Where We Work

SWMLC works in the nine counties of southwest Michigan:  Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Van Buren. We have conserved almost 14,000 acres across our service area through 85 conservation easements, 49 preserves, and 4 assists.

Southwest Michigan is a dynamic mosaic of human and natural communities. Cities and villages are interspersed across a rural landscape of farms, orchards, and vineyards.  The geography and local climate of our region shaped where our cities and farms are found today.  Urban centers found along the rivers flowing to Lake Michigan harken back to when the most efficient means to travel Michigan’s wilderness was by boat rather than car.  The fruit belt parallels the Lake Michigan shoreline, as the moderated climate provides the conditions for growing the greatest variety of fruits and vegetables in the Midwest.

Embedded within this landscape is the confluence of northern, southern, eastern, and western natural regions which are made unique by the influences of Lake Michigan.  We are where southern floodplain forests of sycamores and redbuds meet northern bogs of cedar and spruce.  Our homeland is where the Midwest prairie transitions to the forests of beech and sugar maple.  Our countryside was carved by winding rivers springing from the fens at the base of oak-covered hills.  Our shoreline features some of our world’s largest freshwater dunes.

It is this combination of beautiful natural areas, rich rural lands, and vibrant cities that makes southwest Michigan a wonderful place to live, work, and play.  Our region provides a quality of life that has become increasingly rare and is worthy of protection. 



Spirit Springs Sanctuary, Cass County

Preserves with Parking and Trails

All preserves are open dawn to dusk, 365 days a year.

1. Wau-Ke-Na, William Erby Smith Preserve
365 acres in Ganges Township, Allegan County
South Tract has 3 miles of mowed walking trails through forest and grassland.  North Tract has 1/3 mile of mowed walking trails through forest to Lake Michigan.

2. Hidden Pond Preserve
67 acres in Hope Township, Barry County
1/2 mile of easy-to-moderate trails through grassland and forest edges, over a stream to a hilltop pond.  Surrounded by the Barry State Game Area.

3. Carter Lake Preserve
57 acres in Hastings Township, Barry County
1 1/2 miles of moderate-to-difficult trails through wetland and forest.  Trail begins with a steep stairway down into wetlands.  Use caution during high water events.

4. Gertrude McPharlin Bauer Nature Sanctuary
20 acres in Castleton Township, Barry County
1/2 mile of easy-to-difficult trails through forest to overlook of river valley.  A difficult and steep foot path leads down into the floodplain below.

5. Black River Preserve
121 acres in Geneva Township, Van Buren County
1 2/3 miles of currently unimproved trails through forest and wetland.  Trails range from easy to difficult with some steep paths.  Parking is currently limited by pulling into a gravel driveway in front of the gate.

6. Winterberry Woods
15 acres in Covert Township, Van Buren County
500 feet of easy unimproved trail through forest to pond.  Parking is limited to pulling into a gravel driveway in front of the gate.

7. Jeptha Lake Fen
49 acres in Columbia Township, Van Buren County
1 mile of easy mowed trails and boardwalk through grassland, forest edge, and wetlands to lake.

8. Bow in the Clouds Preserve
60 acres in the City of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County
1 mile of easy-to-moderate trails and boardwalk through forest and wetlands.  Trails begin with a steep path down through the forest to the floodplain.

9. Marc’s Marsh
11 acres in Comstock Township, Kalamazoo County
300 feet of easy gravel path to an overlook platform.  Provides views of sedge meadows and the south shore of Lyons Lake.

10. Chipman Preserve
228 acres in Comstock Township, Kalamazoo County
6 miles of mowed easy-to-moderate trails through rolling savanna, forest, and grassland habitat.  Popular for cross-country skiing in winter.

11. Hickory Creek Preserve
32 acres in St. Joseph Charter Township, Berrien County
2/3 mile of easy trail along old railroad bed with moderate side trails into forest.  Main trail is part of a 5.5 mile trail linking township parks along Hickory Creek and St. Joseph River to Lake Michigan.

12. Spirit Springs Sanctuary
124 acres in Marcellus Township, Cass County
2 1/4 miles of mowed easy-to-moderate trails through forest with views of ponds and wetlands. (Pictured in photo above.)

13. Coon Hollow Preserve
9 acres in Fabius Township, St. Joseph County
300 feet of easy-to-moderate trail down a hill along the edge of a scenic wetland. 

14. Hidden Marsh Sanctuary
38 acres in City of Three Rivers, St. Joseph County
2/3 mile of easy trails through forest along the banks of the Portage River and Hoffman Pond.

15. Kesling Nature Preserve
55 acres in Three Oaks Township, Berrien County
1 1/4 miles of easy trails through forest along the banks of the south branch of the Galien River to steep ravine overlooks.  Popular for bird watching.

16. Topinabee Lake Preserve
71 acres in Bertrand Township, Berrien County
50 feet of easy mowed path leads to a viewing platform overlooking a shallow lake.  Park along the shoulder of the dirt road.  Popular for bird watching.