E.L. Johnson Nature Center in Bloomfield Twp


Shortly after World War II, the Olsen family purchased 16 acres along Franklin Rd and built the home that now serves as the caretaker residence at the Nature Center. They dredged the low, swampy area east of their home which eventually filled with natural underground spring water and formed the pond that visitors enjoy today. During the years the Olsen’s lived in the home, they created the natural sanctuary by planting thousands of trees, shrubs and wildflowers. They planted native species and experimented with species from other areas of the country as well. They introduced fish into the pond, and kept detailed records of the wildlife they observed on the property. The Olsen’s sold their beautiful property to the Bloomfield Hills School District in 1968.

Bloomfield Hills School District

The thriving and growing school district purchased additional acreage adjacent to the Olsen property, creating a thirty nine acre site to be used as a nature center to enhance the teaching of science. When Telegraph Road was widened in 1977, a multitude of trees were planted to somewhat screen the Nature Center from the busy road. When the district decided that a good way to enhance Michigan studies for students would be to purchase, relocate, and restore a log cabin of the early nineteenth century era, the availability of land at the Nature Center made it a logical destination site. The search for an existing cabin of that time period was to no avail, so the 1985 recreation millage funds were used to build a facsimile. It was completed in 1987 and was furnished to approximately represent the late 1800’s time period. Today, students and adult visitors, delight in the opportunity to enter the cabin and instantly step more than a hundred years backward in time. Today, the Bloomfield Hills School District integrates the Nature Center as part of the curriculum for grades 1 through 8.

In 2000, an additional .6 acres of land were donated to the Nature Center and subsequently generous grants from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the United States EPA, enabled the demolition of the two, thirty-year old “temporary”, classroom buildings, and the construction of a 5,000 square foot permanent structure designed along “Green” principles to serve as a Visitor Center as well as classroom space. The dedication of the building took place in September, 2006, and the Nature Center continues to serve students, community members and visitors throughout Oakland County, and beyond. The nature center was named the E.L. Johnson Nature Center in honor of the long time, dedicated school district superintendent, E. L. Johnson.

Trail Information

The Nature Center has nearly two miles of mulched trails. The distance around the perimeter trails is 9 tenths of a mile.

  • Pets – Pets are not allowed at the Nature Center due to the caged wildlife and other animals that roam freely on the property.
  • Bicycles – Not allowed on the trails.
  • Fees – There is no trail fee, however, donations are appreciated.
  • Cross Country Skiing Is allowed on all trails.
  • Snowshoeing Is allowed on all trails.
  • Jogging – Is allowed on the trails.
  • Restrooms – Available at Visitor Center
  • Handicapped Access and Strollers – There are no paved trails; however, most of the trails are hard-packed so wheel chairs and strollers can operate when conditions are dry.
  • Benches and Picnic Tables– There are a few scattered throughout the site.

Other Activities Offered at the Nature Center

  • Day Camps throughout the summer months. Registration is required.
  • Fishing on selected weekend dates from June through Aug.; catch and release only; must be accompanied by a parent. Registration required.
  • Fall Family Day featuring canoeing, fishing, crafts.
  • Bird Banding in May; registration required.
  • Maple Syrup tapping and making on selected weekend in March.

You may register online at www.BloomfieldRec.org for the Nature Center Camps or Call 248-433-0885.

The E. L. Johnson Nature Center is located at: 3325 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills, MI.  Phone: 248-341-6485

The Information Center Exhibit Room is open on weekends only: Sat. 11-2 and Sun. 12-3

The trails are open week days from 8 am-7 pm; Sat. & Sun. 9 am-4 pm.

The Nature Center offers a peaceful respite from hectic schedules. You can walk the trails or just sit on the dock and watch the fish, frogs and turtles swim by.


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