Park reviews: Stage Nature Center

Nick Skinner

photo by Nick Skinner

The largest attraction of Stage Nature Center is its beautiful trails, at this time of year the fall colors make for excellent photographs.

As I approached the trail head something caught my eye in the tree, it was a massive red tail hawk, but just as I snapped a picture it swooped down and caught its prey right in front of me! With an abundance of wildlife, beautiful trails, and a nature center with many engaging programs, Stage nature center is a perfect place for those who enjoy nature. The park is located in a beautiful forest in Troy, only a twenty minute drive away from Groves.

photo by Nick Skinner

The majestic Red Tailed hawk is a common sight at the park, it's usually found stalking the birds and squirrels at the bird feeder. It's one of the many fauna that can be found while trekking through the park, just DON’T FEED THEM.

Their largest and most prominent facility is the expansive nature center. The center has a large collection of mounted animals including a coyote, a pheasant, a small black bear and about two dozen other animals native to Michigan. They also have a collection of smaller live animals like turtles and frogs, which are part of a colorful children's display. In the lobby there is a children's area with an archaeological dig pit to encourage interest in paleontology and a play corner with toys, perfect to bring kids to before you start your hike.

photo by Nick Skinner

It can be easy to get lost in such an expansive forest, but thankfully Stage Nature Center has plenty to prevent that. The park has signs at every junction showing you which trail is which and the quickest way back to the nature center.

Additionally there is a library/reading room, a bee hive room, and a bird watching room. The library/reading room has many comfortable chairs, a nice view of the forest and many books about nature, wildlife and photography. The Beehive/bird watching room has a see through bee hive where you can observe them, exhibits on beekeeping and its many windows give a perfect view of the parks very active bird feeders comfortable library/reading room, a room dedicated to their bee hive with multiple related exhibits and a bird watching room with a large collection of birdhouses and feeders situated just outside the window.

photo by Nick Skinner

Covering almost 80% of the trails, the lush canopy of the park provides ample shade in summer and beautiful scenes in the fall.

The bathrooms are well maintained and have automatic sinks with manual soap. Unfortunately, they are closed when the building itself is closed, from 3pm-9am on weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday, leaving no restrooms for hikers still at the park. The area between the parking lot and the nature center has some benches, a small garden, and three large play structures made to look like natural rock formations. This area also has many picnic tables which could be used for online classes, although you'll need your own wifi. Behind the nature center there is a large pavilion by the edge of the forest with tables and folding chairs, this would also make a nice and quiet place to study or do online classes. Another important note is dogs are not allowed at this park to help protect the wildlife.

photo by Nick Skinner

The recently constructed pavilion is one of many facilities where you can do online classes at the park or have an outdoor event.

The largest attraction of the park is a network of trails crisscrossing pristine forests, meadows, streams and marshes. The first trail you come across is the 0.4 mile Sugar Maple loop which takes you through a grove of enormous maple trees as well as two crossings of the rogue river. Around half of the trail is paved or extremely flat, making it the only handicap accessible trail at the park. The loop offers very nice views of the forest and the bridges crossing the rouge river make for very beautiful photographs. The second and by far the biggest trail is the 0.7 mile Blackbird loop. It takes you through a large section of the forest as well as the outskirts of a large meadow. The forest in this part of the trail is absolutely beautiful and the topography offers some scenic views of the rest of the park.

photo by Nick Skinner

The back of Stage Nature Center is a collection of wetlands and marshes, while they are wonderful to be in there impossible to hike through especially if it has rained. To combat this, many of the trails are boardwalks, allowing you to enjoy the beauty of the marshes without having to trek through waist deep mud.

When you emerge from the forest you are welcomed by a massive meadow in the middle of the park where you will find a collection of bird and bat houses scattered throughout the field. Along the meadow and the rest of the trails are more than enough benches where you can sit and enjoy the views, the wildlife and the quiet sounds of the streams and forest. The third trail is the Fox trail which is located near the back of the park. This trail takes you through the beautiful marshes and wetlands of the park making for a very peaceful and quiet walk. Much of the Fox trail is covered in sections of boardwalk, keeping hikers safe from areas prone to flooding and deep mud. Anti skid strips have also been added to the boardwalks to make it safer to hike in the winter. Also along Fox trail is the marsh tower, a wooden overlook tower giving a wonderful view of the rouge river running through the marsh.

photo by Nick Skinner

The rouge river runs through most of Stage Nature Center and adds to the beautiful scenery as well as playing an important role in the park's ecosystem. The park has many bridges in place to help cross over the river, these bridges also make excellent photography spots.

The trails are mostly covered in wood chips which are replaced often enough to keep their trails in good condition. Although, during or after heavy rainfall, the trails can become very muddy and riddled with puddles. The regular trails also have fallen logs lining the borders of the trail to keep people from getting lost. The boardwalks are well maintained and the boards are not loose or broken. The park has an abundance of Michigan wildlife that you're bound to see while on the trail. This includes deer, turkeys, foxes, coytes, racoons and ducks, and an abundance of native birds. The trials are quite wide and social distancing can be easily practiced at the park.

photo by Nick Skinner

The rogue river runs through most of the park, its relaxing sounds make hiking the park a very pleasant experience.

Stage Nature Center has a variety of nature inspired programs, events and camps. Programs are offered all year long for children and adults. One of the biggest events is their maple syrup program, where families and students can learn how maple syrup is harvested and produced. Another popular event is their live owl programs, where visitors can meet one of the adorable five live owls that live at the nature center. Other examples include photo walks, homeschool nature classes, scouting programs, summer camps and seasonal events. The building has two large rooms to accommodate these events, they are very spacious and well designed for larger groups. The facilities are also available for rent for weddings, birthday parties and corporate events or meetings. With a hundred acres of forest, miles of trails, a larger collection of events and an abundance of wildlife both inside and outside of the nature center, the park has something to offer for everyone.

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