Dolph Nature Area is a 75.2-acre park on the city's west side, bordered by Wagner Road on the west, Jackson Road on the north, Parklake Avenue on the east and West Liberty Road on the south. One of Ann Arbors most beautiful parks, its ecosystem includes open water, wetland and marsh habitat, as well as forest and shrubland. 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. Over 140 species of birds have been observed in the park as well as three species of turtles and several species of frogs. It is also home to varied bog plants and other interesting wetland plants.
Access and Parking
Parking is available in the main lot off Wagner Road, or along the street on Parklake. No facilities are available here. 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.
Dolph Park was a 26-acre gift given to the City in 1962 by the family of Ray Dolph. Additional purchases were made to preserve the lakes and pond and in 2002 NAP acquired property to the south of Second Sister Lake adding 18.2 additional acres to the park.
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 in to 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. NAP is monitoring a small population of water hyacinth (an invasive) along the eastern edge of First Sister.
Over 140 bird species have been recorded in Dolph. Migrants include the American Bittern, Least Flycatcher, Northern Waterthrush, Mourning Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Wood Duck, Green Heron, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Warbling Vireo and Wood thrush. Year-round residents include Downy, Hairy and Red Bellied Woodpeckers. Three 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.