The South Side of North is where you will find the Garden Peninsula, home to the 574 acre Haunted Forest Preserve. The Garden Peninsula is on the north shore of Lake Michigan, extending 22 miles from the south side of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It matches Wisconsin's Door Peninsula and the two rocky points of land form Green Bay and Big Bay De Noc, which are among the most productive fisheries in the Great Lakes.
Geologically, the 420 million year-old Garden Peninsula is part of the Niagara Escarpment, the hard edge of a tipped bowl underlying the Great Lakes. The erosion-resistant capstone is dolomitic limestone, also called dolostone, or more popularly, dolomite. It forms not only Niagara Falls, but also Canada's Bruce Peninsula, the Manitoulin Islands, and Michigan's Drummond Island, home to TNC's Maxton Plains Preserve where a rare biotic community, called an alvar, forms in thin soils above flat limestone pavement. On the Garden Peninsula, the white stone is revealed in high cliffs along the blue water.
The Haunted Forest Preserve gets it name from a larger, mature white cedar forest, inaccessible (fortunately) to loggers over years past and still inaccessible (unfortunately) to most visitors, like me, my wife Anna, and the three college students who were with us on their first trip to the Upper Peninsula. The 574 acre Preserve consists of several points of land divided by a curving and rocky shoreline, steep cliffs, hardwood forests, and coastal wetlands. It is the wetlands, and the shallow near-shore areas, that give this place its ecological importance. This pristine, undisturbed overlap of land and water serves as a rich spawning ground for fish and a valuable habitat for migratory and other birds. We were stopped several times on our walk by the sight of a pair of bald eagles soaring over the Preserve and neighboring bays. In all, The Nature Conservancy has protected six miles of Great Lakes coastline on the Garden Peninsula.
The political boundaries of the Great Lakes sometimes get in the way of saving them. Not only does an international border divide four of the five lakes, but eight states exercise different programs and regulations to protect the world's largest freshwater lakes. Fortunately, a number of official bodies coordinate the government efforts, and non-governmental organizations have evolved to look at the Great Lakes from an ecosystem point of view. The Nature Conservancy's Great Lakes Project takes a whole system perspective and combines the efforts of several state chapters, engages the Governors of the Great Lakes states, and uses science to direct conservation where most needed, regardless of boundaries or bureaucracies.
The Haunted Forest Preserve came to be because people's love for the environment is also not constrained by political boundaries. The Nature Conservancy used its traditional method of working with landowners and funders, from several states, to acquire land through donation, purchase, and easement protection. The Preserve lies in Michigan, but it owes its protection to both private and public support from Wisconsin.
Big Bay de Noc, on the western side of the Garden Peninsula, is part of the larger Green Bay ecological region. The natural features have supported a vibrant human economy, from fisheries to logging to agriculture to shipping to tourism. Unfortunately, overuse has damaged the watershed lands, created some toxic hotspots, and eliminated more than 70 percent of the wetlands in the area. The Fox River & Green Bay Natural Resource Trustee Council was formed to help restore the ecosystem following some of this despoilment. While most of the attention has been given to the southern, Wisconsin end of Green Bay, The Nature Conservancy recognized that saving the wetlands of the Garden Peninsula, would help the entire Green Bay ecosystem recover from its historical mistreatment. Thus, funds from Wisconsin came to save part of Michigan; all of it making the Great Lakes healthier.
|The limestone in the white cliffs sourced Fayette|
|note the former stone wall, now overgrown|
Sustainability. Throughout the Upper Peninsula, one sees frequent reminders of the dangers of building an economy solely on the one-time use of natural resources. Time and again, unchecked logging, rampant mining, and overfishing have created boom and bust communities that failed to last. Today, you come across massive white pine stumps, rusting mining equipment, slag piles, empty ports, and even whole abandoned towns that remind us of the dangers of over-exploiting our natural resource. Fortunately, the times are changing in the Upper Peninsula. The Nature Conservancy is creating a sustainable logging model (see video) and is working with private timber companies to forever protect forest lands both for economic and environmental benefits (read more). Mining continues as part of the Michigan economy, but the economy has diversified and better policies and practices minimize damage.
Click here to learn more about the Haunted Forest Preserve
Click here for more on Fayette and visiting the Garden Peninsula
Click here for information on Fayette Historic State Park
This trip could not have been possible without Danielle Miller's guidance and local knowledge, the hospitality and commitment of the Thomas and the Wilson families, the photography of Anna Owens, and the company of Beata, Katrina, and Jenny. Thank you all.