Upcoming Fall Tour through Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary

The prairie. Photo courtesy of Chuck Vannette

The prairie. Photo by Chuck Vannette

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Visitors are invited to explore the Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary and observe the beautiful fall colors in full swing on Saturday, October 19. Steward Chuck Vannette will be leading a fall tour through the prairie, starting at 2 p.m. This will be a day filled with scenic views and the serenity of the open prairie at Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary. The sanctuary is located in Newaygo County and sits at the intersection of S. Poplar Ave. and E. 56th Street.

Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary protects one of the most endangered habitats in the state. Its sandy soils and raised hillsides prevented farmers from converting the prairie into farmland during the 19th and 20th centuries. Since the Michigan Nature Association purchased the prairie in 1969, it has worked on preserving this 110-acre spread, which is composed of prairie vegetation, dry prairie habitat and oak pine barren. Guests will get to experience what remains of the dry-sand prairie that once covered 19,000 acres in Michigan.

The sanctuary contains no trails, giving visitors the unique opportunity to navigate and explore the open landscape of the area and get up-close looks at the sanctuary’s abundant prairie species that survive in the habitat. More than 100 plant species, including porcupine’s grass, Fall Witch grass, prickly-pear cactus, and rock spikemoss contribute to the beauty of Newaygo Prairie.

Goldenrod in full bloom. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Goldenrod in full bloom. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There is no one best time to visit Newaygo Prairie because its vast plant variety provides blooming vegetation throughout the year. During this fall tour on October 19, guests will witness the beautiful colors of sunflowers, goldenrods and asters blooming in the sanctuary. Several bird species, such as bluebirds and prairie warblers, also reside in the sanctuary, relying on the open prairie to gather food and build their nests. Other birds live near the wooded areas of the sanctuary, finding a comfortable home in the shade. Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary provides great opportunities for visitors throughout the year.

Take advantage of the chance to see this beautiful prairie exhibiting all of its fall colors on the fall tour on October 19. For more information about this field trip, see MNA’s online events calendar or contact Matt Schultz at mschultz@michigannature.org.

July 17: The Odyssey Visits Newaygo Prairie With a Bonus Hike

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling


Tina with Chuck and our new intern friends at Newaygo Prairie! Photo by Marianne Glosenger

Could it be any hotter July 17th at the Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary? It did not seem all that strange that there were cacti growing in this nature sanctuary as the heat beat down. Gratefully we accepted umbrellas and cold cloths from volunteer photographer Marilyn Keigley and we wondered how the four volunteers who were pulling invasive were going to survive much longer. Three were college students (Rebecca Andrews, Cara Burwell, and Rowanna Humphreys) getting degrees related to conservation and doing internships. How appreciative we are to see young people dedicating themselves to the environment and helping MNA maintain Newaygo Prairie. Chuck Vannette, the steward at Newaygo, greeted us along with John Bagley, the new steward at Karner Blue, and both helped guide the stalwart Odyssey participants that turned out in the almost 100 degree heat. We were delighted to see Regional Stewardship Organizer Matt Schultz arrive to support the Odyssey, and it also meant all three RSOs have now joined us on the Odyssey. Thank you, Katherine, Adrienne, and Matt.

Chuck has been interested in prairies for a long time, and now he lives across the road from the MNA sanctuary. When he is mowing his lawn he has to break for Karner Blue butterflies in his yard! This delicate beauty can only be found in prairie savannas where lupine grows since its larva depend on lupine as a food source. The Karner Blue is a very small butterfly that flits about in an erratic manner and is hard to capture on film. Continue reading