During a recent excursion to walk portions of the Musketawa Trail, my dad and I stumbled upon Thatcher Park in the small village of Ravenna, Michigan. (Learn more about the Musketawa trail at the end of this article.) What a pleasant surprise this park was!
Thatcher Park is truly a hidden gem. I think the best couple of words to describe this small West Michigan park is adorable and surprising!
Adorable Thatcher Park
Picture this. You are driving along the cute little Main Street of a small town when you spy a little park of lush green grass framed by a backdrop of natural wooded area. Along one side of this park, there is a small river with a water wheel and an observation deck. On the other side of the park is a large, beautiful gazebo. In between these two attractive features is a brightly colored, well-maintained playground. Around what appears to be the outer edges of this picturesque park is a paved trail loop for walking.
This perfectly describes my first impression of Ravenna’s Thatcher Park. And, once I took a closer look around, I realized that it is even more adorable than originally perceived.
For instance, the fun little playground includes just enough old school playground equipment (metal twirly slide!!) for adults to wax nostalgic a little. Also, it includes a pair of matching climbing structures resembling caterpillars. One is bigger than the other which gives the caterpillars an adorable mommy-baby dynamic.
Also, I feel the need to mention the lawn. It was so green and lush. My visit to this park was in mid-October – leaves were already falling from trees, and most lawns in the area had already taken on the brownish, brittle look of front yards in late Fall. Not at Thatcher Park though! The grass was green and lush there. It had the look and feel of expensive high-pile carpet. It was so unexpected for that time of year that it added greatly to the park’s visual appeal.
I also loved the picturesque details of the gazebo. Its placement and landscaping were well planned. The gazebo is placed in the general vicinity of a large “Welcome to Ravenna” sign – just perfect for snapping flattering pictures of the park. Additionally, the gazebo is surrounded by landscaped shrubbery which gives it a finished look without looking too fussy. Even the paved path leading to the gazebo is adorable. Instead of leading to the steps in a direct course, the path spirals around the structure giving it a wondrous oz-like feel as if it was the yellow brick road.
And finally, let’s talk about the lovely water views. The park runs along Crockery Creek. The creek is fairly wide here and flows fast. There are several large rocks in the creek which create a lovely rippling effect and a calming background noise. There is a water wheel installed on the edge of the creek. This waterwheel does not seem to have a real purpose but it is captivating to watch. Like the other sections of Thatcher Park, this area is lovely.
Surprising Thatcher Park
It’s all super adorable, right? But wait, there’s still more to this park! We discovered a couple of neat surprises while wandering the paved loop path.
As we first followed the path along the creek side of the park, my dad and I discovered a second loop that led us through the natural wooded area. This surprise section of the trail is beautiful; it features a fantastic boardwalk path and a second observation deck overlooking the creek. This portion of the park is surrounded with enough trees to give it a true wilderness feel.
Our second (and my favorite) surprise was discovered on the other side of the park after we exited the wooded wilderness loop. There is a secret hillside slide!!! I call it secret because the hillside slide is hidden from view when you first arrive at the park as it is surrounded by trees.
The hillside slide is huge and super fun! It was way too fun of an opportunity to pass up so I handed off my valuables to my dad and gave the slide a try. Lucky for me, my attire prohibited me from sliding at too much of a high-speed pace. (A quick internet search later that day proved that this slide can be pretty dang fast at times. Check out this YouTube video of a father clad in sandals with socks trying out the Thatcher Park hillside slide!)
While you are in Ravenna, be sure to also check out the Musketawa Trail (a 26-mile rail trail stretching between Marne and Muskegon in Michigan). Originally, my dad and I went to Ravenna last week to walk along parts of the Musketawa Trail. (We just happened to discover Thatcher Park while we were there.)
The trail features 13 wooden train trestles formerly used by a Michigan railroad. The longest of these train trestles is located right in Ravenna; it crosses Crockery Creek (the very same creek that flows through Thatcher Park). The Musketawa Trail is a great place to walk or bicycle. It is also used for cross country skiing, snowmobiling, inline skating and horseback riding. Ravenna is a great place to access this four season recreational trail because it happens to be the trail’s centermost point.
Thanks for the good times, Ravenna!
If you find yourself in the area, you just might want to make a quick stop in Ravenna, Michigan. Despite its small size (According to Wikipedia, it has a population of barely 1,200 people!), my dad and I were quite pleased with our visit to this small village. Plus Thatcher Park and the Musketawa Trail are definitely worth visiting!
And now, the real question is…