Barbara Ann Patrie Memorial Trail

The Barbara Ann Patrie Memorial Trail is a 1.5-mile loop beginning and ending at the east end of the Fiborn Karst Preserve History Pavilion area along Norton Camp Road.

Trails policy

The objective of the Michigan Karst Conservancy is to protect karst areas in Michigan and to educate the public about the value of karst lands and the safe and proper use of these lands. One aspect of this objective is to provide educational trails on its karst preserves.

These trails are narrow footpaths that often go through wet or muddy areas; across or around rocks and boulders;and often have steep, narrow, hilly, or sideways tilted surfaces. Some cross bare rock or cross a stream on a narrow rustic bridge.

These trails are not suitable for personal assistance mobility devices such as walkers, manual or motorized wheelchairs, power scooters, golf carts, off-road or all-terrain vehicles. Use of such equipment on MKC trails is not reasonable and is likely to do damage through soil erosion, trail widening, plant and root damage, and is thus prohibited.

Visitation to MKC preserves is at the visitor's own risk. MKC normally will not have staff or volunteers or emergency phones or equipment present at a preserve. The preserves are a significant distance from emergency medical facilities. Cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent, especially in the Upper Peninsula.

Treat the features of the Preserve in such a way that their interest and appearance are not altered.

A permit is required to collect animal, plant or mineral specimens.

The MKC recommends that you wear long pants, a long-sleeve shirt and sturdy shoes; carry insect repellent (in season), water and a compass.

Hiking the trail

Walk south from the Trails sign to where both the Sinkhole Trail and the Barb Patrie trail begin. Turn left to the Barb Patrie trail. The large boulder with the commemorative plaque is an intrusive, or plutonic, rock called gabbro was transported by glaciers more than 9,000 years ago from the Canadian Shield, made up of Precambrian rocks.

The trail is divided into six zones.

Zone 1: Trailhead to Marker 1. Upland second-growth hardwood forest

This zone is beech-maple hardwood forest with sugar maples (acer saccharum) and scattered beech (fagus grandifolia), hemlock (tsuga canadensis) and balsam fir (abies balsamea). The forest composition and the karst depression to the south are extensions of the same features seen on the Sinkhole Trail.

Zone 2: Markers 1 to 2. Disturbed soils and western edge of quarry.

The soil in this zone was disturbed by early quarrying activity, leaving a relatively open glade between the forest and quarry where hardwood trees have not re-established themselves.

An abandoned narrow-gauge railroad bed is encountered just before the trail nears the west end of the quarry.

Bedrock is exposed at a point where overlying soil (overburden) had been removed between the trail and the quarry. Good examples of karst pavement, open joints and solution-widened joints are visible. These formed below the original soil cover.

Hikers may cautiously descend a narrow defile to the quarry floor nearby to inspect some of the pure Fiborn Limestone. Note the formation’s characteristic low-angle joints. The quarry floor is a magnesian limestone not suitable for the industrial uses that provided the quarry with customers.

Zone 3: Markers 2 to 3. Canyon Creek area.

The trail re-enters the forest and turns southeast to follow the trend of the quarry walls. The soils are largely undisturbed and the forest contains more white cedar (thuja occidentalis) due to moister conditions.

A short way along this zone the trail descends slightly and crosses a bride over Canyon Creek. A swamp associated with the (old) Fiborn Pond feeds the creek, which has cut a significant canyon (including a short, flooded cave) into the Fiborn Limestone. The creek now spills out onto the quarry floor and into a swallow hole, but it reportedly used to flow in a somewhat shallower canyon to sinkholes near the quarry buildings, then resurged underground, as it does today at the swallow hole.

Zone 4: Marker 3 to Trail B junction. Overburden ridges and dumping area.

A great deal of overburden was stripped from atop the limestone outcrops prior to blasting. Some of it was piled along the edge of the quarry to form the present distinctive ridges, but most was carried by rail cars to a large dumping area southwest of the quarry. Along this portion of the trail is a grove of very large but mostly dead aspen (populus tremuloides), which took root on the overburden after the quarry closed in 1936. (Caution: These dead trees are still shedding branches, pass carefully and quickly.)

The Patrie trail climbs up onto a high ridge of overburden which provides good views of the quarry and buildings.

Trail B ascends along the northwest end of the overburden dump. The distinctive ridges were formed by workers dumping overburden from rail cars along both sides of a track, then moving the track to one side and repeating the process.

Trail B then climbs to a spot overlooking of Fiborn Pond. Originally the pond was a cedar swamp and the stumps left from logging the cedars are still visible. Dams were built at both the southeast end of the pond and on Canyon Creek to keep water out of the quarry by directing it to the Flat Creek sinkhole (see Sinkhole Trail guide). Beavers live in the pond. Their trails and aspen cuttings are visible along Trail B. The southeastern dam is visible where Trail B turns to descend along the edge of the woods back to rejoin the Patrie trail at the southeast end of Zone 4.

Zone 5: Southeastern Trail B junction to Marker 4. Last quarrying and small caves.

The trail passes an overlook with a bench where the last quarrying was done prior to 1955 and a very disturbed area where rail cars passed to carry overburden to the dump. Small openings into Bad Breath Cave can be seen below the trail.

Zone 5 ends at the south end of the quarry. Quarry Cave on Sinking Creek is in the woods adjacent to the level area overlooking the quarry (permission is required to enter this cave). Sinking Creek disappears in the cave and resurges from the broken rock piled up against the quarry wall. It flows a short distance across the quarry floor and disappears into a sinkhole. This sinkhole was dug to the water table without finding any further passage.

Zone 6: Marker 4 to Marker 5. Quarry floor, sinks and buildings.

From Marker 4 you can see buildings to the northwest. This is where you are headed, but it is almost impossible to go directly there and keep your feet dry except in the driest weather. The safe route is to follow the rough road (closed to vehicles) down the hill and through the quarry. This road will "T" into another road; turn left toward the buildings. Marker 5 will be on the right side of this road just before the buildings. A patch of trees to the south, across the road, contains a sinkhole into which water flows. What remains of the quarry works are the foundation for the crusher and the railcar shop. (Information about the history of Fiborn Quarry is available at the History Pavilion, at the end of the trail.)

The trail climbs out of the quarry and continues northwest beyond the buildings to Marker 6 and, after a final short forested stretch, joins Norton Camp Road. Turn left and walk a short distance to the History Pavilion.