Fred Russ Forest County Park

Located eight miles east of Dowagiac within the 580 acres of Fred Russ research forest you will find the Fred Russ Forest Park. This 13-acre park with its rich history and natural beauty is one of the most visited parks in Cass County. Dowagiac Creek is a designated trout stream (second-quality, cold water) that flows through Russ Forest, which is owned by Michigan State University. This first-order stream originates in a chain of lakes near Marcellus and flows in a southwesterly direction to its confluence with the Dowagiac River. There is no state-owned land along the creek, but anglers currently have no problems obtaining landowner permission to fish most of the creek. The creek has many faithful anglers, some who have been fishing there for decades. It is very good dry fly water, being sufficiently wide to permit fly casting by the novice. This feature is rare in many southern Michigan trout streams. Anglers do quite well, catching trout from 5-24 inches. Many limit catches are reported. Historically, Dowagiac Creek has been managed for trout since at least 1933. Brown, brook, and rainbow trout have all been planted; however, only browns have been stocked since 1964. Learn more about Dowagiac Creek trout fishing on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources site.

People also come to hike, ride the trails on horseback, canoe, kayak, and picnic. (See details below.)

Location: Fred Russ Forest Park, 20379 Marcellus Highway, Decatur, MI 49045 – Directions

Newton Woods, a 40-acre parcel of the oak-hickory forest is located within the 580-acre Fred Russ Forest Experiment Station, a Michigan State University (MSU) research forest, and Cass County park. The Russ Forest and Park lie where the east-west Marcellus Highway crosses Dowagiac Creek, 8 miles east of Dowagiac. The Newton tract was listed, in 1976 by the United States Department of the Interior, as a National Natural Landmark.

Newton Woods is classified by MSU as a “virtually undisturbed, mature oak-hickory forest.” In addition, the larger Fred Russ Forest and Park are noted for their black walnuts and tulip trees. One of the tulip trees has been identified as the largest tree of this type in Michigan and is claimed to be 180 feet tall.

Adjacent to the Fred Russ Forest on the east is the site of the now-vanished hamlet of Volinia, which existed from 1834 until 1902. The hamlet was located where the Marcellus Highway crosses Gards Prairie Road.

Newton Woods is named after George Newton, who represented Volinia and neighboring communities in the Michigan General Assembly. Newton’s Victorian mansion (George Newton House) survives on the Marcellus Highway near the woods and was named as a registered Michigan historic site in 1974 as Registered Site LO367. A historic marker was erected.

Newton House Museum, Decatur, Cass County, MI
Historic Newton House tour hours, Marcellus, Cass County, MI

For Fun & Recreation

  • Picnicking
  • Children’s play equipment
  • Picnic shelters (3)
  • Fishing (class A trout stream)
  • Horseshoe Pits
  • Hiking trails (4 mi.)
  • Canoe landing
  • Cross-country skiing (4 mi.)
  • Equestrian trails (4 + mi.)

Essential Information

  • Park hours sunrise – sunset
  • Entrance fee: donations appreciated
  • Park Open: year-round

For your comfort

  • Electricity at each shelter
  • Security lighting
  • Rustic restrooms
  • Fresh well water
Fred Russ Forest Park, Cass County, MI