Minnie Skwarek Nature Preserve

County: Ottawa Established: 2001 24 Acres
  • Hiking
  • Water Feature

At a Glance

  • Approximate Street Address: 15160 Leonard Road, Spring Lake, MI
  • Located near Spring Lake, Minnie Skwarek Nature Preserve protects biodiversity, improves water quality, and provides a destination for those nearby to connect with nature.
  • Trail length: 0.8 miles. (See Trail Map)
  • Before you visit, check out our preserve guidelines. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

Visitor Information

The trailhead is located near 15160 Leonard Road, across from Waterleaf Trail in Spring Lake Township. Parking is available along Leonard Road in front of the preserve sign. 

Minnie Skwarek Nature Preserve is a Category 2 LCWM nature preserve. Category 2 preserves may have limited parking or shorter trail systems. Trails are narrower and may feature areas with steeper grades or staircases. Most trails can be hiked in 30 minutes or less. There are no restrooms at this preserve.

Trail Information

A well-marked trail system on the preserve’s gentle hills leads hikers through towering hardwood forests and over a babbling stream. The preserve is particularly impressive in early spring, when bright carpets of skunk cabbage and marsh marigold cover the streamside wetlands. 

The trails at Minnie Skwarek are marked with blue blazes on the trees. The trail surface is natural with occasional boardwalks that sit above ground level. The 1.5-foot-wide trails have an average grade of 4.8%, maximum grade of 22.5%, and an average cross slope of less than 2%.

Conservation Value

In an area increasingly pressured by residential development, Minnie Skwarek Nature Preserve contains an important wetland complex that protects water quality in the Grand River. The mature hardwood swamp—which follows a small stream through the property—is particularly diverse and contains unique plants like Michigan lily, swamp saxifrage, and lizard’s tail. During spring and fall migrations, songbirds flock to the preserve, using the great diversity of vegetation for food and shelter. 


Minnie Skwarek Nature Preserve is situated on a flat, sandy lake plain formed by Glacial Lake Chicago. Prior to European settlement, the natural communities in the area were influenced by activities of Native Americans, who hunted, farmed, and burned the landscape and established villages and trails. Upland vegetation in the vicinity of the preserve was dominated by white pine-mixed hardwood forest. Frequently flooded areas along the Grand River were characterized by shrub swamp and emergent marsh vegetation. When the European settlers arrived, they ushered in an era of intensive land use. Settlers logged the area’s forests for timber. 

Ruth Skwarek lived on the property for most of her life after moving there as a child with her mother, Wilhelmina (Minnie), who wanted her family to escape city life in Chicago. Minnie named the property Die Kleine Farm, German for “The Little Farm,” even though the only farming they did was raising and selling mink so that Ruth could go to college. The money was well invested, and Ruth became a respected and much-loved teacher at Muskegon Community College. When her mother died, Ruth inherited the land and the farmhouse, living there until shortly before her death. 

Ruth loved the woods and wetlands of her property, and it was important to her that Die Kleine Farm would never be developed. The Land Conservancy worked with Ruth in her later years to ensure that the property was preserved through her will. As Ruth wished, the new preserve established by the Land Conservancy was named in honor of her mother, and it remains a place that inspires the connection with nature that both Minnie and Ruth Skwarek so deeply cherished. 

  • Hiking
  • Water Feature

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