The Nature’s Megaphone officially sits on Boyd B. Banwell Nature Preserve and you can easily access it from the adjacent Agnes S. Andreae Nature Preserve. We parked in the parking lot at Andreae and hiked the two-mile loop to experience northern Michigan’s forests.
When you sit inside the wooden megaphone and listen quietly, the megaphone amplifies the sounds of the birds, forest, insects, and wind to the point where barely audible sounds become easily heard.
How Nature’s Megaphone Came to Indian River?
It all started when Little Traverse Nature Conservancy team member Charles Dawley learned of the original three nature megaphones located in a forest in Estonia. Then, with the help of local high school students from the Petoskey High School Building Trades class, they built the only structure of its kind in the United States on Banwell Nature Preserve, with materials donated from Home Depot.
The Original Nature’s Megaphone
Located in a clearing in Estonia’s Võru county forest, you’ll find an Estonian art installation of three megaphones that became the basis for the single nature’s megaphone at Banwell Nature Preserve. The project, called RUUP, resulted from architectural students consulting with an acoustic expert to create the perfect design to amplify the sounds of the forest. To learn more about the original nature megaphones, check out this article.
Boyd B. Banwell Nature Preserve
Boyd Banwell sold the original 320 acres in 2000. Since then, the Conservancy has acquired additional parcels with more river frontage, allowing extended trails.
Banwell Nature Preserve, 400 acres adjacent to the Andreae Nature Preserve, features three miles of shoreline along the Pigeon River. To reach the megaphone, I found it closest to park at the Andreae Nature Preserve, about a two-mile loop from the parking lot to the megaphone and back.
Fall Color and Hiking
Hiking through Banwell Family Nature Preserve to see Nature’s Megaphone is another place for getting great color opportunities in the Indian River area. The preserve adjacent to the Agnes S. Andreae Nature Preserve offers nearly three miles along the Pigeon River. In this area, you are high above the river, and in some cases, the oak trees, and steep bluffs above the Pigeon River, position your view from the treetops, which makes for stunning views of the local leaves. In addition, you can investigate more than five miles of trails between the Banwell Nature Preserve and the neighboring Andreae Preserve.
While enjoying the color, take the two-mile loop that includes Nature’s Megaphone. Overlooking the bluff from inside the megaphone provides an excellent view above the treetops. In addition, the megaphone will amplify the wind, bird songs, and insect buzzing for a fantastic symphony to accompany the landscape tinted with dazzling fall colors.
The Boyd B. Banwell Nature Preserve is open to unrestricted hunting. However, please note that the neighboring Agnes S. Andreae Nature Preserve is closed to hunting.
Address: Riverwood Road / Dunn Road, Afton, MI 49705
Take M-68 east from the town of Indian River, approximately 5.3 miles. On the left, look for the sign and parking area.
Agnes S. Andreae Nature Preserve
In 1983, Agnes S. Andreae donated the original 27 acres with frontage on the Pigeon River, and they have had several additions purchased since then. The donation included a small cabin overlooking the river. The cottage is available for use without charge by non-profit and community groups. Reservations are required.
Agnes S. Andreae donated the cabin and the associated 27 acres to the Little Traverse Conservancy in 1983. It became the Agnes S. Andreae Nature Preserve and Andreae Cabin to protect the serene wilderness for future generations. Today, the preserve is 181 acres, with 1.35 miles of Pigeon River frontage. The preserve features a cabin, a footbridge spanning the river, and a mile-long hiking trail.
The cabin, built in 1908, measures 29 feet by 24 feet. It offers four bedrooms with 16 bunk beds, a large dining room, a kitchen, and a screened-in porch with a river view. While the cabin has no indoor running water, it does offer electric lights, a four-burner cooktop, a refrigerator, a microwave, and a wood-burning stove. You’ll find a vault toilet nearby.
Scouts, churches, schools, and 4-H groups may use the cabin without charge. However, the Conservancy does appreciate donations. If you want to reserve the Andreae Cabin, click here to make your reservations.
Andreae Nature Preserve is 81 acres next to Boyd B. Banwell Preserve, featuring 1.4 miles of shoreline along the Pigeon River. The preserve sits along the lower part of the Pigeon River, which is a blue-ribbon trout stream. The preserve features pine woodlands on steep bluffs overlooking the river.
If you’re looking for trout, look no further than the Pigeon River, a renowned trout stream. The river is home to various trout including brown trout, brook trout, and steelhead. Anglers wade in the stream throughout the year, hoping to catch the next big one.
The Pigeon River begins in Otsego County, just a few miles from Gaylord. The river’s mainstream is 42 miles long from the headwaters to the mouth at the south end of Mullett Lake. The lake is about three miles downstream from the Andreae Cabin.
Note that the Agnes S. Andreae Nature Preserve is closed to hunting. However, the neighboring Boyd B. Banwell Nature Preserve features unrestricted hunting.
You must keep all dogs on a leash at Agnes S. Andreae Nature Preserve. If you do bring your dog to accompany you, please be sure to carry a plastic bag to pick up after them.
The primary habitat types found within the preserve include the river, the area where forest and water meet called the riparian zone, the mixed conifer and hardwood forests on both sides of the river, jack pine forests, and the uplands. You’ll find many types of wildlife, including songbirds, game birds, raptors, deer, elk, bear, bobcat, otter, mink, coyote, fox, and raccoon.
Address: Riverwood Road / Dunn Road, Afton, MI 49705
Off I-75 Exit 310 is the Indian River exit. Follow M-68 east 4.5 miles. Turn left onto Old Onaway Road and look for Cochran Lake Public Access sign. Continue north on Old Onaway Road 1.8 miles to Riverwoods Trail. Turn right on Riverwoods Trail. At the T intersection with Big Sky Trail, the Agnes S. Andreae Nature Preserve sign is in front of you.