Have you heard about the 47-mile long dragon in west Michigan?
The Dragon Trail at Hardy Dam, that is. And to be fair, it’s not 47 miles long…yet.
But it’s ready to meet you!
On Friday, Oct. 8, we hosted a family fun event to celebrate the Consumers Energy Foundation’s recent $200,000 grant and other partnerships bringing Michigan’s Dragon at Hardy Dam (Dragon Trail) to life.
While the trail is not yet complete, it has come a long way since Big Prairie Township Supervisor David Wright and a friend were brainstorming ways to revitalize the area. Wright suggested a nonmotorized trail encircling the 4,000-acre Hardy Pond on the Muskegon River. “There are no houses surrounding the pond and the land is owned by one entity, Consumers Energy,” he said in a Hydro Reporter article last year. “It’s a magnificent natural resource. Our township needed to be known on a national level for the beauty of the area. I’m hoping the trail will be an economic driver for future generations who will continue to make this area home.”
In September 2019, almost a decade after the original idea, Wright’s vision started to take shape. And the shape was quite literally that of a dragon, hence the name, which was realized after seeing an ariel view of Hardy Pond.
By the end of 2019, about five miles were completed and by the end of 2020, cyclists and hikers could take on 14.6 miles of the Dragon.
When complete, the dragon trail will be a 47-mile hiking, biking, running, and walking trail system located between Hardy and Rogers dams. The trail features 20 footbridges, including three suspension bridges so visitors can navigate deep ravines and rugged countryside and 13 scenic overlooks offering spectacular views.
The trail passes through the natural terrain of Mecosta and Newaygo counties, crosses Hardy Dam and goes through six campgrounds and day-use parks on land leased by Consumers Energy. The campgrounds and parks also will serve as trailheads where users can enter and exit.
The Dragon is managed by Newaygo County Parks, Mecosta County Parks Commission and the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance.
“Each step along the journey to complete this epic recreational trail is worthy of celebration,” said Carolyn Bloodworth, secretary/treasurer of the Consumers Energy Foundation.
The estimated project cost is $3.7 million, and Consumers Energy Foundation has provided a $200,000 grant for trail construction. “We expect to add another nine miles of trail that’s ready and open for trail visitors this year,” said fundraiser Jodi Albaitis. “We have a long way to go in fundraising and construction, and it’s critical we keep up the momentum. We’re grateful for partners like Consumers Energy to help us make progress.”
Of the 11 total segments planned on the Dragon Trail, segments 8 through 11 – from Big Bend Township Park to across Hardy Dam – are complete. Segments 2 and 4 have portions of trail open. 2021 construction starts at the north end of segment four and continues through segments 5 and 6, in Mecosta County around the northeast portion of Hardy Pond. More information about the status of open and upcoming segments can be found at thedragon.us.
To learn how you can help build or maintain the Dragon, or make a gift, visit