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Cedar Bend Nature Area

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Park Address: 1495 Cedar Bend Drive, Ann Arbor 48109

​Ho​​​​​urs and Rules ​​

Open 6 a.m.-midnight with quiet hours starting at 10 p.m.  ​Smoking is prohibited ​and dogs must be on leash.  ​Refer to Chapter 39 of the City of Ann Arbor Code of Ordinances for the complete list of park regulations and rules. 

Overview 

Cedar Bend Nature Area is a 19-acre park on the steep bank of the Huron River where the waterway makes a sharp bend from north to south.  View Ann Arbor Parks and Nature Areas map​ for location context. Of the beautiful and diverse natural areas that dot Ann Arbor's humming cityscape, none is quite so historically significant as Cedar Bend Nature Area as it is one of the oldest parks and designed by landscape architect O.C. Simonds. Simonds insisted on keeping the park as close to the natural landscape as possible, helping to preserve the biodiversity and native plant population that make Cedar Bends such a beautiful nature area today.  Because of the steepness of the site, some trails in the park can be more challenging and should be approached with caution.  The trails at Cedar Bend are unpaved, leading up (or down) the steep slope, and also travel a ridge of the slope. Restroom facilities​ are available at nearby Island Park and there are picnic spots along the river near the main parking area.

Cedar Bend brings to life a forest of pre-settlement times. Tall oaks and hickories surround you. Flowering black cherries and dogwoods highlight spring; native wildflowers bloom spring through fall; and flocks of chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice enliven the quiet beauty of the winter woodland. The trails offer a birds-eye view of the river and other areas of the city. There is a perennial garden maintained by a park neighbor at the top of the park, off Cedar Bend Drive. A mowed field is also in this section of the park.

​​Access and Parking

There are a few ways to arrive to Cedar Bend Nature Area with multiple access points to the trails. If you are seeking a place to park, the largest parking lot is located to the south of the park along 1425 Island Drive (or where Island Drive dead ends). The park's official address is 1495 Cedar Bend Drive which does not map well to an entry point. If you approach from Broadway and turn onto Cedar Bend Drive, you will find two unmarked pull off areas for very limited parking along Cedar Bend Drive.  Review the trail map for trail head locations. The park is bounded by the bend in the Huron River for which it is named, residential areas, and the University of Michigan’s North Campus. 

Public transportation There are bus stops on Fuller Road, Maiden Lane, Pontiac Trail, and Plymouth Road that are within about a 10-15 minute walk to Cedar Bend Nature Area. Visit theride.org​ for route and schedule details or view the parks ride guide for more information.


​Amenities


Volunteer​​

There are ongoing and limitless opportunities for volunteering and getting engaged with the Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Services Unit. Natural Area Preservation has volunteer opportunities that support their mission to protect and restore Ann Arbor's natural areas and to foster an environmental ethic among its citizens.  If you are feeling the tug to volunteer or give some time, reach out or explore the website above to see what’s upcoming or how to get involved.​​

Re​port a Problem - A2 Fix It

To report maintenance issues, or other problem during your park visit, please report through A2Fix It.  Parks are large spaces and A2 Fix It requests can be difficult to find without detailed information. When reporting an issue in a park please include location details. There is a details and description section near the end of the request process to help you provide this. In addition, users can utilize the pin (website) or X (mobile app) feature to provide specific location information inside the park. Finally, please consider including a wide angle photo or include background landmarks, which helps staff find and fix the problem.

Gifts and Donations 

Information on donating to the parks and the Guide to Giving can be found here​. For special projects ideas in natural areas, Natural Area Preservation​ staff will guide you and provide project guidelines unique to natural areas.​​​

History​​​

A view from the Boulevard gives us a glimpse of how this area looked in 1880. In the late 1890s,  the City of Ann Arbor acquired the property now known as Island Park and Cedar Bend Nature Area (at that time known together as Cedar Bend Park). The purchase was made in small parcels from several people. In May of 1905, this property was turned over to the newly formed Park Commission. Cedar Bend Park, by far the largest park in the city at that time, received the greatest amount of effort towards developments. A special sum of $500 was provided for making a drive and a general appropriation of $1,500 for the care, maintenance and improvement was made. In December of 1905, a landscape architect, O.C. Simonds, was hired to lay out the drive and its embellishments. At this time, this park was used extensively for pleasure riding, driving, picnics and swimming. O.C. Simonds noted that it was important to keep the native growth as "no landscape gardener can plant as well as nature has planted."  He was passionate about preserving the river banks and nature for future generations and did extensive design work for the Ann Arbor park system (read: Notes on O.C. Simonds and Ann Arbor's Parks). 

One particularly unique feature of Cedar Bend is the so called "hairpin turn" that can be found on the southeast side of the park. The hairpin is showcased in this 1907 Greetings from Ann Arbor image. The sharp turn in this former road reflects a similar pattern made by the Huron River as it cuts back to the south, winding gracefully along the landscape. This 1947 aerial shows the hairpin road that used to connect vehicle traffic from Cedar Bend Drive to Island Drive. 


Through the years, the landscape of Cedar Bend has changed. The site once offered spectacular views of the Huron River valley, but many of those views are now reduced due to vegetation growth. However, the timeless feel of this nature area remains. Wander down the winding trails on a quiet morning and find yourself in a towering stand of hickory and oak. Natural Area Preservation staff and volunteers continue to work to preserve native biodiversity through  controlled burns and invasive species removal. The entire wooded portion of the park is dry forest, although not as open as it once was, as indicated by several large, spreading trees now being crowded by younger competitors. Unfortunately, like many of our natural areas, Cedar Bend’s native flora also faces competition from invasive, non-native plants such as honeysuckle (Lonicera), common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata).  In all, 194 species of plants (143 native) have been  recorded in Cedar Bend. To read more about Natural Area Preservation (NAP) and their efforts to restore Cedar Bend's natural areas, view featured newsletter articles:

Updated May 2021. Email [email protected] for incorrect/outdated information.​