The Kalamazoo River watershed offers excellent opportunities for outdoor recreation that draw visitors from outside the watershed, particularly from neighboring states including the Chicago area, yet the full potential value of outdoor tourism has yet to be tapped. Campsites, ranging from rustic tent sites to modern trailer/recreation vehicle sites, are found in private and public campgrounds. Private recreational facilities provide a variety of services, including golf courses, archery ranges, horseback riding, boat and canoe rentals, marinas, Great Lakes charter boat services, fishing ponds, skiing, snowmobiling, and sledding. Several parks and launch sites allow direct access to the Kalamazoo River and its larger reservoirs.
Two state parks and a major state game area are located in the watershed. Fort Custer State Recreation Area, a 2,960 acre state park, is located on the Kalamazoo River between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. Yankee Springs State Recreation Area, a 5,000 acre state park (of which about 1,000 acres are in our watershed), is located northeast of Plainwell. The Allegan State Game Area, with 48,000 acres, is the largest state-owned area in the watershed and is traversed by the lower Kalamazoo River. Other state-owned recreational properties in the watershed include a portion of the Kal-Haven Trail Sesquicentennial State Park and several game areas. Fort Custer, Yankee Springs, and Allegan provide day-use and overnight facilities.
There are several major city and county parks. Major parks include Markin Glen, River Oaks, Coldbrook, Milham, Verberg, and Kindleberger parks in Kalamazoo County and Littlejohn Lake, Dumont Lake, and Oval Beach in Allegan County. City and village parks and river walks providing access to the riverfront can be found nearly every community along the river, including Albion, Charlotte, Marshall, Battle Creek, Concord, Kalamazoo, Parchment, Plainwell, Otsego, Allegan, and Saugatuck.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) access sites on the river are located at Morrow Lake in Kalamazoo County and at Lake Allegan, Allegan Dam, Palmer Bayou, Ottawa Marsh, New Richmond, Indian Point, and Lake Kalamazoo in Allegan County, just to name a few. There are numerous DNR boat access sites at lakes in the watershed as well. In addition to the state parks and game areas, several other nature areas and preserves are open for the public to enjoy. Sites with major visitor facilities include the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (run by Michigan State University), the Kalamazoo Nature Center, and Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek. Check out the full list below.
Multi-use, non-motorized trailway mileage is increasing rapidly in several watershed areas with the expansion of trails including the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. Often land trails parallel river valley corridors, sometimes at the site of old rail lines, providing numerous opportunities for land and water intersections. Volunteers in the Kalamazoo River watershed are gradually implementing a Michigan Heritage Water Trail on the mainstem of the Kalamazoo River from Calhoun County to the Lake Michigan shore, with coordination by the KRWC. Volunteers expect that additional trail signage and mapping will follow in select tributary corridors.
Mainstem Kalamazoo River fishing continues to improve, particularly for smallmouth bass. Numerous headwater tributaries support trout and are some of Michigan’s southernmost trout streams owing to the high degree of groundwater input that maintains cooler water temperatures in the summer.
Interested in visiting natural areas in our watershed? Here are some of our favorites.
Allegan State Game Area
Yankee Springs Recreation Area
Plainwell Parks and River Walk
Kalamazoo Nature Center
Bow in the Clouds
City of Portage Bicentennial Trailway
Kalamazoo County Parks Markin Glen Campground
Kalamazoo River Valley Trail
Battle Creek Linear Park
Kellogg Bird Sanctuary
Brooks Nature Area
City of Charlotte Bennet Park
Whitehouse Nature Center
Asylum Lake Preserve
Falling Waters Trail (Jackson to Concord)
Al Sabo Preserve (Texas Township)
Calhoun County Trail
Marshall River Walk