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 location 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 our Ann Arbor 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 in order 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.
The 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.