Barton Nature Area


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Trail Closures - Border to Border Trail Construction

During construction, both bridges and most trails in Barton Nature Area will be closed. Construction is anticipated to extend into September but we will open the trails as soon as we are able to. The trail within the oxbow peninsula, between the two pedestrian bridges, will be closed throughout the project. The trail from the Barton Dam parking lot will be closed intermittently throughout construction. After this work is done this fall, construction will proceed on creating a tunnel on the park's south end connecting it to Bandemer Park. Please see this trail closure map and follow all posted signs on site. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to improve our parks. Learn more about the project here.​

Barton Nature Area is a 98 acre park located along the Huron River on Huron River Drive, a few miles north of downtown. View the Ann Arbor Parks and Nature Areas map for locatio​n context. Barton Nature Area provides access to Barton Pond if you walk up on top of Barton Dam where you can walk along the earthen embankment on the City side to find a path, green space and benches. Popular for sunsets, photography, fishing, birding, a scenic stroll or to get a big dose of nature, the Huron River is quite wide as it pools before the dam.  Barton Pond provides 85 percent of Ann Arbor's drinking water. The dam is within park limits and there is a pedestrian walk over the dam. If you are traveling downstream by boat along the Huron River Water Trail, you will need to portage your boat to continue paddling on the other side of the dam—​ fortunately there is a portage boat slide to assist. The public boat launch is accessed from the northern parking lot with both an above the dam and below the dam launch. Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation and the Gallup Park Livery coordinate boat rentals and transportation for a Barton to Gallup river trip. There is a picnic area next to the main parking entrance.​

​​Barton Nature Area trails​ are located in the larger area known as the Barton oxbow, (a term used to refer to a u-shaped meander in a river) which is bordered by the river and the railway line with bridge access on two ends. The 1/2 mile main trail connects the two bridges with additional side trails to explore for longer hiking. The present vegetation gives us plenty of ideas about the history of land. It suggests that a majority of the oxbow was prairie and oak savanna prior to being farmed. The area became old field after being abandoned. Currently, Barton is a matrix of old field, dry prairie, wet meadow and shrubland, mesic forest, and emergent marsh. There are four seasons of beauty to be found at Barton Nature Area and great diversity of plant communities to observe​​. Please stay on trail and keep your dogs on leash as there are many plants, animals and nests that appreciate the opportunity to remain undisturbed. Natural Area Preservation has a set of articles written over the years that highlight this nature area. Barton Nature Area also has trail connections to Bird Hills Nature Area (trail that crosses Huron River Drive at the base of Bird Road) as well as into Hilltop Nature Area​ (trail that crosses Huron River Drive at the east bridge).  

There is another part of Barton Nature Area known as Foster, which is only accessible by boat from Barton Pond, located northwest from the oxbow. ​Barton Foster has a small trail through a relatively open woodland on its eastern side. ​Foster was formerly a small cluster of houses where the train used to stop in what is now the park. This community is gone now, but the name reminds us of the site’s earlier land use.​​​

Park Notices

Unless otherwise posted per City Council resolution, when a park is closed, no person shall remain in or enter it other than to quietly sit or walk.​

Refer to Chapter 39 of the City of Ann Arbor Code of Ordinances for park regulations and rules.

PFAS "Do Not Eat Fish" Advisory

The MDHHS has issued a “Do Not Eat Fish” advisory for the Huron River and advises people and their pets to avoid foam on the Huron River. Learn more about PFAS information from the City of Ann Arbor here​.​​

Park Hours

6 a.m. – 10 p.m.





Picnic Tables


Hiking Trails


Boat Launch​​




Portable Restroom


Landfill Bins



Access and Parking

The main entrance with parking is located to the north of the park at 1010 W. Huron River D​rive, just northeast of Bird Road which takes you to the picnic area and a short walk away from the Barton Pond and Dam. ​​​There is another trailhead further to the east, also on Huron River Drive (near M-14 and Main Street) with limited parking spaces. Each parking lot entrance has a pedestrian bridge over the river for accessing the oxbow trails.​

Public Transportation

There are no bus stops within a 15 minute walk of the park.

River Access

​Barton Nature Area and Barton Foster are located along the Huron River Water Trail with a boat launch located above an​d below the Barton Dam. Barton is a launching point ​for the Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Barton to Gallup river trips​​.​ ​



Ann Arbor's city parks sit on the ancestral and traditional homelands​ of several indigenous Nat​ive peoples. Read a ​ land acknow​ledgement from the city and learn more a​bout the early history of the land here.​​

Barton Nature Area was purchased in the 1960s from Detroit Edison, who used Barton Dam for electric power production. The dam, built in 1912​, still generates electricity and is sold back to Detroit Edison. Historically, the flat nature of this land made it attractive for farming. The two bridges and main trail running through the park connecting those bridges were constructed in 1991 to supplement the informal network of trails, which evolved over time.  The main part of Barton Nature Area is the flat, open shrubby area visible across the river from Huron River Drive, just below Barton Dam. In the 1994-2001 plant inventory, 324 species of plants were recorded here, 242 of them native. Natural Area Preservation​ is active inventorying plant and animal life and performing ecological restoration. To learn more about these activities, check out past newsletter articles that highlight and provide history:

Recent Developments

Riverside ben​ches added along Barton Pond in 2016. This installation was done by Huron River Watershed Council​ with funding from DTE Energy Foundation


Volunteer in the parks

Looking to make an impact in a park or nature area? Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation provides volunteer opportunities for almost every interest, ability, and commitment level.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities
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