Ott Biological Preserve
Location – at the end of Arlington Street, off of Michigan Avenue in Emmett Township
Explore the majestic splendor of the Ott Biological Preserve, Calhoun County’s “hidden jewel.” Located just east of Battle Creek in Emmett Township, this greenspace includes approximately 300 acres of natural habitats that have been shaped extensively by glaciers. Within the boundaries of the preserve are two spring fed kettle lakes, Brigham Lake and Hall Lake, as well as the east edge of Dexter Lake, wet peaty lowlands and dry, sandy uplands. The uplands include two prominent eskers (glacial ridges), one traveling nearly the length of the property from southwest to northeast.
Elevations in the preserve range from 852 to 920 feet above sea level, with the lowest point being Hall Lake and the highest point near the northeast edge of the property. Well-developed hardwood forests of the uplands include black, red and white oaks, and pignut and shagbark hickories with flowering dogwood as a common understory tree. Common tree species of the lowland hardwood forests are yellow birch, red maple and black ash, with spicebush in the understory. Some of the forested areas are less developed and represent fields and orchards abandoned as recently as 30 years ago. Common trees in these areas include young black and red oaks, box elders, and apples.
The lake edges are ringed with trees such as pussywillow, tamarack and the notorious poison sumac. From the tree-line to the water’s edge exists an interesting habitat called prairie fen, which is underlain by marly, alkaline soils and dominated by sedges. These fens support carnivorous plants including the purple pitcher plant, sundew and bladderworts, and several spectacular orchids.
Marshes on the preserve are dominated by sedges, grasses, cattails, and shrubby species such as red-osier dogwood and willows. In addition, several species of frogs, toads, and turtles exist in the forest, fens & marshes. Numerous birds and waterfowl call the preserve home, as well as gray squirrels, racoons and white-tailed deer.
Access and Trails
Currently, the primary access to the preserve is a parking area on the south side of the property at the end of Arlington Street. Once parked here, visitors may hike north along a trail through a young forest to a well-developed upland hardwood forest. This is where the Sutarek Loop begins and continues into the forest north to a cleared area. The east esker trail takes you further north approximately 1,000 feet along an esker that rises as much as 20 feet above the hardwood forests on either side. This esker drops off to lowland hardwoods and black muck. A boardwalk has been constructed to allow visitors to view the wetlands up close.
Visitors may continue west on the Stuarek Trail Loop that leads to the J.H. Kellogg Trail, which runs south approximately 700 feet uphill and reconnects with the Stuarek Trail Loop. (View map)This trail winds down the hillside on the east side of Hall Lake, continues east up a sandy hill and then back south, down to the entrance trail that leads to the parking area. Hikers can also access trails on the northwest side of the preserve although not all of the trails are fully developed. CAUTION – NEVER HIKE ALONE.
Rules and Regulations
Because the area is a nature preserve, all natural features, including flora and fauna, are protected. Activities such as hunting, fishing, flower-picking and firewood cutting are prohibited as are motorized vehicles, with the exception of wheelchairs or other conveyances for disabled persons. For complete information regarding the park and its use, contact the Calhoun County Road Department office at (800) 781-5512 or (269) 781-9841.