Park Address: 465 S Wagner Rd, Ann Arbor MI 48103
Hours and Rules
Open 6 a.m. - midnight with quiet hours starting at 10 p.m. Unless otherwise posted, 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. Smoking is prohibited, and dogs must be on leash.
Dolph Nature Area is a 75.2 acre park on the city's west side. View the Ann Arbor Parks & Nature Areas Map for location context. One of Ann Arbors most beautiful parks, it includes open water, wetland and marsh habitat, as well as forest and shrubland. Dolph has a trail connection on the east to Lakewood Nature Area. The park is home to First and Second Sister Lakes, the only naturally formed kettle lakes in Ann Arbor. The floating vegetation mat on First Sister Lake comprises the only bog in Ann Arbor's parks system.
First and Second Sister Lakes were formed approximately 10,000 years ago during the northward retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier. Huge chunks of ice broke off from the main glacier and were buried in glacial outwash or till. As the ice melted the earth above it settled forming what are known as kettle lakes.
As vegetation colonizes open water, kettle lakes can turn into bogs over time. First Sister Lake is in the early stages of this process. Bog plants found here include leatherleaf, bog birch, tamarack and poison sumac. Other interesting wetland plants include buttonbush and turtlehead. Yellow pond lily, sweet-scented water lily and duckweed can be found in open water.
Over 140 bird species have been recorded in Dolph. Migrants include the American Bittern, Least Flycatcher, Northern Waterthrush, Mourning Warbler, Wood Duck, Green Heron, Warbling Vireo and Wood thrush. Year-round residents include Downy, Hairy and Red Bellied Woodpeckers. Four species of turtles can be observed in the park including, Northern Map Turtle, Painted Turtle and Snapping Turtle. The Spring Peeper frog is quite common in Dolph as well as other frog species.
Access and Parking
Parking is available in the main lot off Wagner Road, or along the street on Parklake Avenue on the east side of the park. Trails begin at various points from these two parking areas. All trails are unpaved and most are narrow. Some trails cut through shrubby areas. A trail bisecting the park is wider. There are benches throughout the trail system. The two lakes have platforms or docks and offer good fishing opportunities.
Bike & Pedestrian Access
Jackson Road, which borders the park on the north, has a sidewalk but no bike lanes. There are no bike racks at the park.
Dolph is connected to Lakewood Nature Area.
The nearest bus stop is on Jackson Road at Parklake Avenue. Visit The Ride for closest stops and route details or check out the parks ride guide.
Using a phone? - Click for a GPS Tracker and Wayfinding Map
- Unpaved trails
- Benches and picnic table
- Fishing dock
- Landfill receptacle
There are many opportunities for volunteering and getting engaged with the Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Services Unit. Natural Area Preservation has volunteer opportunities to help protect and restore Ann Arbor’s natural areas and to foster an environmental ethic within the community.
Report a Problem - A2 Fix It
To report any maintenance issues or other problem during your park visit, please report through A2Fix It. Keep in mind that parks are large spaces and A2 Fix It requests can be hard 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. Users can also utilize the pin (website) or X (mobile app) feature to provide specific location information inside the park. Please consider including a wide angle photo, 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.
Ann Arbor's city parks sit on the ancestral and traditional homelands of several indigenous Native peoples. Read a land acknowledgement from the city and learn more about the early history of the land here.
Dolph Nature Area was a 26 acre gift given to the City of Ann Arbor in 1962 by the family of Ray Dolph. The park is now named after Ray. Additional purchases were made to preserve the lakes and pond. In 2002, NAP acquired property to the south of Second Sister Lake adding 18.2 additional acres to the park.
Dolph, a native of Ohio where he was in the real estate business, came to Ann Arbor to purchase the funeral home of Oliver M. Martin in 1908. He renamed it Dolph Funeral Home and operated it first on Fourth Ave and then on Maynard Street until 1952. He leased the building to the University of Michigan for their television studios. It’s now a local bar.
Dolph was the classic small-town businessman. He served as president of the Chamber of Commerce for one year and served as fuel administrator for the county. He also developed the Lakewood subdivision in the 1920s which is where he lived. He was a member of the Methodist Church, Rotary Club, Knights of Pythias, Knights Templar, Royal Arch Masons, Blue Lodge and the Zal-Gaz Grotto. He was also president of the Super Realty Company, vice president of Ann Arbor Finance Co. and on the board of the Ann Arbor Building Association. He belonged to the Huron Hills Golf Club and the Washtenaw County Fair Society.
Read NAP newsletters about Dolph Nature Area, including the natural features and bird species:
1996 Park Focus: Dolph Park by Deb Paxton
2007 Park Focus: Dolph Nature Area by Michelle Crowder