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Archive for April, 2013

In 1954 the state designated the Haven Hill area, a State Natural area and Nature Study area. They did this because of the diversity of habitats there, and because of the big push from the Michigan Botanical Society.

11MarkerMost people do not know that the Haven Hill area is not just a state designated Historical site, due to the remains of the old Edsel Ford Estate that was located primarily on Haven Hill, but actually made up what is now the entire eastern side of Highland Recreation area. That’s right…..all the park lands that are east of Duck Lake road was once the boundaries of the Ford Estate there, with the Lodge and main Estate buildings located on top and around the edge of the main hill.

But……all the lands north of Haven Hill and that surround Haven Hill Lake are part of the state Natural Area. The many natural Springs, the swamps, the deep cuts in terrain and rolling hills have produced many diverse ecosystems. Some of which only exist in more northern areas of our state.

As Spring starts to break and everything goes into blooming stages, it is a wonderful time to take a Hike around Haven Hill Lake. There is a good solid, maintained Trail that encircles the Lake and will also take you through the main Estate on Haven Hill for your return Trail leg. A beautiful Boardwalk takes you around the northern most Swamp areas of the Natural Area. Many small creeks exist here, due to the many Natural Springs through out the northern and western side of Haven Hill Lake.

There are many rare flowers and plants along the way. Just like exploring for remnants of the Ford Estate on Haven Hill, you need to look closely as you Hike the Trail loop around Haven Hill Lake. The Fords did very little to the north and far western side of the Lake Edsel created by damming Cedar creek. So the primary focus on this Trail surrounding the Lake are ecosystems and different environments. If ever you carried Nature ID guides along on a Hike, this would be the place to do so. There are examples of almost every Tree that grows in the state of Michigan, somewhere along this main loop Trail.

Download one of the Maps from the web site and get started not only exploring the past in History, but the present in the extensive Natural world in and around Haven Hill.

DOWNLOAD A GPSED MAP OF THE NATURAL AREA AND HISTORICAL AREA HERE:

HavenHillTrailsMap

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OK…..here we have the 1909 Survey Platt map of White Lake Twp. and what was to be eventually the Ford Estate and then Highland Recreation Area. In 1909 the area was all still mostly private lands, held by some of the original Homesteaders and a couple of small Investment Groups. The Investment Groups used their holdings for a number of things, from private Hunting preserves, to Logging and other interests.

The still private lands were mostly Farmed out by this point, although there where still some on-gong family Homestead/Farms in existence. The last of the Native Americans in the area were located in the far southeast corner of what would be the eventual Ford Estate.

Hunting was pretty good around the Haven Hill area because of the many natural springs and Cedar Creek which flowed steady year round. At the time of this 1909 Map, Cedar creek flowed unhampered west to east, until it dumped into Cedar Lake on the far southeast corner of the Map. Beatty Lake was part of this watershed as well, and was also part of the purchases made by the Ford family when the Estate was being established.

Milford,MI1909

Download a printable version of this 1909 map here:

Ford representatives would not start purchasing lands in the area for another 10 or so years yet, and when they did start buying lands, they did so secretly under a trust company, as not to show the locals just who was buying up the land in the area. Knowing that the Ford family was purchasing land in White Lake would have driven up the price of these individual parcels tremendously. And with so many different owners of so many individual parcels, the costs for just what Edsel ended up buying, would have been outrageous.

In the 1920s after all the land purchases where complete, and the Boundaries you see indicated on the 1909 Map, in red, the first thing Edsel got working on was the Huge undertaking of Damming up Cedar creek and forming what is still, Haven Hill Lake. It took much more then just the Dam to produce this Lake. Look closely at the new Map of the Estate/park and notice just how many Empoundments were also created to be able to form the Lake and hold back all the flowing waters of Cedar creek. It was an enormous undertaking.

HavenHillTrailsMap

Download the modern Highland recreation Park Map here;

Print out the two Maps we have here and head out to the Park and EXPLORE. Some of the small ponds and Lakes still exist. Some of the flowing smaller creeks around cedar creek are still in place. Others have dried up or vanished completely. Notice on the 1909 Platt Map, that there are small black squares. These black squares indicate old Homes and Farms, or buildings of some sort. Most are gone now, but with some investigating and exploring you can still find the remnants of these structures. Foundations, old fence lines and Farm implements appear in the middle of what is Forests now.

Remember as you explore and discover, that you should leave what you find, where you find it. This is a Historical area, and these places are protected by state law. Just your integrity should stop you from disturbing these historical places and items. leave them for others to also discover. Just maybe eventually some real Historical work will take place at Highland and these places will serve great purposes in revealing what once was, at Haven Hill. Please be respectful here. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you see Vandals or people with Metal detectors, please either stop them, take their pictures and report them. There has been much lost at Highland to self centered thieves and treasure hunters, looking for something for themselves.

We print these maps and give everyone this information because History is an important part of all of our lives. Lets all pull together and stop the few from ruining that for all of us now and for future generations.

Staircase copy

Enjoy the discoveries……Have Fun with the Explorations……decipher what you have found…..and then

leave it where you found it, for others to discover. You are exploring an area over 104 years old since the original Platt Map above was first produced.

As a challenge…..see if you can find these amazing stairs, built right into the side of a Hill on what once was the Ford families private Nature Trail system. The staircase is a wonderful place. There is much more to be discovered around these stairs, so look closely at what might be hiding in the underbrush. Sit for awhile and imagine what the area would have looked like some 90 years or so ago, when the Fords created their Estate.

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