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Welcome to Grass River Natural Area

A Northern Michigan Haven for Plant and Animal Life



Nestled in the hills of Antrim County in Michigan's northwest corner of the lower peninsula (see map), the Grass River Natural Area (GRNA) encompasses lakes, a meandering river, rushing streams and crystal clear creeks — a haven for plant and animal life, including both rare and endangered species. This natural eco-guardian project lies midway on the renowned Chain of Lakes waterway, a connector of Torch and Clam lakes, and Lake Bellaire. Grass River Natural Area is open seven days a week from dawn to dusk. Stop by to see what's happening at the Natural Area, peruse the informative displays, and browse the bookstore.

Earth Day Celebration, Saturday, April 26

Bring the family to celebrate Earth Day at Grass River Natural Area. The afternoon will feature crafts, games, demonstrations and guided hikes that promote a sustainable future for our planet. Enjoy the beauty of Grass River Natural Area as it awakens to spring and take home a native tree seedling to plant. Enter to win an Adventure Cycling membership! Bicycle rides between downtown Bellaire and GRNA. FREE

1:30 pm - ‘3,000 Miles by Bicycle’ Presentation: James & Lauren Dake share their photos and stories of their trip from Michigan to California by bicycle.

For more information, download the flyer.

Summer Internship Available

GRNA invites college students and high school seniors to apply to develop and teach nature classes, lead hikes, create educational displas and orient visitors.  The Bellaire Rotary sponsors this program to encourage local students to consider careers in environmental science.  Click here for more information.

Annual Flower Fundraiser!

Watch your mailbox for the GRNA Flower Postcard (see below) during the second week in April. When you bring the card with you to Pine Hill Nursery, they will graciously donate 20 percent of your purchase amount to Grass River for certain plants and hanging baskets!  If you don't get a postcard, call 231-533-8314 to have one mailed to you.

Our New Leaders


Haley Breniser is our new Executive Director. Haley is a proud native of Michigan and a graduate of Michigan State University’s Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Her respect for wilderness and passion for conservation originated from an unforgettable and humbling two-week backpacking trip on Isle Royale when she was 19. From that point forward, she has participated in a variety of conservation and research projects throughout Michigan, the United States, and the Canadian Rockies. She worked for the Kalamazoo Nature Center for 3.5 years as Director of Ecological Services and looks forward to bringing this experience with her to Grass River Natural Area. She recognizes the uniqueness of the plant and wildlife community within GRNA’s boundaries as well as the human community that so passionately support it. Haley is grateful to be so warmly welcomed into her new position as Executive Director. Having joined GRNA in November 2013, she has already jumped in the Grass River with both feet. She is leading the organization on many fronts, from policy revisions, to expansion of GRNA's education and conservation programs. And she recently hired James Dake...


James Dake joined GRNA in early February as our new Education Director.  James grew up in Flushing, Michigan and has studied science education at Central Michigan University and Western Michigan University. Most recently he was the environmental studies instructor at Kingsbury School in Oxford, MI. He has taught science in the classroom as well as environmental education with nature centers and museums in Michigan and New York. He spent two years in Ithaca, NY as an Environmental Education Director at the Museum of the Earth and authored a field guide of the flora and fauna of the region using his own photography. He also spent time in the Adirondack Mountains and on an apple orchard in Central New York. He moved back to his home state in 2010 and is now living in Elk Rapids. Along with teaching outdoors, his passions are backpacking, biking, photography, art, writing, and music. In the summer of 2012, James and his wife, Lauren, rode their bicycles from Michigan to California, with their trip beginning in northwest Michigan. He is now proud and happy to call this region his home.
James has not wasted any time trying out his camera in the natural area. Here's a Common Goldeneye James caught feasting on a tasty crayfish in the Grass River on February 19.


Attention, Pet Lovers!


With nicer weather approaching, it's a great temptation to take your pets out to the Grass River Area and let them pretend to be wild animals. Please remember, Antrim County Ordinance Section 13, #1 of 1988 allows pets ONLY on the Rail Trail and Algonquin Trail, and only on leash at all times. And out of respect for other hikers, please clean up after your pet on these trails. OK, we know, the wild animals don't clean up after themselves. But these two trails will rapidly become unwalkable if pet owners are inconsiderate.
Except on the Rail Trail or Algonquin Trail with leash and pooper scooper. Thank you!!


New Gift Opportunity - Tribute Stones

The natural beauty and peacefulness of the Grass River Natural Area creates the ideal setting in which to pay tribute to a special person or remember the life of a loved one. Honor or remember this special person while supporting the Grass River Natural Area in a new way - tribute stones. A gift of $350.00 to Grass River Natural Area, Inc. will be used to purchase/engrave a native stone with your tribute and install the stone along the pathway leading to Grass River Natural Area’s Serenity Garden. The remainder of your gift will be used to provide general operating support, including education programming, or to help generate ongoing endowment to support the Grass River Natural Area for years to come.


Remembering through Nature

Please send your check for $350.00 payable to GRNA at PO Box 231, Bellaire, MI  49615. Mark “Tribute Stones” on your check and include a note with your tribute “In honor of (name)(s)” or “In memory of (name)(s).”

For further information on tribute stones, please contact the GRNA office at 231-533-8314 or send an email to, include “Tribute Stones” in the subject line.


Winter and Spring Classes & Events at Grass River

Owls and frogs, predators and moonlight hikes are just some of the adventures planned for cold season. Check out the offerings on the Take a Class and Special Events pages.

Grass River Natural Area Birding Series Returns

Calling all bird lovers! Our popular birding series returns in January. Learn to identify birds in your backyard and beyond by sight and song. The classes will be held monthly January through May and culminate with the 4th annual Bird Blitz on June 14. See classes for more information and to register.

Grass River Center Hours

Hours are 11 am to 4 pm Saturdays and Sundays. Stop by to get the scoop on what’s happening in the natural area, peruse the informative displays, and browse the bookstore. See special events for more information. The Grass River Natural Area is located at 6500 Alden Hwy, Bellaire.

Ten Northern Michigan Summer Escapes

In July 2012, "Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine" listed Grass River Natural Area as one of the top ten Northern Michigan Summer Escapes (read the full article).

Thank you Grass River donors!!



Educational classes for children, adults and school groups, emphasizing the environment and water and land protection are at the core of the popular outdoor curriculum. A network of trails with observation platforms and boardwalks traverse an educational area providing easy access to upland, wetland and aquatic habitats. A portion of this seven mile system is wheelchair and stroller accessible.

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About GRNA

Grass River Natural Area is publicly owned and managed by a local volunteer board of directors dedicated to water and land protection and environmental education. Visitors are welcome year-round from dawn 'til dusk. GRNA is free to visitors, who are encouraged in return to become members, volunteers and contributors.

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