Rugg Pond is a reservoir in Rapid River Township in Kalkaska County. There is a long and interesting history including reports that Ernest Hemingway once spent a night fishing from the Rugg Pond dam powerhouse. It is rumored that Hemmingway wrote The Battle while fishing at Rugg Pond.
The pond was formed by a dam that was originally intended to generate power for surrounding communities. The power plant and dam was built where the two branches of the Rapid River meet in Rapid River Township.
History of the Dam
The Kalkaska Light and Power Company was founded in 1904 by Ambrose E. Palmer. The company was turned over to Kalkaska County for $1 in 1953. In 1980 the Arm Corps of Engineers condemned the dam.
The pond was named after the family of Rolando F. Rugg, a popular sheriff of Kalkaska County from 1892-1896. The Rugg’s came from Pennsylvania and built the first farm at Rugg Pond.
Save the Dam
Concerned citizens formed Save Rugg Pond Natural Area to preserver and continue access to the historic site. The site is a popular spot for fishing and hiking. There is a boat launch that is used for both carry-down and trailered boats. The trail network extends almost around the entire perimeter of the pond. The trails are not maintained and are mostly used for fishing. The most popular species caught here is the Brown Trout.
Back to his Roots
My husband grew up in the Rapid City Area and over the years he would talk about playing with his childhood friends (still friends today) along the Rapid River and the surrounding hills.
One weekend we loaded into the car and drove to his childhood playground. We stopped at the Rugg Pond Dam a place he had fished and explored often. Most people would stop and say cool and go on the one marked trail that is about a quarter mile long. That trail was fun to walk and not sure, but it looked like there was remnants of a foundation back there and definitely some stone stacking. My husband said he did not remember if anything was ever there.
Rapid River Explorer
I was with an original Rapid River Explorer that knew his way around this territory, and I grabbed his hand and followed along. He did not disappointed. We walked on the trails along the river. There were only a couple of other folks we met on the trail. Maybe they were an original Rapid River Explorers too. 🙂
We walked along the river for quite a while, stopping frequently to explore or take pictures. I kept expecting to see fairies fluttering about, it felt magical.
The Fate of the Dam
The fate of the dam is up in the air whether to keep the dam and tear it out. The dam needs repairs, and the pond is filling with sediment. Kalkaska County has to decide if they can afford to repair and maintain the dam or if they will need to take it out completely.
It will be a shame if they have to tear it out. Not only is it a historical site but according to friends in the area it is still an active recreational area for hiking and fishing. Removing the dam may change that.
Seven Bridges Nature Area
That same day we drove down the road and explored the Seven Bridges Nature area managed by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. Read about our hike and how many of the 7 bridges we found that day in Exploring Seven Bridges Nature Area published in May, 2022.