Barton Nature Area is a 102-acre park located along the Huron River on Huron River Drive, a few miles north of downtown. The park is in two sections: the larger is known locally as the oxbow, and connects to Argo; the smaller is known as Foster, and is accessible only by boat from Barton Pond. The main parking lot is located on Huron River Dr, just northwest of Bird Rd, near Barton Dam. A smaller pull-off lot is located further east on Huron River Dr near M-14 and Main St. Bridges from the parking areas allow pedestrian access to the oxbow. There is a picnic area next to the main parking lot.
The main trail in the oxbow is wood-chipped, and connects the two bridges. Most of this area is open field, but some areas are shrubby, and lower wet areas support sedges and marsh plants. Foster has a small trail through a relatively open woodland on its eastern side.
- Age: Acquired from Detroit Edison in the 1960s
- Size: 83.6 acres
- Ecosystem types: old field, dry prairie, wet meadow, wet shrubland, mesic forest, and emergent marsh.
Presently, Barton is the only dam in the city still used to generate electricity, but now the City sells the electricity to Detroit Edison. Historically, the flat nature of this land made it attractive for farming. The two bridges and main woodchip 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.
- Size: 24.9 acres
- Ecosystem types: oak savanna, mesic forest, wet forest, wet shrubland, emergent marsh, wet meadow, old field
Foster is the old name of 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.
Because Foster is bounded entirely by the river and the railroad, which is privately owned, the only way to access it legally is by boat.