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!

Pilgrim Haven Natural Area

South Haven Township   •   Van Buren County   •   27 acres

It’s easy to lose track of an afternoon here wandering through the spring wildflowers, exploring the beech-maple forest trails, searching for water critters in Dyckman Creek, or losing yourself in a quest for the perfect rock on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

27 acres
South Haven Township
Van Buren County

It’s easy to lose track of an afternoon here wandering through the spring wildflowers, exploring the beech-maple forest trails, searching for water critters in Dyckman Creek, or losing yourself in a quest for the perfect rock on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

 

 

Parking

Asphalt lot with 2 accessible spaces
45 car capacity

Trails

Length: 0.33 mile

There is a concrete walk from the parking lot to the top of the beach; other trails are packed dirt or gravel. Visitors may cross Dyckman Creek on a sturdy bridge, leading to a large open area where a chimney stands alone, marking the site of the former Camp Pilgrim Haven’s dining hall. Other trails lead through quiet woods. Most trails are flat except for those that lead to lake overlooks.
PLEASE NOTE: Swimming is at your own risk; there is no lifeguard on duty.

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

Pit toilets

Recreation

Barrier-free access to the beach, hiking, paddling, scenic views, snowshoeing, spring wildflowers, swimming, wildlife viewing.

PLEASE NOTE: Swimming is at your own risk.
SWMLC does not raise swim hazard risk warnings and there is no life guard on duty. The National Weather Service makes Great Lakes beach hazard information available seasonally at this link.

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy does not participate in monitoring Lake Michigan water quality at Pilgrim Haven Natural Area. Local results may be found at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Michigan BeachGuard System.

Help keep the beach rocky at Pilgrim Haven!
Rocks may not be taken in large quantities (ie. buckets or other containers), but a small number may be collected for study or souvenirs.

Maps

 

 

Track your progress in real time as you hike through the preserve with the interactive Avenza Maps App (available on iOS and Android for free)!

1. Click to add the Avenza Maps App to your phone.

2. Click to open the PDF of the Pilgrim Haven Natural Area Map.

3. Copy the URL at the top of the page.

4. In the Avenza Maps app, click the ‘plus’ (+) symbol at the top of the page. Then choose ‘Tap to enter a URL of a map.’

5. Paste the copied URL and the trail map will automatically load into the app.

6. 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

 

 

For GPS purposes, the address is approximately:
77000 block of 18th Ave., South Haven, MI 49090

Pilgrim Haven Natural Area is located just north of Van Buren State Park.

From the Kalamazoo area, travel west on M-43 until you come to the intersection with CR 380 at Jericho Corners (look for the small brown Van Buren State Park sign and the small green South Haven Area Regional Airport sign.)

Turn left at the intersection and continue on CR 380 (aka 20th Ave.) for approximately 4.5 miles.

Turn right (north) onto Blue Star Highway, go about 0.6 mile, then take the left fork at the intersection with 77th Street.

Go about 0.3 mile, turn left (west) onto 18th Ave., travel another 1000 feet and look for the preserve entrance on the right.

Natural features

 

 

From the pebbled beach along Lake Michigan to lush beech-maple forests that host abundant spring wildflowers to the picture-perfect creek spilling into the lake, Pilgrim Haven Natural Area offers a beautiful sample of lakeshore habitats.

This variety provides important stopover habitat for migrating birds and monarch butterflies following the Lake Michigan flyway, and volunteers and staff have planted and maintain a butterfly wayside garden for these tiny travelers.

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

 

 

The Chicago Council of Camp Fire Girls purchased the 27-acre property, the site of a former commercial shipping pier, in 1913 to use as a summer camp for city girls, in the belief that positive experiences in nature would lead to “WoHeLo – Work, Health, and Love”.

Its first director, Elizabeth Kelly Moody, designed the layout of Camp Kiwanis Nawakwa: two lines of cabins that ran east-west through the area of the present day parking lot. Photos from the camp’s early years show girls and young women smiling into the camera, obviously enjoying their summer vacations in nature.

read more

History

 

 

continued from above

In 1948, the Michigan Congregational Conference of the United Church of Christ (UCC) bought the property and renamed it Camp Pilgrim Haven. The mid-century UCC emphasis on the importance of natural outdoor experiences for health and well-being foreshadowed the modern UCC’s ministries in environmental justice and climate issues.

Camp Pilgrim Haven grew to include a second East Camp, a ball field, a lovely spot overlooking the lake for evening vespers, a meeting house, and a dining lodge whose chimney still stands today. Many families enjoyed happy summers here, the camp so beloved that a Facebook page called Remembering Pilgrim Haven was created to collect campers’ memories, over 20 years after it closed.

Suzanne Upjohn DeLano Parish – former World War II Women’s Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) and co-founder of the Air Zoo in Portage, Michigan – purchased the property after the camp’s closing in the early 1980’s.
Recognizing its ecological value, Mrs. Parish protected the lakeshore haven from development for more than 20 years, despite repeated financial offers.

After Mrs. Parish passed away in 2010, her estate donated the property to Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, with the intent that Pilgrim Haven remain as open space to be shared with the greater South Haven community and beyond.

Knowing that Pilgrim Haven is dear to the hearts of so many, people from the community were invited to make suggestions and share ideas about how they wanted to see the land used. A master plan was developed, based on this community input, that includes many of the improvements that are now in place.

In 2017, the South Haven Area Recreational Authority (SHARA) entered into an agreement with SWMLC, with SHARA taking responsibility for general maintenance and management, and making public access improvements to the preserve. SWMLC continues to own the property, and care for the natural areas and wildlife.

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy is immensely grateful to the community for the outpouring of support in creating a place that protects nature while providing people with meaningful access to it.

Improvements have been made possible through a combination of sources, including grants from Entergy Corporation-Palisades, the Department of Natural Resources Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, generous private donations from SWMLC members, donors to the Friends of Pilgrim Haven Fund at the South Haven Community Foundation, the South Haven Rotary Club, and South Haven Township voters who approved the recent recreation millage in support of SHARA. 

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!

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