Eliason Nature Reserve in Portage, just west of Bishop's Bog Preserve. The property was donated by the Eliason family, to protect the natural area. The park opened to the public this summer.
The main attraction in the reserve is a walking trail that runs from one end of the preserve to the other; it's just over a mile long (making the round trip about two and half miles, in all). Since the Reserve protects a bog, I expected a wet walk but the trail runs on an elevated ridge through an Oak Hickory forest. In places, it crosses open grassy areas (perhaps an Oak barrens) with some nice patches of Little Bluestem grass. The trail's loop at the southern end of the preserve was dominated by maples, suggesting moister soils.
The range of habitats seemed to support a fair amount of wildlife. I saw three deer on my short visit, along with a number of squirrels, Robins, and Blue Jays. From certain sections of the trail, cars on Shaver Road are visible as well as the railroad tracks. An old silo on the preserve signals its agricultural heritage.
Long-term plans for the Reserve include extending the Portage Bikeway through the park (bikes are currently prohibited) and developing more trails and recreation areas. It's already a nice place for a short walk, particularly in autumn as the hickorys turn golden and the sumacs crimson.
Access: while there's a large sign for the Reserve on Shaver Road, which is the
park's official address, access to the park is from Portage Industrial
Drive. This little street, fully developed with light industry and
office buildings, isn't the typical setting for a nature preserve but a
small sign near the end of the cul-de-sac marks the entrance to the
trail. A paved path winds between the buildings and past a cell phone
tower to reach the forest.
You could also reach the Reserve by parking at Portage's South Westnedge Park/Bishops Bog and going west on the bike trail.
Eliason Nature Reserve
9202 Portage Industrial Drive
Portage, MI 49024
[address is approximate]
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