Kalamazoo Nature Center: A Walk Through One of America's First Nature Centers

Kalamazoo Nature Center is a 1,100-acre nature preserve located in Cooper Township just north of Kalamazoo, Michigan. The Kalamazoo Nature Center is open year-round from 9-5 Monday through Saturday and 1-5 on Sundays. Admission costs $7 for adults, $6 seniors, and $4 for children ages 4-17. 

  The Trout Run Stream on the Cooper's Overlook Trail. 

The Trout Run Stream on the Cooper's Overlook Trail. 

The nature reserve is built around Cooper's Glen, a beloved Kalamazoo County spot. Cooper's Glen has been frequented since before European settlers came to the area and was made famous by James Fenimore Cooper's in his novel The Oak Openings. The community came together to save the area from gravel mining in the late 1950s, purchasing the land and establishing an outdoor education center. This would later evolve into the Kalamazoo Nature Center, one of the first in the country, which I was surprised to learn. 

  Walking through old growth on the Beech-Maple Trail.

Walking through old growth on the Beech-Maple Trail.

When I visited the Kalamazoo Nature Center in June 2017, it was lush and verdant. I can imagine each season brings beautiful changes to the environment: orange and red foliage in the autumn, new growth and wildflowers in spring, and sparkly white snowdrifts in winter. If visiting in summer, remember to bring bug spray and an umbrella in case of surprise precipitation.

P1050331.jpg

We walked three trails on our visit: the Habitat Haven Trail, the Cooper's Overlook Trail, and the Beech-Maple Trail. These three trails combined made for a lovely and not overly taxing walk through the woods. The Habitat Haven Trail takes visitors past a pond and through a wetland while the Cooper's Overlook Trail follows a ridge overlooking the Trout Run Stream. We finished the walk on the Beech-Maple Trail, a trail that winds through the old growth beech maples and follows the Trout Run Stream to the Kalamazoo River. 

If you find yourself in southwestern Michigan, the Kalamazoo Nature Center is a great choice, especially for families and nature lovers.