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Kate Palmer Sanctuary

The Kate Palmer Sanctuary, located five miles west of Jackson, is a fifty-three acre tract of varying ecosystems; upland and lowland deciduous woods, a grove of large White Pine trees, marshlands and natural springs. Sandstone Creek, one of the only streams in southern Michigan able to support a Trout population, dissects the sanctuary. Mounds of slate mark where early farmers mined their supply of winter coal. The Kate Palmer Sanctuary is regarded by many Jackson County naturalists and botanists to be the richest woods in Jackson County for wildflowers. At the right time of spring ( usually late April to early May ), the woodland is virtually carpeted with masses of Trout Lilies and Trilliums. The Kate Palmer Sanctuary is also one of the last places in Michigan to find Shingle Oak trees with their unusual elliptical leaves.

Driving Directions

To reach the sanctuary from Jackson, take Michigan Avenue west to O'Brien Road, about one mile past M - 60. Turn left onto O' Brien Road and go south about two miles. The sanctuary's small dirt parking area is on the east side of O' Brien Road about 200 feet north of McCain Road.

Kate Palmer Sanctuary: History

In 1926, under the direction of William Fargo, a prominent Jackson Engineer and naturalist, the Jackson County Audubon Society purchased fifty-three acres of land on O'Brien Road in Spring Arbor Township, Jackson County, from Jerome and Nellie Shaw. The money for the purchase was raised through donations from many well-known members of the community, the largest coming from Kate Palmer. To honor her commitment to conservation, and in recognition of her donations for the land purchase, the Sanctuary was named the Kate Palmer Wildlife Sanctuary.

Kate Palmer was born near Parma, Michigan in 1858. As a charter member of the Jackson Audubon Society, Kate was a true naturalist, and proponent of the preservation and conservation of natural lands to be used as refuges for species pressured by increasing development.

The Jackson Audubon Society maintained the sanctuary , put a trail through it, and used it for nature study. When the society temporarily disbanded in 1941, the land was donated to the Jackson Public School, so that it could continue to be used by teachers and students as a living laboratory in the natural sciences. Bob Whiting used the sanctuary as a outdoor ornithology lab during the 27 years that he taught at Jackson Junior College ( now Jackson Community College ). The Jackson high School Biology Club, under the direction of Charles Blair and Hazel Bradley took special interest in the Kate Palmer Sanctuary. One of it's members, Mark Jenness did a one-man study of the area, and subsequently was hired at the Kalamazoo Nature Center on the strength of his report. Under Miss Bradley's direction, an artesian well was taped, and many people got their drinking water from this well until the early 1980's. In 1960, Eliot Porter a nationally renowned photographer photographed the uncommon Cerulean Warbler at the sanctuary with the help of Audubon members Dr. and Mrs. Powell Cottrille. In 1982, the land was returned to the Jackson Audubon Society for safekeeping and wider use by community residents.

In recent years, more attention has been focused on this valuable, wild oasis, as the suburbs and other developments rapidly diminish our local green spaces. Local Boy Scout Troops have participated in annual cleanup activities, and signs have been erected to discourage littering and to promote wise use of the sanctuary. The Kate Palmer Wildlife Sanctuary is officially owned by the Michigan Audubon Society, and is maintained by the Jackson Audubon Society.