Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center
4101 River Bends Drive
Shelby Township, Michigan 48317

Phone 586-323-2478   Fax 586-323-2479
E-mail naturecenter@shelbytwp.org

Nature Center Coordinator................................................JoAnn Burgess
Shadbush Naturalist...............................................................Dan Farmer
Parks, Recreation & Maintenance Acting Director...........Joe Youngblood
River Bends Park Coordinator..............................................Kerry Crosier

Monday Closed
Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Thursday 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
Friday 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sunday Noon - 5:00 pm
Jo Burgess at NC


NC Indoors

To provide nature-related experiences and activities to help visitors of all ages develop and rekindle an awareness and appreciation for the natural world around them.


Shadbush Nature Center Facts
The Shadbush Nature Center is located in the northwest section of River Bends Park in Shelby Township, Michigan. The northern boundary of the Nature Center is adjacent to a unique natural area known as the Shadbush Tract. Both the natural area and the Nature Center are named for the exceptionally large Shadbush trees that grow in the area.


Nature Center in winter


During the 1950s, the Nature Center area was a site of silos that formerly housed the Nike Missiles.

Discussion concerning construction of the Nature Center began in 1993, when Shelby Township  acquired a part of the Rochester-Utica Recreation Area from the State of Michigan. This area is now known as River Bends Park.

With the assistance of the Shelby Parks & Recreation Committee, Shelby Township was able to apply for and receive a grant from the DNR (Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund) in the amount of $302,688.00. 

Actual construction began in May of 2000. On February 3, 2001, the Nature Center officially opened to the public.

Check out the current edition of “Shelby Township News Worth Knowing” for program offerings and special events!


Additional Nature Center building details include:
Bulding Size 3,990 square feet
Log Construcvtion Norlog LTD (Canadian Firm)
Log Size 10" diameter white pine
Architect AEW (Anderson, Eckstein & Westrick)
General Contractor Boulevard Construction Company
Contractor Donations Various local contractors donated labor & materials


A plaque acknowledging all donors to the Burgess Shadbush Nature Center
has been mounted on the entrance wall of the building

The Shadbush
The Shadbush belongs to a group of flowering shrubs and small trees called Amelanchier, in the Rose family. The name is said to be derived from its sweet tasting berries.  Due to their flowering and fruiting characteristics, a number of Amelanchiers have been given such names as Shadbush, Serviceberry, and Juneberry.  “Shadbush” refers to the flowering of the bush-like tree in the early spring, when the Shad fish used to swim up the eastern rivers to spawn.

Shadbush Tree
Shadbush Flowers

The buds are rather long, slender, and pointed. The bud scales may be greenish or reddish tinged in color.

The leaves are simple, egg-shaped, sharply toothed, and alternate. They are about ½ - 2 ½” long and about 1" wide. They may be somewhat rounded or heart-shaped at the base. In the fall, the leaves turn pretty shades of yellow, orange, and red.

The small white flowers with five narrow petals grow in clusters at the end of the branches. They bloom in early spring (March/April) before or as the leaves appear.

The mountain people call it the Serviceberry because the trees bloomed around the time the circuit riding ministers went into the mountains after each spring to perform such services as weddings. The name Juneberry reflects the maturity of its small, apple-like fruit in the month of June.

Over 40 species of birds and other animals like the skunk, raccoon, squirrel, and chipmunk eat the berries, which also make fine pies, jam, jelly, and wine. Rabbits, beaver, whitetail deer, and moose also browse on the twigs.

Native Americans mixed the dried berries with dried buffalo meat to make a food staple called Pemmican. The bark was simmered and used to soothe eyes irritated by the sun, dust, and snow blindness. They also used the wood to make arrow shafts.


Characteristics of the Shadbush

Shadbush Branch

The small, round, apple-like fruits, the size of a large pea or small blueberry, are reddish purple or blue when ripe in early June.

The bark is mostly smooth and light gray in color with long, dark streaks with stripes like the stripes on a tiger.

Shadbush Bark
Shadbush Berries

The Shadbush Tract
The Shadbush Tract is a unique 80 acre natural area located in the northwest section of River Bends Park in Shelby Township. It’s named for the exceptionally large Shadbush trees that grow in the area.

This area has often been referred to as “the little Grand Canyon of Macomb County” because of its geological features. It might also be called “the gem of Shelby Township”. There is no other known tract of land in Shelby Township with such a variety of habitats — hardwood forest, cattail marsh, cedar swamp, and riverside meadows. A wide range of birds, small animals, and plant life is also found in the Shadbush Tract.

Over 30 years ago, the Michigan Natural Areas Council formed a reconnaissance team to survey this unique natural tract. At the completion of the study, the team recommended that this natural tract, with its wide variety of plants, animals, and natural features be dedicated as a Nature Study Area. This recommendation became a reality on April 8, 1966 when the Shadbush Tract was dedicated for protection as a natural area preserved in its natural state, with foot traffic restricted to foot trails, and its use restricted to nature study by the public. 

In January of 1992, the Macomb Audubon Society initiated a Natural Features Inventory of the Shadbush Tract. This organization was endeavoring to inventory the plants, trees, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and bird life in the natural area.

trail platform

In March of 1992, the Macomb Audubon Society commissioned students under the direction of Dr. James Wells of the Cranbrook Institute of Science, to perform a Botanical Survey of the Shadbush Tract as well as other parts of the River Bends Park.

The Macomb Audubon Society had also engaged qualified biologists, entomologists, herpetologists, etc. to conduct the other parts of the ongoing survey.

Over 100 species of birds have been identified in the Shadbush Tract as well as protected plants and animal species like Lady Slippers, Trillium, and the Spotted Turtle.


River Bends Park
River Bends Park is indeed an outstanding community resource. It is rich in plant and animal life, and has historical significance as well. In 2000, a bridge was constructed to connect the two sections of River Bends Park. 

The park is divided into two sections by the Clinton River, which flows through the park in an area approximately six miles long. The main entrance to the eastern section of the Park located on 22 Mile Road. This section includes picnic areas, three picnic shelters, rest rooms, and a hiking trail.  The flood plain along the east side of the river provides an 18-hole Frisbee golf course for more active recreation.
Clinton Kalamazoo Canal

Evidence of the historic Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal borders the eastern boundary of River Bends Park.  The entrance to the western section of the park is located off the east side of Ryan Road at River Bends Drive.  This section includes a unique natural area referred to as the Shadbush Tract, the Shelby Shadbush Nature Center, and Woodall Neighborhood Park. A trap and archery range, RC race track, and a hill for sledding can also be found in the western section of the park.

The Shadbush Tract and Nature Center provide opportunities for passive recreation, while the Woodall Neighborhood Park provides ball diamonds, a soccer field, ice rink, and a 1.6 mile paved path for more active recreation. The area also includes picnic tables, a picnic shelter, rest rooms, and a playground area.

This section of the park is also important historically. It was a former stop on the Underground Railroad and the famous boxer, "Brown Bomber" Joe Louis once owned a farm and training center on the land. During the 1950s, it was also the home of a U.S. Army Base, complete with armed Nike Missiles.

Trees and Shrubs found in the
Shadbush Nature Center Area
Tamarack Large Tooth Aspen Ironwood
White Cedar Spice Bush Red Maple
Red Elm Black Raspberry Basswood
White Ash Gooseberry Black Cherry
Choke Cherry Red Oak White Oak
Black Oak Burr Oak Shadbush
Witch Hazel Hawthorn Hackberry
Yellow Birch Red Mulberry Sugar Maple
White Elm Red Raspberry Black Maple
Black Ash Common Elder Bitternut Hickory
Prickly Ash White Pine Canada Yew
Willow Honeysuckle Narrowleaf Willow
Poison Ivy Bladdernut Pussy Willow
Smooth Honeysuckle Cottonwood Poison Sumac
Aromatic Sumac Alternate Leaf Dogwood Red Osier Dogwood
Flowering Dogwood Gray Dogwood Tulip Tree
Blue Beach Sycamore  
Wildflowers in the Shadbush Nature Area
Bloodroot Jack-in-the-Pulpit Twinflower
Skunk Cabbage Wild Ginger Blue Violet
Broadleaf Toothwort Early Meadow Rue Partridge Berry
Marsh Marigold Roundleaf Hepatica Sedge
Nude Mitewort Small Soloman Seal Wood Rush
Miterwort White Trillium Bellwort
Swamp Current Wood Anemone Fern
Douglas Bitter Cress Canada Mayflower Shinleaf
Goldthread Spring Beauty Ladyslipper
Dwarf Raspberry Wild Geranium Columbine
Cutleaf Toothwort Early Buttercup Troutlilly
ranger with flowers
Mammals found in the
Nature Center Area
Whitetail Deer Coyote
Fox Raccoon
Oppossum Skunk
Squirrel Badger
Beaver Muskrat
Mink Chipmunk
Wood Duck Gopher (13 lined squirrel)
Cottontail Rabbit Mice (several species)

How the Clinton River Got Its Name
At one time, there were three rivers in Michigan called the Huron River.  The Lower Huron, which flows through Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The Upper Huron, which flows through Pontiac, Rochester, Shelby Township, Utica, and Mt. Clemens, on its way to Lake St. Clair.  The Huron of the North, which flows through the thumb area of Michigan.  Having three rivers with the same name caused so much confusion among people that two of the rivers were renamed.  The Upper Huron was renamed the Clinton River in honor of Governor Clinton of New York.  The Huron of the North was renamed the Cass River in honor of Governor Lewis Cass of Michigan.


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two deer
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