Michigan Trail Tuesday: Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve, Van Buren County

Michigan Trail Tuesday: Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve, Van Buren County

Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve Cabin Reflection TNC Covert Michigan

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.

As part of April day trip explorations in southwest Michigan we visited the beautiful Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve near Covert. This property has more than five miles of trails and is cared for by The Nature Conservancy. It is home to some rare habitats and promised to be a great spot for spring birdwatching. Today we will take a look at our experience with the trails here, what we saw, and how you can visit this preserve.

Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve Trailhead Sign

There is a large informational sign at the trailhead that has maps, photos of the plants and animals you could possibly see here, information about The Nature Conservancy, and more about why it is significant: “This preserve features many different habitats, including coastal plain marshes, wet meadows, sand dunes, wooded inland dunes, wetlands, small lakes and northern hardwood forests. Coastal plain marshes are rare in the Great Lakes region; they are typically only found only along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Out of the 42 identified coastal plain marshes in Michigan, this preserve boasts three of the highest quality.”

Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve Trail Covert

The main trail starts at the parking lot and quickly enters a wooded but open area. Forest restoration is ongoing here as The Nature Conservancy works to make sure that the red pine that were planted here do not keep naturally occurring plants from surviving and thriving. The trail crosses over Rogers Creek and continues on for a little less than a mile before the first major trail intersection.

The west loop begins off to the left while the main trail continues on into the woods. We chose to stay on the main trail and see what we could find. There were many birds through this part of the trail and a lot of evidence that many woodpeckers call this preserve home. A short distance later the east loop heads off to the right; we once again chose to stay on the main trail. There are signs posted at all major intersections and to this point the trail was wide and mostly flat.

Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve Cabin Remain Southwest Michigan

Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve Michigan Cabin Lake View

Around a mile and a half in we reached a lake and the remains of a cabin. Signs nearby note that this was the Ross family cabin and it’s easy to imagine what a beautiful property this was. The family donated this land to The Nature Conservancy in 1988 and we love that it is now available for all to enjoy. We took some time to look at what remained of the cabin and watched some ducks and geese out on the water.

Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve Woodpecker Activity

The main trail follows along the west shore of the lake and narrows a bit as it heads to the next intersection. There are a few more signs of this property’s former uses, as fence remnants and stone foundations dot the landscape. When we reached a T intersection we decided to head west and take the west loop back down. The main trail heads east and the north from this point to a parking area at the north end of the preserve.

Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve Wetlands Nature Conservancy

The west loop had some more challenging terrain as it climbs up into the woods before heading back down. You will be able to hear traffic on I-196 but it is not enough to drown out the sound of the birds and animals in the preserve. This loop took us past some wetlands and small ponds before it reconnected with the main trail.

Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve Trail Markers Nature Conservancy

In the hour and a half we were at the preserve we covered three and a half miles of trail and saw only a few other people out on the trails. The Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve is a great place for a quiet nature hike and one worth exploring!