Families and visitors to Washtenaw County, or Western Wayne County seeking a respite from their hectic travel schedule will find great solace in Furstenberg Nature Area in Ann Arbor. Nestled just west of Gallup Park proper in Ann Arbor is a lovely, 38 acre trail system known as Furstenberg Nature Area. The nature area is accessible through the same Fuller Road entrance and parking lot and for all practical purposes seems to really be a part of Gallup Park. So, if you are looking for directions and signage for how to arrive, look for the Gallup Park entrance near the canoe livery and you will find it.
Furstenberg Nature Area meanders along the banks of the Huron River with a combination of dirt trails and boardwalks, rarely leaving the visitor too far from a lovely view of the river.
We recently had the opportunity to return to this area on a mild winter day. The sun was bright and the sky was clear, leaving the air quite pleasant, and the ice beginning to melt along the boardwalk, which was a bit slow going due to slipperiness. Winter is such a wonderful time to get out and move about and though the area was not as crowded as it is during the summer months, when dozens of kayakers are visible at any moment and you are likely to see a walker at every bench and turn in the trail, there were still several people enjoying the trail.
Quite quickly you notice a pleasant sense of relaxation as the kids trot ahead, picking up a stick to throw in the river, or noticing a bush that still is bearing a red berry even in the depths of winter. The oaks and hickory trees, assorted maples, barren of leaves, yet their reaching branches and textured bark yielding great interest to the careful observer.
The trail turns away from the river after a bit and loops through a meadow and prairie area. The grasses and plants were dusky brown but the clumps of snow provided a stark visual contrast. I bent over to feel the brittle grass and then picked up a bit of snow and enjoyed the cool sensation as it melted in the sun. We laughed and sang a bit as our 30 minute hike came to an end, across the wooden bridge at the parking lot.
Our legs enjoyed the gentle walk and our spirits enjoyed the reprieve from the confines of the car as nature once again provided her healing wonders.
A link to a brochure for Furstenburg Nature Area provides excellent information about what you will learn about at each spot of the trail and provides a wonderful conversational and educational resource for the next phase of your family's journey!
Family Questions for Discussion
1. What direction are you heading as you begin your walk along the trail?
2. What are some different types of trees you observe?
3. What is a wetland?
4. What is a prarie?
5. How big is an acre? How many in a square mile?
6. What animals do you observe?
7. Check out the Huron River Watershed Council website for more information on the Huron River watershed!
8. If you listen closely, can you hear the sound of the flowing river?
9. If you were to write a song about the Furstenberg Nature Area, what would you rhyme with Furstenberg?
10. What else does this inspire you to "dream, learn, do?"