Upriver Nature Preserve

County: Newaygo Established: 2022 146 acres
  • An autumn view of the Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette River, a wide river with a dead tree laying across it.
  • The hilly forest on the Upriver Nature Preserve.
  • An intricately detailed puffball mushroom next to an oakleaf.
  • Autumn view of the Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette River
Features
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Scenic Vista
  • Sensitive Habitat
  • Water Feature
  • Wildlife Viewing
Amenities
  • Leashed Pets Allowed
  • Parking

At a Glance

  • Approximate Street Address: 13113 N. Walnut Avenue, Bitely, MI 49309
  • The Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette River winds through scenic Upriver Nature Preserve.
  • Trail length: 2.2 miles (See Trail Map)
  • Before you visit, check out our preserve guidelines. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

Visitor Information

Look for the preserve sign on the west side of Walnut Avenue. Keep left at the fork in the driveway to access the parking area.

Upriver Nature Preserve is a Category 1 LCWM nature preserve. Category 1 preserves have designated parking and well-marked trail systems. Most feature interpretive signs, overlooks, or other points of interest, and see fairly high levels of public use. If you’re new to exploring nature, this is a great place to start.

Trail Information

Upriver Nature Preserve features two trail loops totaling 2.2 miles that lead visitors through a beautiful forest and along the coursing Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette River. The trails are natural surface and 1.5-foot wide. The average grade is 3%, the maximum grade is 12%, and the average cross slope is less than 2%.

The trailhead connects to the southern Blue Loop, which winds through scenic forested hills. The steepest hills are located in this 1.2-mile loop. Views of the Little South Branch can be seen in the northeastern quadrant of this loop.

Rustic bridge crossing creek at Upriver Nature Preserve

The blue loop connects to the northern Red Loop, which features more scenic views of the Little South Branch and creeks. The 1-mile loop includes some modest hills. In the northeastern corner, there is a rustic bridge crossing a small creek (see photo).

Conservation Value

Upriver Nature Preserve protects 5,321 feet of frontage on the Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette River, and it is the first Land Conservancy-owned property to allow public access to the famed river. The landscape is located along an important habitat corridor and hosts a variety of wildlife. Black bears, bobcats, and foxes roam the forest. Brook trout swim in the clear waters of the Little South Branch. Bald eagles, osprey, and several species of migratory songbirds soar in the overstory. In the open fields, grassland species such as kingbirds and swallows snack on insects. Beavers, muskrats, otters, mink, and ermine meander the river shoreline. The property also includes a rare sand prairie. With restoration efforts led by Land Conservancy staff and volunteers, the preserve could provide much-needed habitat for the endangered Karner blue butterfly and several native species of plants, insects and birds that depend on these disappearing ecosystems.

History

According to General Land Office surveys conducted circa 1800, Upriver Nature Preserve historically sat at an intersection of black oak barren, white pine-white oak forest, and mixed oak savanna habitats. Despite being clearcut in the late 1800s, evidence of these environments lingers: white oak, black oak, and pockets of savanna vegetation still grow throughout the landscape. There is a remnant sand prairie on the property, and it is likely that this area was once farmed or grazed. The property has been under private ownership for decades. In 2007, the landowners worked with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan to permanently protect the property’s unique natural features with a conservation easement. In 2022, the same family decided to donate the property to the Land Conservancy so it would be cared for and open to public exploration, and the land became Upriver Nature Preserve.

Features
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Scenic Vista
  • Sensitive Habitat
  • Water Feature
  • Wildlife Viewing
Amenities
  • Leashed Pets Allowed
  • Parking

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