Dolph Nature Area

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Overview​

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.​​​​

Park Notices

Unless otherwise posted per City Council resolution, 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.

Park Hours

6 a.m. – Midnight

Amenities

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Unpaved Trails

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Fishing Dock

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Picnic Tables​​

 

Trash & Recycling​


 
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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.​ 

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.​

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Public Transportation

The nearest bus stop is on Jackson Road at Parklake Avenue. Visit TheRide​ for closest stops and route details or check out the parks ride guide​​.​​​​​

History​​​

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 a​bout 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,​ Natural Area Preservation​ 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 m​​ember 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



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A2 Fix It

A2Fix It - Service request tool

A2 Fix It is an online system you can use to report any maintenance issues or other problems during your park visit. When reporting an issue in a park please include detailed location information in the "details and description" section near the end of the request process. Pictures that provide location context are very helpful.

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