Standish Price Nature Trail

The only wild food interpretive trail in the country!

The Standish Price Nature Trail is a unique educational resource designed for those interested in edible wild plants as well as more general plant identification, ecology, and field botany. With 118 stops featuring 110 species, this is one of the largest interpretive trails in the United States (in terms of the number of species covered and the amount of interpretive text accompanying the trail). It is also, as far as we know, the only such trail that focuses on edible wild plants (featuring 71 species).  Click on the picture to the right to view the segment featured on Wisconsin Public Television's In Wisconsin.

Designed and created by Samuel Thayer, a leading authority on edible wild plants and author of the book Nature’s Garden and the award-winning The Forager’s Harvest, the Standish Price Nature Trail is a walking classroom. Rather than cater to casual hikers, this trail is for those engaged in active learning about wild plants. It is a course with no instructor for students of edible wild plants and field botany in general.

This innovative set-up provides some enormous advantages to the user. First, because it eliminates the presence of an instructor, it is cost-effective: a traditional weekend botany field course costs hundreds of dollars. Second, it is convenient: the student comes whenever he or she wishes. And third, because there is no instructor, it forces the participant to learn rather than listen.

The pace, the method, and the content of traditional field courses are often ineffective because they simply do not match real learning styles. They cram too much information into too little time and promote passive listening rather than active learning. This promotes poor absorption and retention of the information. Traditional courses do not require the student to observe or examine the plant, which are the real pathways to learning about them.

The Standish Price NatureTrail is designed to allow students to slow down and learn at a realistic pace, as well as to facilitate the observation and interaction that promote effective learning. Users decide when to learn, what to learn, and at what pace.

Using The Trail

In function, the trail is much like other interpretive trails that employ a guidebook (as opposed to plaques posted on site). As you walk along the trail, you will see numbered markers that correspond to the entries in this guidebook. At each stop you can read the appropriate entry to learn about the natural history and edibility of the plant indicated. Being longer than most interpretive trails, this one would require many hours to take in. There is no reason to walk the entire trail in one day; nobody can learn plants that fast anyways.

As you look at each marker, you may need to read the description in the guidebook to determine which of the plants in the vicinity of the stake is its subject. You can also confirm this by looking up the plant in one of your field guides. While the trail focuses on edible plants, it also covers many non-edible plants. It is designed with the philosophy that, in order to learn edible plants, you must learn plants in general. (However, all collecting of plants is forbidden along the trail.)

The trail is not intended to be used only once, nor is it intended to be used by itself. Users of the trail should own several field guides and plant references. (A list of recommended references is provided.) Perhaps you’d want to carry Michigan Trees with you on one visit, and Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide on another.

After learning new plants on the Standish Price Nature Trail, you’ll want to commit your identification of each species to memory by finding and recognizing the plant on your own. You can do this on the trail, as many of the plants occur repeatedly along it. But you won’t want to miss some of the other spectacular hikes available in the area. Enjoy the vast public forest lands and beautiful lakes in the area, see some wildlife, and look for plants that you have just learned. Compare them with your field guides to make sure you have correctly identified them.

After a few years and a dozen visits to the trail, you will have learned a vast amount about botany, ecology, and edible wild plants. Have fun!

Trail Membership and Use

Most nature trails are free to the user but are paid for through your taxes. Like most free things, they tend to be underappreciated, underfunded, and poorly done. We have put a lot of effort into creating this "walking classroom" and are asking only a small fee from the user.  $25 is the cost of lifetime membership (for individuals or married couples and their minor children) to the trail—you will receive a free guidebook with membership and can learn from the trail any time the campground is open. For those of you who anticipate a single visit to the trail, you can use this unique learning resource for the going rate of a boat launch: $5 per day. Just stop at the office for a loaner copy of the guidebook.