Saginaw Forest is an 80-acre parcel of land comprising about 55 acres of plantations, Third Sister Lake, and surrounding wetlands. Located 5 miles west of the university campus on Liberty Road, Saginaw Forest lends itself well to the study of forest and sustainable ecosystem management. It serves as a setting for research on diverse topics, including woody plants, forest ecology, freshwater ecology, and soil properties and processes.
The land was a gift to the university from University Regent Arthur Hill of Saginaw in 1903. Some of the land had been used for farming and the soil was in poor condition. So students and faculty in the newly established Department of Forestry (forerunner of SEAS) set to work planting trees. Planting continued until 1937. Several tree species, both native and exotic, make this a rich environment for training and research.
Saginaw Forest is open to the public from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. only. Further,
- No vehicles may park in front of the access gate
- No vehicles or bicycles are permitted on-site except those approved for research and teaching
- No camping is allowed
- Dogs must be on a leash, and owners must bring doggie bags to carry out pet waste
- Cutting or collecting of plants and hunting or harming of vertebrates are not permitted
Learn more about Saginaw Forest:
Saginaw Forest’s primary features are forested areas and an approximately 10-acre lake. The property is surrounded on three sides by old farm fields, sub-divisions and commercial developments. The interior is a diverse assemblage of deciduous hardwood stands (14 acres) and approximately 33 acres of conifer plantations of pines, firs and spruce, largely succeeding into a maple forest. To the northwest of the site is also an Arboretum. Saginaw Forest is one of only 2 known sites in the world of the rare Murray’s Birch (Betula murryana), discovered and named by U of M forest ecologist Burt Barnes (Barnes and Dancik 1985).
Third Sister Lake is 3.8 ha kettle lake of glacial origin (one of 3 similar lakes in the area) that nearly bisects the northern end of the property and has a fish community including bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish and large-mouth bass. Lake and groundwater dioxane contamination from the Gelman Corporation was discovered in the 1980s and annual monitoring now occurs, showing decreased levels.
The lake is bordered by a marsh on the eastern edge, which is composed of invasive common reed (Phragmites), soft maple, willow and aspen. The western edge empties into a peat bog bordering the property. The marsh in this area is composed primarily of native cattails, invasive reed canary grass and a mixture of soft maple and elm. Both marshes are semi-permanently flooded.
Just 75 m south of the lake is a large pond bordered by white cedar and invasive buckthorn on the northern edges and a mesic oak–hickory forest with interspersed historical plantings of other species including Norway maple, spruce, and red pine on the southern edge. The green ash trees that once bordered the western edge are now dead. Three species of turtles, painted, Blanding’s and snapping are seasonal inhabitants of the pond. The pond is also a breeding habitat for five species of amphibians including, wood frogs, green frogs, spring peepers, gray tree frogs and chorus frogs. Grass frogs and American toads also occasionally reproduce in the pond. The mixed hardwood forest south of the pond serves as the terrestrial habitat for these amphibians.
A seasonal stream flows through a Douglas fir and oak-hickory forest into Third Sister Lake on the eastern edge of the property. This stream has an unconsolidated bottom of cobble-gravel and organic matter and serves as an important habitat, particularly during dry years, for juvenile and adult frogs. The northwestern corner of the property contains seasonally flooded forested wetland of broad-leaved deciduous trees. Two ephemeral ponds, with breeding populations of wood frogs, spring peepers and gray tree frogs border the northern property line.
Soil: There are seven major soil types found: 1. Fox sandy loam, 2-6% slopes
2. Fox sandy loam, 6-12% slopes
3. Miami loam, 2-6% slopes
4. Miami loam, 6-12% slopes
5. Miami loam, 12-18% slopes
6. Houghton muck
7. Wasepi sandy loam, 0-4% slopes
Topography: Most of the site consists of level to gentle slopes with a few steep slopes. In recent years, erosion has been occurring, particularly during large storm events, creating an incised creek situation with water flowing from development to the east and south toward Third Sister Lake.
Small cabin, barn, and outhouse