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Natural Features

Rivers          |          Wetlands          |          Arboretum          |          Oxbow


If you were to fly over Chippewa Nature Center, the most striking aspects of the land below would be the Pine and Chippewa Rivers. The Chippewa River runs the entire length (3.2 miles) of our property from west to east. The Center is dissected by the Pine River, which flows from the southwest to converge with the Chippewa River halfway into our property. The Oxbow (a pond that was the main channel of the Chippewa River prior to 1912) and man-made ponds dot the rest of the property. Because rivers are a major feature, many trails are located close to them to give you the opportunity to enjoy their plants, animals and scenic views.


CNC’s Wetland’s Area was created in 1991 as a result of mitigation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a development company that wanted to build a shopping mall on the north side of Midland. Three basins totaling 40 acres were excavated here and enhanced with soil and plants from the original site.

Today, this wetland ecosystem is home to a wide diversity of wildlife. Visitors may encounter animals such as beaver and muskrat, and see their lodges in the ponds. Resident and migrating birds such as pied-billed grebe, marsh wren, common yellowthroat, common tern and American bittern are also seen here regularly. Seasonal bird banding research has been conducted in the Wetlands Area woods more than 10 years. Fields between the ponds also feature one of our largest grassland areas, which is managed to encourage native plant species.


Howard L. Garrett Arboretum of Michigan Trees and Shrubs

If you are looking for an informative and interesting way of spending a few hours outside, why not visit CNC’s Howard L. Garrett Arboretum of Michigan Trees and Shrubs? The arboretum is a great way to see many of the trees and shrubs that are native to Michigan.

Trees are organized into two types of plantings in the arboretum: specimen trees and community trees. Specimen trees are arranged along the trails by plant family so you can compare and contrast the twigs, buds, leaves and flowers of various species, as well as compare growth forms and tree shapes. The arboretum also offers the chance to view small groups of trees planted in common tree community groups of Michigan.


The Oxbow is a rich wetland area, with regular sightings of wood ducks, green herons, great blue herons, great egrets, snapping turtles, muskrats and occasional river otters. Plant diversity is just as rich, with cattails, sedges, swamp milkweed, Joe-pye weed and one of the largest sycamore trees on the property. Until 1912, the Oxbow was part of the Chippewa River, but after heavy flooding the high water overran the normally winding path of the river and literally carved its way through the riverbank to create a new, relatively straight, river channel. This change in course left behind a U-shaped “oxbow” pond.