Friday, October 25, 2013

Peak Color in Kalamazoo?

This week looks like it will be close to the peak time for Fall colors in Kalamazoo, which is in line with Michigan's average fall color dates.  Some predicted a slightly longer Fall color season this year, although I'm not sure how this week's snow will affect that.

It should be a nice time for a drive through the countryside.  Pure Michigan recommends a Grand Rapids - Grand Haven - South Haven - Kalamazoo Color Tour and a New Buffalo - St. Joseph - Benton Harbor - Paw Paw Driving Tour. The West Michigan Tourist Association has a description of several recommended color tours in the region.

It should also be a great time for a walk in the woods, a ride on a bike trail, or-- if you dress warmly-- a paddle on a river or even a Fall camping trip.

The Michigan Nature Association posts on  Why do leaves change in the fall?
The US Forest Service has a page on the Science of Fall Colors.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Eliason Nature Reserve

Earlier this week, I visited the Kalamazoo area's newest park, the 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]