Arcadia Marsh Nature Preserve is a natural area managed by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. It is located just south of Arcadia, MI, and it offers visitors access to a 155 acre Great Lakes Coastal Marsh, a rare and declining natural community found only in Great Lakes coastal areas. It is estimated that over 80% of the original Great Lakes marshes have been destroyed. These marshes are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world, and Arcadia Marsh is one of only 15 or so remaining coastal marshes along Lake Michigan’s Lower Peninsula shoreline. The marsh’s hydrology has been affected by human alterations and invasive species are established within the marsh, yet it remains a high conservation priority and will greatly benefit from restoration.
The Arcadia Marsh hosts over 150 species of birds including 17 State Endangered, Threatened, or Species of Special Concern, making it a fantastic site for birding. In both spring and fall, this 155 acre area harbors many migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, cranes and many other birds. Arcadia has had its share of rarities to catch any birder’s attention including Bewick’s Wren, Black-billed Magpie, Purple Gallinule, Eider sp., Nelson’s Sparrow, and southern overshooting migrants rare this far north such as White-eyed Vireo, and Kentucky Warbler. In low water years the marsh is great for shorebirds and in high water years it’s one of the easiest places in the state for American and Least Bittern.
One of the most appealing aspects of birding here is the ease of access. State highway M-22 crosses Arcadia Lake on a causeway with the marsh visible for nearly a mile on the east side and the open lake on the west. It is easy to just pull off on the side of the road and set up your scope to scan either the marsh or the lake with the elevated causeway helping to see out over the marsh.
At sometime in the near future the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy will complete an off-road parking lot and trail on the north side of the marsh that will make marsh viewing easier. The Conservancy has been active in purchasing a majority of the marshland, restoring the natural water flow, and eliminating invasive species such as Phragmites. With the elimination of the Phragmites we hope to see an increase in the population of Marsh Wrens, Rails and Bitterns that depend on the forage of insects provided by native cattails.
Directions: The Marsh is a half mile south of the town of Arcadia off M-22.