Coolbough Natural Areas

The West Pond in early October.

About the Coolbough Natural Areas

What to look for on the Coolbough Natural Areas

Rules to follow when visiting the property

Trail map and directions to the CNA

More pictures from the CNA

Take a Virtual Tour of the CNA - from the October 6, 2001 Dedication

About the Coolbough Natural Areas

Brooks Township is excited to announce that our township residents now own 400 acres of undeveloped and environmentally significant land in the north central portion of the township. Brooks Township obtained 75% of the acquisition cost from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund. The remaining share was donated by The Nature Conservancy; a portion of which was the adjoining 80 acre Ore-Ida Prairie Preserve.

The property will provide recreational and educational opportunities for area residents, and at the same time enhance tourism while protecting environmentally sensitive areas. Future plans call for hiking paths (including a route for the multi-state North Country Trail), interpretive nature trails, support for local school environmental curriculums and other low-impact public uses.

The property will be permanently preserved and open for public use. Significant natural features, including habitat for rare and endangered species, will be managed with the assistance of The Nature Conservancy and other environmental partners. Management priorities call for the restoration of the prairie and barrens remnants found on the Coolbough Natural Areas. Several of the prairies are threatened by invasive, non-native plants including spotted knapweed. The Nature Conservancy will be working with local volunteers to hand-pull invasive plants to reduce their impact on our native prairie plants. Also, some of the prairie remnants are missing some of the native wildflowers that would normally be there. This is probably due to farming or grazing which occurred when the land was originally settled in the 1800s. Volunteers will be working with the Conservancy to collect wildflower seeds in an experimental effort to restore these plants to the prairies. To volunteer for pulling invasive plants or collecting wildflower seeds, contact The Nature Conservancy’s Grand Rapids office at (616) 776-0230.

The property provides recreational and educational opportunities for area residents and visitors while protecting environmentally sensitive areas. Hiking paths (including connector trails to the multi-state North Country Trail), interpretive nature trails, fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, and horseback riding are some of the activities visitors can enjoy on the Coolbough Natural Areas.

In addition to the recreational opportunities on the Coolbough Natural Areas, significant natural features - including habitat for rare and endangered species - will be permanently preserved. Brooks Township has established a management agreement with The Nature Conservancy and other environmental partners, who will oversee the restoration of the prairie and barrens remnants and other ecological management activities. Volunteers are frequently needed to help with the management activities on the CNA, activities such as invasive weed removal, wildflower seed collection, prairie restoration monitoring, or trail maintenance. Often, upcoming volunteer work days are listed in the News and Events section of this website. You can also contact The Nature Conservancy’s West Michigan Program Office at (616) 776-0230 to get more information or to sign up for a volunteer work day.

What to look for on the Coolbough Natural Areas

The diversity of habitats is one of the features of the Coolbough Natural Areas that makes any visit an exciting trip. Visitors have the chance to explore ponds and wetlands, hike through white pine and white oak forest, search for butterflies and wildflowers on prairie and barrens renmants, and listen to the bubbling waters of Bigelow and Coolbough Creeks.

Look for some of these plant and animal species during your visit to the Coolbough Natural Areas.

Some of the animal species...

Above: Karner blue butterflies mating on the leaves of a wild lupine.

Picture by Gale Nobes

Some of the plant species…

· Prairie smoke
· Wild lupine
· Sand coreopsis
· Blazing stars
· Black-eyed susan
· Prickly pear cactus
· Big and little bluestem grasses
· Various species of sedges and ferns

Above: Wild lupine in full bloom

Rules to follow when visiting the property

Protecting native species and ecosystems is one of the management goals for the Coolbough Natural Areas. The following rules are designed to protect natural features while allowing for an enjoyable and natural visit to the property. Please observe these rules when visiting the Coolbough Natural Areas.

The Coolbough Natural Areas is open for the following activities:

1 - Hunting and fishing (in compliance with all applicable state rules and regulations)
2 - Hiking and wildlife watching
3 - Horseback riding (only on the designated horse trail on the east side of Coolbough Creek
4 - Educational activities (schools are invited to contact Brooks Township about the educational opportunities on the CNA)

These activities are not allowed on the Coolbough Natural Areas:

1 - Motor vehicles of any kind
2 - Biking
3 - Camping
4 - Littering
5 - Collection of plant or animal species
6 - Permanent blinds or tree stands

Contact Brooks Township at 231-652-6763 for more information on allowable uses on the Coolbough Natural Areas.

Trail map and directions to the CNA

How to get to the Coolbough Natural Areas

From Newaygo, take M-37 to Croton Drive (at the intersection immediately north of the Muskegon River). Turn east on Croton and go 3.7 miles to Barberry Avenue. Turn north and go one mile; Barberry will end at 58th Street. Turn east (right) on 58th, which will curve to the north to become Hazelwood. The parking lot is on the corner of 58th and Hazelwood.

Where to go once you get to the CNA

The blue trail on the east side of the property is open for hiking and horseback riding. This trail offers views of the East Pond, West Pond and adjoining cattail marshes, as well as some of the prairie and old homestead remnants on the far east side of the CNA. This trail also goes through white pine forest along the north side of the ponds and wetland, and through a mixed forest type on the south side of the wetland.

Hikers can divert from the blue "Wetland Trail" to hike the longer "Prairie Trail" - the red trail system that crosses over Coolbough Creek to the west side of the preserve. The red trail system is open to hikers only.

The "Prairie Trail" crosses Coolbough Creek in two locations. Hikers should note that the trails are steep in spots, and the bridges over the creek are narrow foot bridges.

Approximate Round Trip Trail Distances (starting from the parking lot)

The Wetland Loop - 1.75 miles

The Wetland Loop and the Inner Prairie Loop - 2.4 miles

The Wetland Loop and the Outer Prairie Loop - 3.2 miles

Those looking for a longer hike may take the Connector Trail which heads north a quarter mile from the Prairie Trail

to join with the North Country Trail through the Manistee National Forest.


More pictures from the Coolbough Natural Areas

Looking through the white pine forest on the north side of the Wetland Trail.

An autumn view of the mixed forest and wetland from the southeast segment of the Wetland Trail.

Morning sunlight reflects off the snow south of the West Pond on the Wetland Trail.

Prairie smoke in bloom on the Ronald O. Kapp Memorial Prairie on the west side of the Coolbough Natural Areas.



[Land Use Vision ] [ Volunteer Activities ] [Coolbough Nautral Areas ]
[
Environmental Library ] [ Educational Resources ] [Conservation Links]
[
Contact Us ] [Brooks Main Page ]