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

A gently sloping concrete path from the parking lot to the top of the beach offers sunsets and wave-watching for those using mobility devices. The beach itself is sandy and/or cobbled with stones, making accessibility more challenging.

Visitors may cross Dyckman Creek on a sturdy bridge, leading to a large open grassy area where a chimney stands alone, marking the site of the former Camp Pilgrim Haven’s dining hall.

The eastern portion of the preserve has narrow dirt trails leading through quiet woods, with subtle highlights such as ghost pipe in the summer. Watch for trip hazards such as exposed roots.

There are several overlooks with great views of Lake Michigan. Paths leading to these are steep, narrow, and prone to erosion-exposed roots and stones.

Help keep the beach rocky at Pilgrim Haven!


Pilgrim Haven’s beach is sandy in some years – in other years, it can be very rocky. These changeable conditions are due to winter storms interacting with underwater land contours. Please remember that visitors are allowed to collect a small number of rocks for study or as souvenirs but may not remove large quantities of rocks (such as in 5-gallon buckets or other containers).

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

Accessible path to top of the beach, hiking, paddling, scenic views, snowshoeing, spring wildflowers, swimming, wildlife viewing.

Maps

 

 

Click on the map image for a downloadable PDF map of the trails.
Sorry, a map that works interactively with trail apps is not available at this time.

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!