As we transition into the chilly winter months of December, January and February in Central Michigan, some doors close while other doors open – recreationally speaking. The hiking, biking and camping season winds down. Simultaneously, we transition toward a myriad of other outdoor recreation opportunities. When the snow flies, we are presented with the chance to snowshoe, cross-country ski and eventually ice fish. All of the aforementioned can occur at Chippewa Watershed Conservancy (CWC) nature preserves. As previously promised, I will talk about our two other flagship preserves where recreational opportunities are abound.

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Florence Maxwell Audubon Woods preserve is a 40 acre gem, located just 10 minutes west of Mt. Pleasant. You’re sure to find solitude on this forested property, sheltered away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Rolling terrain, a nearly two mile loop trail, and a quarter-mile of scenic Chippewa River frontage will make you forget you’re so close to the Mt. Pleasant city center. A recently completed trail section links an existing trail segment, giving visitors a more challenging winter hike, snowshoe or cross-country ski experience. Parking areas are on Wing Rd. and Gilmore Rd. Directions to the preserve can be found here:

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Perhaps the best known CWC property is the sublime Sylvan Solace nature preserve. The couple miles of trail here traverse a coniferous forest, upland hardwoods and include over 1,700 feet of undeveloped Chippewa River shoreline. We frequently hold nature education events here such as tree identification hikes, animal track identification lessons, and searches for the Barred Owl or Great Horned Owl – all during the winter time. A primitive river access site allows the more adventurous type to launch a canoe or kayak. The trails are very accessible, family friendly and perfect for a winter hike or a cross-country ski trek. Keep in mind that all of our preserves are closed to bicycles and motorized use. More information and directions can be found here:

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The CWC is always looking to acquire high quality natural space through land donations, purchases and other acquisitions. Currently, we are in the process of protecting 100 acres of Bundy Hill – the highest point in Isabella County at 1,270 feet – but we need your help! If we can raise the money, we will purchase Bundy Hill and forever protect it in its current natural state. There are ample opportunities for hiking, cross country-skiing and scenic enjoyment at this beautiful piece of property, once we complete the purchase, but right now it is still privately owned. If you are interested in contributing to the cause, please follow this link for more information:

I hope you will find time this winter to explore some of our properties. See you on the trails.


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Jon Breithaupt is an employee at Chippewa Watershed Conservancy. He is a senior at Central Michigan University studying park and recreation administration with a concentration in outdoor and environmental recreation. Jon loves hiking, mountain biking, and fishing in the central Michigan area.