It's Official!

LaGrange Valley Wetlands is SWMLC’s newest and largest nature preserve.

If snakes had voices, the massasaugas would be cheering! We’re excited to announce that 457-acre LaGrange Valley Wetlands is now officially SWMLC’s newest and largest nature preserve!

The Cass County property has excellent eastern massasauga rattlesnake habitat and will play a vital role in the continued survival of this endangered animal, as well as many other amazing creatures and rare plants. Working with Edward Lowe Foundation, which owns the adjacent 2,000+ acre Big Rock Valley, we aim to provide the best possible habitat for them all.

SWMLC Land Protection Director Kaleigh Winkler, land owner Mark Harrison, and SWMLC President & Executive Director Mike Larson.

Now that acquisition is complete, the “forever” job of habitat restoration and stewardship begins. Our stewardship staff have crafted a thorough strategy that immediately addresses the most aggressive invasive species on the property: the 20-foot-tall invasive grass called Phragmites (“frag-mighties”). A recent drone survey across the entire preserve makes us confident that we can keep it out of the highest quality habitats in the near-term, and gradually reduce it to non-harmful levels over time.

The aggressive invasive grass called Phragmites.

We also surveyed the streams that form the preserve’s lifeblood for any lasting impacts made by being under water for nearly 200 years (a 19th century dam was removed nearly 20 years ago, which drained Lake LaGrange and restored the flow of Dowagiac and Talkie Creeks.) Now we can help bring these waterways to a healthier state over time.

Dowagiac Creek winds through LaGrange Valley Wetlands.
Migrating sandhill cranes stop to rest and refuel at LaGrange Valley Wetlands.
Sparkling Talkie Creek joins Dowagiac Creek in the middle of the property on the way to joining the bigger Dowagiac River.
The property is home to federally-endangered Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes.

We’re VERY GRATEFUL for the contributions made by the Carls Foundation, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Edward Lowe Foundation, the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi, Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources, Cass County Conservation District, Cass County Parks and Recreation, land owner Mark Harrison, community members and neighbors, and the stunning generosity of more than 200 individual donors who made this project possible!


Conserving LaGrange Valley Wetlands shows that when we all come together, we CAN protect rare and endangered species in our region – and the importance of doing so before it’s too late. Working with fantastic friends and partners like you makes us ever more hopeful for the future of conservation in southwest Michigan!

Due to its extremely sensitive habitats, vulnerable plants and animals, lack of parking area or trail system, and year-round wetness, LaGrange Valley Wetlands is one of SWMLC’s ‘refuge preserves’ with limited public access and is only open with permission from SWMLC. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation!
Photos: Keto Gyekis, Amelia Hansen, Mitch Lettow, Kaleigh Winkler