Harper Preserve

Property Size:  375 acres

Location:  Southwest corner of Genesee County, near the town of Argentine, 45 miles northwest of Ann Arbor. The site is surrounded primarily by agricultural and residential land.  There is no public access to this site. 

Access:  To visit the site and gain access to parking contact SEAS-Facilities@umich.edu.

History:  The large lake on site, Murray Lake, is named after the first settler of this area, James H. Murray, who came from Rochester, New York to settle in Argentine in 1835, later building both the dam and saw mill in the village. The Hoyts donated the property to the University in 1974 as the William Albert Harper Preserve, in memory of Mrs. Hoyt's father, who was a surgeon and amateur naturalist. The site is to be used for teaching and research under the direction of SEAS. Almost half of the Hoyt property was cleared at one time for farmland. Currently part of the property is in conventional crop production under lease.

Access: There is no public access to this site. 

Argentine Township
375 acres
848-890 ft above sea level
Ecological Features: 

There are several vegetation types within this property, including a 20-30 acres of mature oak-hickory forest to the east of the lake and the northwest of the site, old fields north of the lake, 40 acres of marsh, and 80 acres of conventional cropland. Two lakes are completely encompassed within the property, including the larger (40-acre) Murray Lake.

The variety of habitats likely supports a diversity of wildlife, including fish, herps, waterfowl, ground-nesting and song birds, and mammals.

Soil:  There are well-drained loamy sands and muck soils located in the marsh and low areas to the north and west of the lake.

Topography:  The elevation on this site ranges from 848-890 feet above sea level. The most significant slopes occur north and northwest of the lake. These slopes are long and range from 18-25%, most other slopes are between 2 and 12%.

Distance from campus: 
45 miles northwest
Open to Public?: 
No. For research purposes please contact seas-facilities@umich.edu

Small cottage and Wolverton farm buildings.

Current uses: 

Current Educational Use: Used by aquatic ecology course. Agroecology and GIS course faculty are interested in using.

Current Research Use: None currently.

Current Public Use & Outreach Activities: No public access.


Though more distant from Ann Arbor, Harper's variety of habitats makes it a fantastic site for field studies and demonstration of sustainable practices. It is the only UM property with a large lake entirely within the property.

Specific additional opportunities at this site:

• Limnological studies of Murray Lake – it is approximately four times the size of Third Sister Lake at Saginaw Forest, and provides important research and teaching opportunities.
• Forest or old field succession studies
• Given the historical and current agricultural use, could be used in agroecology or Sustainable Food Systems courses for study or hands-on practice and demonstration of restoration agriculture, permaculture, and other sustainable farming practices.