Environment Picture

Dowagiac Woods: The crown jewel of the Michigan Nature Association sparkles

Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary in Southwest Michigan is a living example of how forests were when the early settlers beheld them—and with the recent addition of 149 acres, it’s growing!

Plants flourish at Dowagiac Woods in countless numbers, with more than 50 species of wildflowers that bloom in the spring—considered by many to be the greatest wildflower display in Michigan. Nearly 50 kinds of trees have been found, numerous birds nest here, and the woods is a haven for nine plants and animals classified as in danger of becoming extinct in Michigan. It is a spectacular natural area where lushness and diversity reign. Because the majority of the property has never been plowed or clear-cut, there is incredible species diversity.

The sanctuary is protected and maintained by the Michigan Nature Association (MNA, an MEC member group), and it is considered the “jewel in the crown” of MNA’s sanctuaries.

The woods were virtually unknown even to people living nearby. However, Isaac “Ike” Hunter, a local farmer and naturalist, knew Dowagiac Woods well. He was also a member of MNA, and when the property came up for sale, he notified MNA. On January 3, 1983, MNA purchased the property.

Dowagiac Woods was originally 220 acres. An additional 15 acres were acquired in 1995. MNA recently purchased a 149-acre addition, and the transaction was formally completed in February 2009. Now, at 384 acres, Dowagiac Woods is MNA’s largest sanctuary in the Lower Peninsula.

Dowagiac Woods is a floodplain forest and affords a wide range of benefits to both human and natural systems. The sanctuary provides natural flood control, is vital to the water quality of the area, and offers habitat to a diverse population of plants and animals. In addition, the expanded sanctuary will accommodate more visitors and ensure the quality of life of area residents remains high by offering them a unique nature encounter.

MNA will also use the addition acquisition as an opportunity to revitalize the sanctuary—building new trails in the addition and repairing the existing trail system; creating new sanctuary signage; conducting more stewardship activities to remove invasive species; and planting trees in some areas of the addition.

Dowagiac Woods has been described as an outdoor museum crammed full of living things. MNA invites visitors to visit this spectacular place!

For more information about Dowagiac Woods, visit the MNA web site at www.michigannature.org.
-Michigan Nature Association
RELATED TOPICS: conservation, MEC Member Groups
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