Huron County Nature Center Wilderness Arboretum
Located at the tip of the Thumb, less than a mile from the sandy beaches of Saginaw Bay, Huron Nature Center Wilderness Arboretum is a 280-acre oasis of woods and wetlands in an area of the state known mostly for sugar beets and navy beans.
A portion of the land has been owned by the county since 1941 and always jealously guarded by the local chapter of the Federation of Women's Clubs. During a half century of stewardship, the Federation called the original 120 acres a "Wilderness Arboretum" and vigorously opposed all proposals and attempts to develop the area.
Strip malls, trailer parks and navy beans be dammed. The tract was too rare to let farmers plow it or developers attack it with bulldozers.
In 1990, the Huron County Board of Commissioners enlarge the preserve to its present acreage, renamed it and developed a master plan for it. Since then a two-mile trail system has been built, benches and an interpretive building added, bridges and boardwalks extended through the wetlands and a parking area developed off of Loosemore Road.
The Nature Center's unique terrain of sand dunes and shallow swales is a result of Lake Huron and the other Great Lakes receding from historically high levels more than 12,000 years ago. The wooded ridges are dry with poor sandy soil; many of the swales are wet and it's this wide variety of moisture levels that allows for such a diversity of plants and animals in a relatively small tract.
In this rare dune-and-swale ecosystem you'll hike through open canopy of red oak, jack pine and aspen then descend into a moist forest and encounter five species of ferns, flowering dogwood, trailing arbutus, trillium and lady slippers orchids. The rare lady's slippers are so abundant here that the nature center hosts a Lady's Slipper Festival on Memorial Weekend, calling the event an “Art In Nature Art and Craft Fair.”
Wildlife ranges from hawks, great-crested flycatchers and rose-breasted grosbeaks to deer, red-tail foxes and other small mammals. Birders are attracted to the preserve for its spring warbler migration.
The nature center’s trail system totals less than 2 miles but snakes atop dry, gently rolling dune ridges and down into the shallow wet swales. You keep your feet dry as the trails are lined with boardwalks, benches, bridges and viewing decks while one short loop is a paved handicapped accessible trail. Fall colors are impressive in the park but May is by far the best time to hike the trails to enjoy the abundance of wildflowers and orchids.
|Difficulty - Easy|