Located in Newaygo County, near the city of Newaygo, Coolbough Natural Areas is owned by Brooks Township and jointly managed with The Nature Conservancy. The 400-acre site represents the oak-savanna and dry sand prairie communities that once existed throughout Michigan, but are now considered globally rare. The site also includes a ten-acre pond/wetland complex that contains native plants such as jewelweed, jack-in-the-pulpit, cinnamon fern, blue flag iris and marsh marigold.
Prairies and barrens (or savannas) are diverse and unique ecosystems, dominated by grasses, like big and little bluestem and Indian grass, and wildflowers, like wild lupine, prairie smoke, prickly pear cactus and hoary puccoon, rather than trees and shrubs. However, trees like white oak and white pine are commonly scattered through barrens, which serve as an important transition zone between prairies and forests. Together, prairies and barrens form an interconnected ecosystem that provides habitat for a diversity of plant and animal species. Because of their ecological importance and their role as examples of Newaygo’s natural heritage, efforts to protect and restore this uncommon ecosystem are underway.
The site features an extensive trail system with horseback riding permitted on designated trails. Bring your binoculars for spectacular views of wildlife. Take the self-guided tour.