Michigan Trail Tuesday: Black River Preserve, South Haven
Michigan Trail Tuesday is our attempt to showcase a different trail or trail segment each week. The Mitten State is home to thousands of miles of trails, including the new Iron Belle Trail that runs from Detroit in the southeast to Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula and more miles of the North Country Trail than any other state.
2023 has started off as a great year for us to visit new trails, and ever since the snow melted we’ve been out and about almost every chance we get. During a May trip we visited the Black River Preserve in South Haven, a Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy property that offers quiet and scenic trails through beech-maple forests and beside the Black River. This preserve is home to a wide variety of trees, flowers, plants, birds, and other wildlife. Just a short drive from South Haven, it is the perfect place to enjoy nature while getting some exercise.
There are close to four miles of trails within the preserve. Maps are posted regularly, and major intersections are signed well. During our visit we explored the Mainstem Trail, River Trail, Seasonal River Trail, Seasonal Oxbow Trail , Corral Trail, and the Confluence Spur Trail. The map shows these each as a different color and trail markers are placed along the route that match.
We started our trip with the River Trail, heading east from the parking lot. This route heads downhill then curves through some trees before a boardwalk takes you into a wetland. We chose this route because we were hoping to see birds and we could immediately hear finches in the marsh and we saw several other kinds of birds as well.
Continuing on the River Trail, you are parallel to the Black River so keep your eyes open for ducks, muskrats, snakes, turtles, and more. We stayed on this trail until it intersected the Corral Trail (green) then we headed west working our way to the Mainstem Trail.
Taking the Mainstem Trail south it is wide with some gravel pack, with a slight downhill. We crossed Garvey Gap then worked back uphill and into the woods. There is a set of wooden stairs leading down into a ravine and a small footbridge that crosses a seasonal creek. it was so quiet and scenic here!
We stayed on the Mainstem Trail and took its loop through the maple grove, where we could see efforts underway to replant the forest with some new young trees. We then used the Confluence Spur (red) to connect to the season Oxbow Trail (white and black).
The Oxbow Trail follows the river and offered some of the best wildlife viewing of our entire hike. We took it all the way back to the River Trail, where we retraced our steps to the parking lot. First time visitors will want to take the Mainstem Trail and stop at the Jane Sanford Memorial Trailhead, where signs tell what kind of wildlife and plants to look for, how the land came to be a preserve, and what the preserve guidelines are. If you’re looking for peace and quiet and somewhere with few other people around, check out the Black River Preserve in South Haven!