Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area

The Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area (SHNA) is a 173-acre tract of magnificent duneland along the Lake Michigan shore north of Oval Beach. It was acquired by the City of Saugatuck in 2011 with the help of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan.  The property, accessible from the Oval Beach parking lot, is the site of the original mouth of the Kalamazoo River, which was bypassed by the construction of the present channel in 1906. Much of it is a peninsula bounded by Lake Michigan, the Kalamazoo River and the Oxbow Lagoon. The latter is the original channel of the Kalamazoo River.

 

The land demonstrates the unique geological and ecological features of Great Lakes dunes, including globally imperiled interdunal wetlands, Great Lakes shore and beach, Great Lakes marsh, and riparian shoreline and adjacent marshes.  These features, as well as the plants, birds and other animals inhabiting them, are described under Natural Communities (CLICK HERE). Some of these inhabitants are quite rare in Michigan (CLICK HERE). To protect these species, dogs are not allowed in the Natural Area.

The site also has historical significance as the site of the original mouth of the Kalamazoo. Old pilings from the original river opening still extend out into Lake Michigan. A fishing settlement known as Fishtown was located on the north side of what is now the Oxbow Lagoon. The site was abandoned when the original mouth drifted closed soon after the opening of the present channel. There was also a lighthouse where the old Kalamazoo channel entered Lake Michigan. The original structure was destroyed by a tornado. The replacement structure is a private home on private land.

Resources:

2014 Guided Tour Special Events 

2014 Guided Tour Brochure 

Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area Trail Map

Things to do at the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area

 
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