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Barton Nature Area

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Park Address:​​​ 1010 W. Huron River Drive

Access& Parking     Amenities          History

Ho​​​​​urs and Rules ​
​Open 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Consumption or possession of alcohol is prohibited. No swimming, wading or diving due to dangerous undertows around the dam. Avoid the foam. No fishing from the dam. ​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

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, see boat rentals for details.  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.


 Access Points and Parking 

The main entrance with parking is located to the north of the park at 1010 W. Huron River Drive, 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.

 

Bandemer Park/Barton Nature Area Pedestrian Connection Update

In December 2020, the City of Ann Arbor and the Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission held a public meeting regarding a proposed pedestrian tunnel beneath the railroad that would connect Bandemer Park and Barton Nature Area. You can view the presentation​, watch the public meeting, review the meeting summary or visit Park Planning for updates. ​

River Access

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


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.  GIVE 365 and the seasonal Adopt-a-Park Program offer volunteer opportunities in the mowed park areas. 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

Barton Nature Area was purchased in the 1960s from Detroit Edison, who used Barton Dam for electric power production. The dam 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

2016 - Riverside benches along Barton Pond, Huron River Watershed Council with funding from DTE Energy Foundation
 

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 Email [email protected] for incorrect/outdated information.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