Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Within the Kalamazoo city limits, tucked behind the former Nazareth College, are 60 acres of forest and wetland threaded by Spring Valley Creek, known as the Bow in the Clouds Preserve. Bow in the Clouds is a pocket paradise invisible from the road, sheltered by timbered ravines and blissfully set apart from the clamor of urban life.

This public preserve was donated by the Congregation of St. Joseph (CSJ) to the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC) in 2007. It’s a place where visitors can traverse a lush wetland from the relative comfort of a 1,000-foot boardwalk; or, they can hike on almost one mile of foot paths, including a footbridge over a rushing stream where students from neighboring Spring Valley Elementary like to hunt for tadpoles and crayfish.

Since its inception in 1991, SWMLC has helped create 43 preserves and safeguards nearly 12,000 acres of woods, wetlands, dunes, lakes, rivers and farmland across southwest Michigan. The challenge has always been to balance human use with natural preservation. SWMLC relies on a strong volunteer corps to maintain its preserves and restore their ecological vitality and function.

Bow in the Clouds is an extraordinary gift. SWMLC will help revive native habitat and improve visitor access which includes plans for barrier-free accommodations. “We want the public to use this preserve for what we call ‘re-creation,'” said CSJ’s Sister Virginia “Ginny” Jones when the property was donated. “We know that before formal religion existed, people encountered something of the holy in the natural world. And that something — that peace, solitude and wisdom — is what we believe people can still find here.”