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Finding a Special Place in Beaubien Woods

prairie with oak trees in the background at Beaubien Woods
Photo by Joseph Mueller.

A treasured pocket of nature—juxtaposed with industry—in the Calumet region, Beaubien Woods contains myriad ecosystems including woodlands, wetlands, prairie, pond and river. The wildlife found here is also numerous and diverse. While surrounded by expressway, industry, urban development and landfills, you can still find solitude, serenity and beauty here. Take the time to explore its many parts and make Beaubien Woods your special place.

If you enter Beaubien Woods and begin walking on the trail across from Carver Military Academy, you will find yourself in a quiet oak woodland. Watch for stumps, brush piles or burn scars—signs that volunteers have been working to encourage native plants to grow. Stop when you come to an oak tree in the middle of the trail. Oaks are a cornerstone species of our region, supporting webs of life. Admire its rough bark and glossy leaves and look for pieces of last year’s acorns at your feet. Will this be your special place?

As you continue walking, pause again whenever the surroundings change. You will pass through small sections of wetland, prairie and savanna. When you emerge from the woods, be sure to enjoy a view of Flatfoot Lake and a stroll through the grassy groves populated by many ancient oak trees. Lastly, stop by the Little Calumet Boat Launch and the take in sights of the wide vista of the river it provides. Which will be your special place?

Because of the intersection of many ecosystems, Beaubien Woods and the Calumet region host numerous, diverse species of wildlife. The most notable are birds. Especially during spring and fall migrations, the Beaubien Woods’ wetlands and proximity to Lake Michigan make this area a perfect resting spot.

Sometimes an unexpected encounter with wildlife is a magical experience that can make a location special.  “Flatfoot Lake was the first place I saw a Caspian tern dive into the water for a fish. This year, there is another bird looking for fish in the river; osprey are nesting on the platform by the boat launch,” shares program specialist Laurie Bellmar.

Laurie has also seen white river crayfish outside its burrow in a grove at Beaubien Woods; an opossum crossing the railroad tracks on the far side of the lake; and signs of beaver, coyote and deer in the woods. What wildlife will surprise you as you explore Beaubien Woods? Where will you find your special place?