Our Preserves

SWMLC welcomes visitors to the following preserves.  Keep in mind that our preserves are not able to withstand the intensive use that is normal for state and local parks.  When visiting a preserve, please respect the natural features and follow these guidelines:


• Do not remove or destroy plants or wildlife.
• Leashed dogs are welcome -- though we ask that you please clean up after your pet!
• Take all trash with you.
• Do not use motorized vehicles or bicycles.
• Camping and fires are not allowed.
• No hunting is allowed without permission.
Other preserves owned by SWMLC contain sensitive habitats or have access challenges and are not open to the public unless permission is received from SWMLC.


Below is a list of preserves with parking and trails.  New preserves will be added to the list as parking and trails become available. 

Black River Preserve - Geneva Township, Van Buren County (120.9 acres)
Meandering trails through floodplain and uplands.

Bow in the Clouds Preserve - City of Kalamazoo (60 acres)
Steep incline to entrance. Boardwalk through wetland. 

Carter Lake Preserve - Hastings Township, Barry County (56.9 acres)
Moderate to difficult blazed trails in wetland and upland habitats.

Chipman Preserve - Comstock Township, Kalamazoo County (227.8 acres)
Five miles of easy to moderate mowed trails in upland habitat.

Coon Hollow Preserve - Fabius Township, St. Joseph County (9 acres)

Gertrude McPharlin Bauer Nature Sanctuary - Castleton Township, Barry County (20 acres)
Short trails at base of steep banks. 

Glenn Allen Island - Kalamazoo Township, Kalamazoo County (10 acres)
Water Trail, accessible by boat.

Hickory Creek Preserve - St. Joseph Charter Township, Berrien County (32 acres)
Part of a larger trail system along the St. Joseph River (currently 5 ½ miles). Easy to moderate trails.

Hidden Marsh Sanctuary - City of Three Rivers (38 acres)
Easy walking trails. 

Hidden Pond Preserve - Hope Township, Barry County (67.1 acres)  Open to the public, parking available.  Easy walking trails.

Jeptha Lake Fen - Columbia Township, Van Buren County (49 acres)
Easy mowed trails and boardwalk. 

Kesling Nature Preserve - Three Oaks Township, Berrien County (55 acres)
Located along the South Branch of the Galien River. Easy to moderate mowed trails. 

Pilgrim Haven Natural Area - South Haven Township, Van Buren County (26.5 acres)
Lake Michigan beach frontage with winding trails through woods and open meadows. An improvement plan to create barrier-free access to the bluff and water's edge is currently underway. See how you can help make this a reality by following the link on the Pilgrim Haven page.

Sora Meadows - Paw Paw Township, Van Buren County (65 acres)
Open to the public.

Spirit Springs Sanctuary - Marcellus Township, Cass County (124.3 acres).  Open to the public, parking amenities and signage to be constructed Summer 2011.  Easy walking trails. 

Topinabee Lake Preserve - Bertrand Township, Berrien County (71 acres)
Viewing platform 50 feet from road. 

Wau-Ke-Na, William Erby Smith Preserve - Ganges Township, Allegan County (365 acres)
No trails.  Visitors may walk the south tract.  Leashed pets are welcome.

Wolf Tree Nature Trails - Oshtemo Township, Kalamazoo County (69 acres)
Two 3/4 mile loops of moderate trails wind through forest and meadow, affording scenic views.

Lillian Anderson Arboretum Conservation Easement

Conservation easement (CE) properties are rarely open to the public because CEs are on private land. The 31-acre Lillian Anderson Arboretum Conservation Easement property, owned by Kalamazoo College, is an exception. The entire arboretum encompasses 131 acres, and is open to the public. Click here to learn more.


23 Fabulous Hikes

People will care for the things they know.  The best way to get to know our landscape is to take a walk in it!  This is just one of the many valuable roles SWMLC preserves can offer to help support our region’s quality of life.
1.  Chipman Preserve:  Lupine are one of the highlights.
2.  Kesling Nature Preserve:  Spring wildflowers fade as the birds arrive.
3.  Topinabee Lake Preserve:  Watch ducks, herons, and songbirds paddle, wade, and flit.

4.  Spirit Springs Sanctuary:  Enjoy ducklings on the pond and dragonflies in the meadows.
5.  Glenn Allen Island:  Take binoculars along the bikeway to count heron nests.  Park at Markin Glen Park and walk 10 minutes south along the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail to the William & Lois VanDalson bridge.
6.  Hidden Pond Preserve:  Stroll through the prairie and up the hill to find the hidden pond full of pollywogs.

7.  Wau-Ke-Na:  Meadows are in bloom.  Catch cool breezes from the lakeshore.
8.  Chipman Preserve:  Return to the trails in dappled shade of oak savannas while bluebirds and goldfinches sing.
9.  Coon Hollow Preserve:  Quietly walk down the trail to the edge of the marsh, listening to the banjo-twang calls of green
frogs, and maybe spy a stealthy heron stalking in the cattails.
10.  Pilgrim Haven Natural Area:  The preserve is open during our annual community event the last Saturday in July for you to walk along cool Dyckman Creek and enjoy the natural beauty of the Lake Michigan shoreline. 

11.  Jeptha Lake Fen:  Marvel at blazing stars and pitcher plants from the boardwalk.
12.  Black River Preserve:  Savor the dark, cool shadows of hemlocks along the tributary creeks that wind their way to the river.

13.  Pilgrim Haven Natural Area:  Come to our annual Art Walk  this year on Saturday, August 27, 2016  and chat with the Plein Air Artists of West Michigan as they interpret this beautiful landscape.

14.  Bow in the Clouds Preserve:  Stroll along the boardwalk through the marsh full of asters blooming in white, blue, and purple.
15.  Hickory Creek Preserve:  Watch for the first salmon making their fall run up the creek.
16.  Wau-Ke-Na:  Monarch butterflies have begun their migration south and are drawn to the meadows teeming with wildflowers.

17.  KL Avenue Nature Preserve:  As the leaves fall, the topography of this beautiful preserve is on full display. (Website page coming soon!)
18.  Hidden Marsh Sanctuary:  The Three Rivers Area Fall Color Tour on the second Sunday is a great excuse to visit this easy-walking preserve along the Portage River.
19.  Black River Preserve:  Bugs have called it quits and, with over 50 species of trees, something will be in color.
20.  Kesling Nature Preserve:  Maples are turning the Galien River crimson.

21.  Sora Meadows:  Newly restored wetlands should be starting to fill in with water again after a couple of generations of farm and fallow management.
22.  Spirit Springs Sanctuary:  Look for ducks and cranes gathering in the wetlands on their way south.

23.  Chipman Preserve:  Dust off your cross-country skis and snow shoes, and explore the rolling hills on the north end of the preserve.