Looking for a Great Place to Walk? Try Your Local Nature Center

A walkway at Sarett Nature Center.

When was the last time you visited a nature center? I hope your answer isn’t the same as some of my friends and relatives who have recently informed me that they haven’t been to a nature center in years. They claim that they simply forget about them, but are quick to clarify that the memories of visiting a nature center when they were in grade school are great. That’s not uncommon, especially if you aren’t reminded daily of these amazing places to hike and explore. So that’s why I am taking the time to remind you today.

Off the Beaten Path

During the last few weeks, we’ve been making sure to visit our local nature center quite frequently and it has been a blast! I love getting out there to enjoy nature and take the opportunity to walk somewhere new. My neighborhood is a great place to walk, but after 11 years of the same routes, I have found that walking in different areas in my community is a great change of pace. The wildlife and the foliage is different, too, and provides the perfect opportunity to snap a few photos.

Oh yes, you must know that I have that camera with me whenever we take a hike in the woods or take an indoor tour of the facility at my favorite nature center, Sarett Nature Center in Benton Harbor. There are numerous critters such as salamanders, snakes, turtles, owls, rabbits, toads and frogs to view indoors along with an actual beehive behind glass that is truly remarkable.

Because the nature center is next to the Paw Paw River, it provides excellent habitat for waterfowl. It’s common that during spring and fall migrations you can spot northern pintails, northern shovelers, blue and green-winged teals, tundra swans, great blue herons, and the occasional sandhill crane (my favorite!). And you may also see a raptor, or bird of prey, like an American kestrel, northern harrier, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, great horned owl, barred owl, and long-eared owl. There are also many species of thrushes and warblers seen during the year.

I love the five miles of trails that twist and turn through Sarett’s 800 acres which includes boardwalks, observation platforms, and walkways. Boardwalks and observation platforms in the flood plain give you an up-close look at wetland wildlife and habitats — the best part is that you can see it all without even getting your feet wet! It was a good thing that I wore my dirty walking shoes, though, as once we hit the trail that ended at the Paw Paw River, I knew I would be venturing in the mud to get a good photo or two.


Not only did I get those photos, but I put in over 2.5 miles of walking! But one of the best things about this last visit was that I noticed kids of all ages enjoying nature and getting some exercise without electronic gadgets in their hands. How many places can you go to see that? Not many.

My area of Michigan provides numerous places such as Sarett to walk and enjoy the outdoors, but you also have several choices in your area of Michigan also. A compilation of Michigan nature centers, conservancies, land trusts, botanical gardens, and Audubon Societies can be found here. Just click on your “neck of the woods” to find the best spot for you!

Where do you like to walk to take in nature?

Photo by stormyred_28

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Read 4 Comments

  1. I was not familiar with this nature center in Benton Harbor, I’ll check it out sometime. In my area I recommend the nature preserve on UM-Dearborn campus (Henry Ford Estate, which is adjacent to Hines Park. Hines Park then stretches along the Rouge River throughout much of Wayne County, from Dearborn all the way to Northville. And an hour away in Ontario there is Point Pelee (for starters).

  2. Hello Joe ~ Thank you for informing me of the nature preserve on UM-Dearborn campus! My son will be moving to that area this fall … what a great place for us to visit while he is attending college away from home.

    Please let me know if you visit Sarett as I feel you will truly LOVE it there! Make sure to take the camera with as there are great photo opportunities & the beaches of Lake Michigan are only 10 minutes away for the nature center … other great places to visit.

    Enjoy those trails ~ Jodi

  3. I have walked over 3400 miles in Susan G Komen 3-Day for the Cure walks – I recommend them to all walkers, as the training and the actual walk allows you to meet many other walkers as well. I walk in my own area, as it is very like a park, but for long training walks I like Kensington or Stoney Creek.

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