there are two wooden bridges to get you across small creeks. In 6 minutes you reach the boat ramp. Continue on the grass and pass the toe of a bluff which comes right down to the river at the end of the parking area. Stay at the river's edge. In about 4 minutes the trail will enter some bushes, but is still easy to follow. You are now walking almost directly south, as the river has turned in that direction. In another 2 minutes the toe of another bluff comes near the river again and a power line crosses the river here. You will begin turning west again. 2 more minutes will bring you to a small creek. You have come about 1/2 mile. There have been times of high water when this was as far as I could walk without choosing to get significantly wet. But in drier times it's only about 4 inches deep and you can easily cross on sticks laid across it, and only get muddy. The banks now are very far back from the river. Pass through another area of bushes and near the 3/4 mile point after 7 more minutes you will come to a real creek. You can also see an arm of the river on the far side. This creek can be crossed when the water is low by walking upstream about 20 paces from the river edge to a shallower spot. If the water is deep, this may be a good place to turn back. After this the river begins to braid, and you will see islands. If you were able to pass the last creek, after the second such island you will come to the remains of what appears to be a former foot bridge across the river. Just past this, and 6 minutes after the last creek, there is a significant creek. I would suggest stopping here. I have crossed this when the water was low, but there is no easy walking beyond this point.
For those of you (like me) who prefer loops rather than backtracking... it can be done when the water is very low. It is possible to turn right and reach the bluffs, climb them and follow their edge back to the boat ramp area. This is not a trail by any means. If the water is not very low this should not be attempted when you are alone. There are areas of deep, loose mud. I have sunk as deep as my thighs, and would not have been able to get out without help.
Access- Parking on the east side of Scottville Road- enter south of the river. Loop drives closed in winter, but plenty of spaces available anyway. Parking also on west side of river- enter north of the bridge
Restrictions- No swimming in river- dangerous current.
Distance and time- 1 mile, about 30 minutes but since it is not a loop, you would need a full hour to walk to the "end" and back. Note that the entire distance can be easily walked only when the water level is low. Mileages were measured on a topographic map and verified by pacing, at which I am fairly accurate.
Trail Markers- none
Treadway- paved on the east side of the bridge, then grass, then packed soil after leaving the boat ramp area, but often muddy- this is in a swamp after all. There are small creeks where you will at least get muddy feet
Marking- even with no markers or blazes the path is easy to follow. Deer and fishermen keep it well-used, and you just follow the river. You would have to be seriously disoriented to get lost.
Ecosystem- Botttomland hardwood swamp with steep bluffs at various distances from the river. You can see turtlehead, lizard tail, cardinal flower, or skunk cabbage depending on the time of year. I've often seen kingfishers here.
Most recent date this info personally checked on foot- September 2005
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Skiing- The Bottomland Trail is marked for skiing. Not groomed.
Boat Launch- paved ramp with a dock, parking for 10-15 vehicles with trailers, on west side of Scottville Road.
Distance and time- 12 miles, about 4.5 hours to Old US 31 Bridge
Fishing- The Pere Marquette is known for steelhead and salmon runs, and brown/rainbow trout. Fly fishing is popular too.
Picnic Area- There are scattered picnic tables on both sides of the river, most on the east; small gazebo on the east, larger pavillion farther in on the east near latrines; two picnic tables in the woods near the beginning of the Bottomland Trail.
Camping- commercially operated campground here (City of Scottville) with full hook ups, swimming pool, shower house. See campground closeup map at their web site.
Playground- Swings, toddler swings, slide, 2 climbers with slides, spring riding animals, merry-go-round, sand box and a shaded bench for caregivers. Located at the far east edge of the campground loop. Day users will need to walk a short way to reach the area.
Rest Rooms and Potable Water
Restrooms- Full rest room in summer, latrine open year round
Potable Water- Faucets turned on in summer. There is an artesian well which flows from the pipe near the picnic pavillion. This is sometimes frozen in winter, and sometimes is flowing.
Additional Facilities- Phone, vending machine. Pool for use of registered campers. Boat access ramp on west side of Scottville Rd. Home of the Old Engine Club featuring a show every August. The city plans to do a great deal of work on the park beginning fall 2006.
Seasonality- no water in winter, driveway is closed, but plenty of parking outside of the cable gate, full loop not walkable when water is high- see link below
Maintained by- City of Scottville 105 N. Main Scottville, MI 49454 231-757-4729 in season reach the park directly 231-757-2429
More- Check the current water level of the Pere Marquette River at the Scottville Bridge. The Bottomland Trail where it follows the river is dry when the level is at 2. When the water level is at 3 the wet spot at the end of the trail where the bottomland connects with the river is flowing, but can be crossed without overtopping your boots. When the water level is at 3.5 you can not walk the entire loop. From where the trail leaves the edge of the water treatment lagoon to head for the river edge, you can see the tops of the boards on the bridge, but the water is over a foot deep. I will continue to check this site and post trail conditions at various levels.
Info about Scottville from InfoMI.com with several pictures.
Here's the Mason County Chamber of Commerce page and a picture of Riverside Park The Pere Marquette is a designated Wild and Scenic Waterway between The Forks and Custer Bridge. If you wish to canoe on that portion of the Pere Marquette River you need a permit between May 15 and September 10. There are special regulations which apply. Private watercraft permits may be reserved by calling 1-231-745-4631. Some of the landings along the river require a Recreation Fee sticker to park there (self-pay tubes are available for daily passes, yearly passes may be purchased at a Ranger Station). See Manistee National Forest Recreation Fees
There are some logs on display at the park with logmarks from the lumbering era. Scroll down this page to see samples of some Michigan Logmarks
Scottville is located at the intersection of US Highways 10 and 31. Turn south at the stoplight on Main St. in Scottville and go about 1 mile to the river. The entrance to the park is on the east side of the road, south side of the river. The entrance to the boat launch area is on the west side of the road, north side of the river.