Nature has our backs. Let’s return the favor.

Our public preserves remain free and open from dawn to dusk – and your support helps keep them that way!

Bow in the Clouds Preserve

Kalamazoo   •   Kalamazoo County   •   60 acres

A hidden gem in the heart of the city, Bow in the Clouds Preserve will completely engage your senses and put you in the moment.

60 acres
Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo County

A hidden gem in the heart of the city, Bow in the Clouds Preserve will completely engage your senses and put you in the moment.

 

 

Parking

Gravel lot with one paved accessible space
12 car capacity

Trails

Length: 1 mile in total

A packed gravel loop trail leads from the parking area to a viewing platform with breath-taking views of the marsh below. The loop is fairly level, flat, and wide, with several benches for resting. An angled lip makes it easier for wheeled devices to access the viewing platform, which also has wire guardrails to allow for better sight lines at all heights.

From the loop, a steep, narrow dirt trail leads visitors down a slope and over a wooden bridge to a boardwalk through a large wetland. The boardwalk leads to a dirt trail that skirts the wetland and returns to the gravel loop (and parking lot) by way of another steep hill.

There is also a short out-and-back trail that leads from the boardwalk to a small pond that is attractive to waterfowl.

Dogs

Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a 6-foot leash at all times. Dog waste must be packed out. Click to learn more.

Restrooms

None

Recreation

Some accessible trails, fall color, hiking, scenic views, snowshoeing, summer wildflowers, wildlife viewing.

Maps

 

 

An interactive trail map that allows hikers to follow their progress through the preserve is available for free download from the Avenza Map Store!

1. Add the Avenza Maps App to your phone (available for free on iOS and Android).

2. Download the Bow in the Clouds Preserve Trail Map to your phone.

3. Take a hike!

Click here for interactive maps for other SWMLC preserves.

Need help? Visit the Avenza Maps Support Page.

Prefer to have a paper map?
Click on the map image for a PDF that you can print or leave open on your phone while you hike.

Getting there

 

 

Street address:
3401 Nazareth Rd, Kalamazoo, MI 49048

GPS:
42.32750180578669, -85.52997386768028

The preserve is in Kalamazoo on Nazareth Road (about one mile west of Sprinkle Road), behind Nazareth Campus (home of the Sisters of St. Joseph, 3427 Gull Rd.). From Gull Road, turn north onto Nazareth Road. The preserve entrance is about half a mile ahead on the left side of the road. Look for our Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy sign and the old gray barn up off the road. The driveway is steep and is along a sharp curve, so be careful coming and leaving.

Natural features

 

 

The highlight of this preserve is the extensive spring fed wetlands that help protect the water quality of the City of Kalamazoo’s well fields just downstream. The wetlands are a diverse mix of sedge meadow, cattail marsh, wet meadow, shrub carr and swamp forest. The uplands have steep slopes with huge specimens of red, white, and black oaks. The upland area near the parking lot is being seeded with an attractive mix of native grasses and flowers that will benefit pollinating insects.

Nature has our backs. Let’s return the favor.

Our public preserves remain free and open from dawn to dusk – and your support helps keep them that way!

History

 

 

Although located within the Kalamazoo city limits, Bow in the Clouds Preserve has many wild corners where few humans will ever tread. That’s because Bow in the Clouds boasts an extensive boardwalk system  approximately 1000 feet – which traverses a pristine stream and wetland. Visitors can pass with ease over terrain that would otherwise require a strenuous slog through boot-sucking muck and marsh grass.

Sister Virginia “Ginny” Jones has been the preserve’s lead caretaker for most of 39 years, and she views the boardwalk as a rare concession to the forces of development.  She’d much rather see it become an increasingly wild place.  “We want to be part of nature, not masters of it,” Sr. Ginny said.

The name Bow in the Clouds comes from the Bible (Genesis 9:13) where God set a “bow in the clouds” as a sign of the new covenant between Him and the earth.  The preserve property was once part of the Nazareth campus, a Catholic liberal arts college that closed in the early 1990’s. Many of those who served there have become literally one with the landscape.  In an unadorned cemetery near the preserve’s trailhead, neat rows of simple headstones mark the graves of nuns who lived and died as members of this faith community.

Sr. Ginny arrived at Nazareth in 1968 as an environmental science teacher.  At that time, the Sisters of St. Joseph broadened their ministry to include new social concerns, such as the environment.  Sr. Ginny helped host Kalamazoo’s first Earth Day celebration, which was held at the campus in 1970.  As a teacher, Sr. Ginny used the preserve as a hands-on classroom, where students built trails and planted trees.  Bow in the Clouds Natural Area was dedicated in 1973.

As an aging religious order, the Congregation of St. Joseph lacked the people power to maintain a 60-acre nature preserve.  So after several years of negotiations, Bow in the Clouds was transferred to SWMLC in July of 2007 as Bow in the Clouds Preserve.  “We want the public to use it for what we call ‘re-creation,'” said Sr. Ginny.  “We know many people today are separated from religious tradition, and we respect that.  We also know that before formal religion existed, people encountered something of the holy in the natural world.  And that something – that peace, solitude and wisdom – is what we believe people can still find here.”

Video

 

 

Join us in celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day with this video that explores and celebrates the rich, natural, urban gem that is Bow in the Clouds Preserve.

Nature has our backs. Let’s return the favor.

Our public preserves remain free and open from dawn to dusk – and your support helps keep them that way!