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Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve

Open to the Public


Things To Do

This land is open for foot access and activities such as hiking, birdwatching and cross-country skiing. View All

Plan Your Visit

Van Buren County in the Lower Peninsula View All

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Why is this preserve significant?

An expansive 1,448 acres, 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 the 42 identified 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?

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.

More than 100 bird species are known to nest in the shrubs and trees here throughout the year, with spring and fall migrations bringing songbirds, warblers and waterfowl such as rose-breasted grosbeaks, American coots, mallards and common yellowthroat warblers.

The preserve also features a diverse array of plants including wet meadow species such as tall Coreopsis, round-leaved sundew, Joe Pye-weed, the nodding ladies’ tresses orchid and the rare Virginia meadow-beauty as well as upland species such as spring beauty and hepatica. There is also a wide assortment of tree species including eastern hemlock, sugar maple, sassafras and black cherry.


watch now

Experience the beauty of the changing seasons at this ecologically significant southwestern Michigan preserve.

Click here for a printable trail map

Because this preserve is one of the larger unfragmented woods in southern Michigan, it provides important habitat for many bird species, especially during spring and fall migration. 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 bring bug repellent.

The Nature Conservancy allows hunting for white-tail deer on this preserve to reduce an unnaturally high deer population in the area and reduce threats too many deer pose to our conservation targets. All hunters are required to receive a permit from the Conservancy as well as a Michigan deer hunting license. Additionally, hunters must report any deer taken from the preserve.     


Permitted Activities:

Prohibited Activities:

  • No Motorized and non-motorized vehicles
  • No Pets
  • No hunting or trapping without a Conservancy-issued permit
  • No removal of plants or animals (alive or dead)
  • No removal of rocks, water or other non-organic materials
  • No camping, bonfires, fireworks or other fires

Please see "Preserve Visitation Guidelines."


Ross Preserve is located .5 miles east of Lake Michigan in Covert, roughly halfway between South Haven and St. Joseph.

From US-31/I-196

  • Take Exit 13/32nd Avenue for Covert.
  • Turn right (west) onto 32nd Avenue; go .3 miles to Blue Star Highway
  • Turn left at 1st cross street onto Blue Star Highway and travel 3.5 miles to 44th Avenue.
  • Turn left onto 44th Avenue; go .6 miles; the preserve and parking area is on the left (south side of the road), opposite the "Dune Lake Campground" sign.

From I-94: 

  • Take Exit 41 for Watervliet.
  • From Watervliet's intersection of I-94 and M-140, take M-140 north 6.2 miles to CR-376/44th Avenue.
  • Turn left (west) on CR-376/44th Avenue and travel 3.3 miles to parking area with a locked vehicle gate on your right (north side of road), opposite the "Dune Lake Campground" sign.
  • The walk-through entrance is located on the west side of the locked vehicle gate.

GPS coordinates to south/44th Avenue entrance (main entry with parking area):
42.2577910°, -086.3291770°
Google map

GPS coordinates to north/34th Avenue entrance:
42.2939780°, -086.3083480°
Google map




Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

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Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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