The Nature Conservancy hosting immersive hiking experience at Paw Paw Prairie Fen Preserve

Fall field trip on Oct. 22 will guide hikers around a unique prairie fen in southwest Michigan

A path through tall grasses at the Paw Paw Prairie Fen Preserve in Mattawan, Michigan on an autumn day.
Paw Paw Prairie Fen The temperate climate, fertile soil and nearby river create idyllic conditions not only for vineyards, but also for land rich in biodiversity. © Jason Whalen/Big Foot Media

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On Saturday, Oct. 22, The Nature Conservancy in Michigan (TNC) will host a guided hike at its Paw Paw Prairie Fen Preserve, immersing visitors in southwest Michigan’s fall foliage at a rare prairie fen. The preserve is located off Van Kal Ave. in Mattawan. The event, which is free and includes cider and donuts, runs from 10 a.m. to noon. Registration is required and can be done online prior to the event.

“The Paw Paw Prairie Fen Preserve is a unique landscape that supports an array of prairie and wetland plants,” said Shaun Howard, project manager, preserve infrastructure and outreach at The Nature Conservancy in Michigan. “Our guided hike will show off this diverse preserve and the plants, wildlife and raptors that depend on it to survive on a backdrop of beautiful foliage and crisp fall air. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning.”

The 1.5-mile hike is on wide, flat and well-packed terrain. Those attending should bring a water bottle, wear waterproof boots and plan on layering since it may be chilly in the morning but get warmer as the day progresses. It’s best to check the weather before heading to the preserve, just to be safe.

According to BirdCast, Van Buren County is at its peak for migrating songbirds heading south for the winter, making this weekend a perfect time to catch a glimpse of the hundreds of different bird species that have stopped off at the preserve to rest before continuing their journey. Birdwatchers, either novice or professional, should bring binoculars to improve their chances of spotting some of our feathered friends.

“The Paw Paw Prairie Fen Preserve is a birdwatchers paradise this time of year and the relatively easy terrain makes the hike suitable for all ages and skill levels,” Howard said. “Plus, the weather Saturday looks perfect for getting out and enjoying nature.”

TNC acquired the preserve in 2004 to protect the rare wetland communities at the site. The fen was destined to become a housing development before TNC stepped in. The 106-acre preserve is now home to songbirds, sandhill cranes and eastern box turtles.

You can learn about this and other fall events at

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.