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.
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.