Benona Township occupies a unique part of the world. We are blessed with a mix of temperature, rain, sun and soil that produces an abundance of food. We harvest apples, cherries, peaches, squash, pears, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, corn, pumpkins and a few others. We are the Asparagus Capital of the United States and we celebrate its harvest every year. (Visit us in late May or early June and see for yourself. Try the “deep fried” asparagus – it is a taste treat.)
Water played a major role in the early development of Benona Township. Lake Michigan is our western border, which provides a natural boundary that is over six miles long. The white sand beaches are some of the best in the world.
A portion of our southern boundary includes Stony Lake (over 270 acres in size) and Stony Creek, which provides an outlet to Lake Michigan. The first documented settlers of Benona Township were a Reverend Ferry and his son who migrated from Grand Haven, Michigan in 1849 and built a sawmill in 1850. They chose Stony Creek outlet for the location of their first dwelling and business as it provided two strategic advantages. 1) The creek could be dammed, which would provide a source of low cost power for a sawmill and 2) Access to Lake Michigan provided a low cost mode of transportation for the finished lumber to cities like Chicago and Milwaukee.
Stony Lake was much larger in the 1850s than it is today. A dam was constructed on Stony Creek approximately 1/4 of a mile inland from the Lake Michigan shore. The dam caused Stony Lake to inundate land that was over 1.5 miles beyond its current northeast boundary. It stretched almost all the way to an area called Marshville where there was a second dam and a grist mill. It is said that the depth of Stony Lake was over 12 feet higher than its current level.
There were great forests of white pine at the time, which fueled the lumber business for 25-30 years. However early life in Benona Township did not come without its challenges. The dam that was built along Stony Creek burst sending a tsunami like wave of water that destroyed everything in its path. The sawmills were rebuilt but the supply of white pine started to diminish, and soon thereafter, the local economy changed to an agrarian economy.
Today, Stony Lake and the Stony Creek outlet are still well known landmarks in Benona Township. The sawmills are gone, but Stony Lake is a great spot for water sports like water skiing, fishing, sailing, snorkeling or sunbathing. At the mouth of Stony Creek, you will find our township park that includes a boat ramp, parking, restroom and boardwalk. A recent renovation, designated the Lake Michigan Oval Park Project, includes the construction of a handicap accessible fish landing deck and replacement of the bridge and seawall.