Michigan Wildlife Watching: Birds are Everywhere at Asylum Lake Preserve in Kalamazoo
One of our 2023 Michigan travel goals is to spend more time looking for wildlife, especially birds. Our state has some amazing parks and trails for birdwatching, including the Asylum Lake Preserve in Kalamazoo. We recently had a chance to visit this beautiful preserve and had the chance to see many different birds while hiking the trails. This peaceful preserve has lots of space for visitors to spread out and enjoy a variety of activities on the trails. You’ll find more than just birds here for wildlife so keep your eyes peeled as you travel through the woods and around the lake. There is also a wide variety of plants here and a landscape that offers changing scenic views that offer a different kind of beauty in each season.
Asylum Lake Preserve is located on the site of the former Michigan Asylum for the Insane. “The Asylum built a number of cottages to house patients, and turned to therapeutic farm labor as a new way of treating and providing for their patients. This opportunity allowed for more spacious living conditions, a sense of purpose, as well as a fruitful harvest for the patients and staff. The Michigan Asylum for the Insane had a total of seven cottages at Colony Farms, five of which existed on what is now the Preserve.” Not much remains of any of these buildings today, those we did notice some remnants by the shore of the lake. The land was acquired by Western Michigan University in 1975 and since 2004 it has been open for passive recreation while also serving as a site for research and education. WMU owns the property and it is managed by the Asylum Lake Preservation Association (ALPA). You can find out more and view the story map on the WMU website.
Birds we saw during our visit included red-winged blackbirds, orioles, finches, swans, geese, ducks, a heron, woodpeckers, wrens, robins, and blue jays. The highlight for us was seeing a pair of young Great Horned Owls in a tree! We also saw whitetail deer, many squirrels and chipmunks, and a few turtles, snakes and frogs. With all of the evidence of recent beaver activity in and around Asylum Lake we were a bit surprised to not see one, but that gives us something to look for on our next visit! Check out this gallery of all the birds and other animals we saw during our visit:
There are parking areas for the Asylum Lake Preserve on both Drake Rd. (south of Stadium Dr.) and Parkview Ave. (east of Drake Rd.). We parked at the Drake Rd. parking area and hiked in on the green trail before joining the blue trail and following it along the south shore of the lake. Trails are obvious but not well marked and there is no signage at intersections within the preserve, so this became a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure for us. You can see a trail map on the ALPA website and even print it off to bring with you.