GEORGE H. CROSBYMANITOU STATE PARK
From the trailhead parking lot, the route leads south to the Matt Willis Trail which begins at the south end of Bensen Lake. Here the trail passes along the top of a large old beaver dam. Grass has overtaken the dam and it makes a lovely raised walkway now. Beyond the beaver dam, the trail continues south through white birch, box elder, balsam fir, and maples, occasionally crossing small bits of swamp where yellow birch and northern white cedars dominate.
As the trail approaches the south boundary of the park, it turns eastward and intersects the Beaver Bog Trail 2.1 miles from the trailhead. Beyond this point, the trail enters a second small swamp and intersects what must have been an old logging road. From this point on, the trail makes a gradual descent to the Manitou River for the next mile. As you approach the river giant pines become a more common sight. For some reason loggers didn’t cut these trees down. Perhaps it was the steep slopes they grew on that saved them from the timberman’s blade.
At the end of the Matt Willis Trail, the Manitou River Trail turns north to lead you against the current of the rapid waters of the Manitou River. Tall pines, spruces, and white cedars grow along the river bank. Where the river has carved high steep banks, the trail ascends a ridge past giant white pines whose soft foliage muffles the river’s roar far below. As the Manitou River Trail nears the intersection with the Yellow Birch Trail, it returns to the river bank and crosses a small stream. The Yellow Birch Trail, aptly named for the many large yellow birches that line the path, leads west, away from the river, and returns the hiker to the trailhead from a satisfying hike over some challenging but spectacular terrain.
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