Places We Protect

Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve

Michigan

An orange and black butterfly sits on yellow wildflowers.
Fritillary Butterfly at Ross Preserve Fritillary butterfly enjoying wildflowers at Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve. © Jason Whalen/Big Foot Media

Notice: This preserve is temporarily closed to visitors while we complete major habitat restoration work.

Overview

Description

Enhance Your Visit

Take an audio tour of Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve.

Why Is This Preserve Significant?

The Ross Preserve features many different habitat types, including coastal plain marshes, wet meadows, sand dunes, wooded inland dunes, wetlands, small lakes and northern hardwood forests.

Coastal plain marshes are rare in the Great Lakes region; they are typically found only along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Out of all 42 coastal plain marshes in Michigan, this preserve boasts three of the highest quality.

Much of this preserve once served as a vacation spot for the Ross family. You can still see vestiges of their time spent here, including the foundation of their vacation house, overlooking one of many small lakes on the preserve.

What Can I See Here?

As you explore more than five miles of trails, you are likely to encounter reptiles and amphibians around the coastal plain marshes and small ponds on the preserve. Keep an eye out for mammals such as red fox and coyote.

While hiking through this preserve, you may see one of the 100 bird species known to nest in the shrubs and trees here throughout the year, with spring and fall migrations bringing songbirds, warblers and waterfowl to the preserve.

Take a moment to see how many tree species you can identify on the preserve. This preserve features eastern hemlock, sugar maple, sassafras and black cherry to name a few.

Access

CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC

Temporarily closed for restoration work.

Highlights

At 1,448 acres, Ross Preserve is a wonderfully diverse landscape of forested back-dunes, wetlands, ponds and rare coastal plain marshes. Perfect for hiking, birdwatching and cross-country skiing.

Size

1,448 acres

Explore our work in Michigan

Preserve Closed for Habitat Restoration 

Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve is temporarily closed as we remove 43 acres of red pine plantation. While red pine is a native species in Michigan, the plantation-type stands at Ross Preserve do not provide beneficial habitat for local wildlife and native plants. The trees are planted close together and their large size blocks out any understory growth of native species, creating a monoculture environment and a risk for blow-downs of large trees. We are preparing to plant 2,300 trees in this area next spring, helping replace the harvested areas with a forest of diverse tree types. While the understory is growing back with native species, the areas that were harvested will look different. New forests take decades to develop, but the end result will be a more diverse, climate-resilient and disease-resistant forest that provides better habitat for plant and wildlife species that we all enjoy.

Enhance Your Visit

Take an audio tour of Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve. Listen to the waves along Lake Michigan shoreline, spot migratory birds, and admire emerging wildflowers as you hike along to a guided GPS-based audio tour. With historical notes, fun facts, and wildlife wonders, you’ll be sure to learn something new. Download it now to your device from the App Store (iPhone) or Google Play (Android).

What To Do and See

Download a trail map.

Spring and fall are the two best seasons to visit this preserve, as you'll likely be able to spot migratory birds and wildflowers. Many species can be observed in the mix of habitats found at Ross. Be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen as well as sturdy walking shoes or boots, and bug repellent. Expect rugged, narrow and uneven terrain on natural pathways.

Special note: The Nature Conservancy allows hunting for white-tail deer on this preserve to reduce threats too many deer pose to our conservation targets. All hunters are required to receive a permit from TNC as well as a Michigan deer hunting license. Additionally, hunters must report any deer taken from the preserve.

PERMITTED ACTIVITIES:

  • Foot access for hiking, snowshoeing, bird watching, etc.
  • Educational studies, photography, journaling 
  • Geocaching (see list of TNC-approved geocache sites and rules) 
  • Hunting (with TNC-issued permit and Michigan hunting license) 

PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES:

  • No motorized and non-motorized vehicles, including bicycles
  • No pets
  • No building of new trails
  • No removal of trees, plants or animals (alive or dead)
  • No removal of rocks, water or other non-organic materials
  • No camping, bonfires, fireworks, or other fires
  • No littering

A Great Way to Explore

Enhance your next visit to the Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve with a guided audio tour!

Spotlight on Nature: Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve