Little Traverse Conservancy Preserves Add to Expansive UP Public Lands

Those of us lucky enough to live in Cloverland’s service area know one of the Upper Peninsula’s greatest attractions is the thousands of acres of public land available for exploring.

Between state and federal forests, there is plenty of room to roam. Even with all that abundance, Little Traverse Conservancy (LTC) expands opportunities for residents and visitors to hike, bike, paddle, hunt, fish, forage and just pause to take in incredible sunrises, sunsets, and cool Great Lakes breezes.

The Conservancy is the caretaker of thousands of acres of preserved forest and marshland in our neighborhood that might not otherwise be available to the public. Whether you are a bird watcher or waterfowl hunter, a canoeist or kayaker, a hiker or biker, LTC has trails and preserves that cater to your interests.

LTC was founded in Harbor Springs as a non-profit in 1972 with the idea to protect land from development and preserve it for public enjoyment. Since its inception, it has established more than 200 public nature preserves encompassing more than 63,000 acres on 270 private properties in Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet counties in the Northern Lower Peninsula, and Chippewa and Mackinac counties in the Eastern U.P., including 154 miles of river and lake frontage. It maintains 110 miles of hiking trails on nearly 50 of those preserves and has provided free environmental education programs to thousands of students.

A growing number of LTC’s preserves are being established in the Eastern U.P., especially along the north shore of Lake Huron between Hessel and Drummond Island, but also as far away as the former Vermilion Life-Saving Station on nearly two miles of Lake Superior beach west of Whitefish Point. One of the LTC’s newest preserves, established this year, is the Elise M. Kummer Preserve and includes over 500 acres just outside DeTour Village.

Anne Fleming, director of LTC communications, notes that many LTC trails and preserves provide opportunity for biking; in fact, LTC is working on its first designated biking trail near Petoskey. But she said paddlers would especially be interested in LTC preserves in Mackinac County, where you can launch your kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard at public sites in Cedarville and Hessel and tour several LTC preserves. Fleming said there will be docks that cater to kayakers in that region, eventually.

At more than 1,000 acres, LTC’s Round Island Point Preserve may be one of the more popular trails with visitors accessing it from the west, near Brimley, and to the east from Sault Ste. Marie. Trails offer opportunity to hikers, bikers and hunters, as well as snowshoers in the winter. This waterfowl hunter has seen plenty of Round Island Preserve shoreline and bird migration while paddling, but I’ve also enjoyed the snowshoe trails in the winter.

Vermilion is another LTC preserve that is popular with EUP residents and tourists, in spite of its remote location. When I first visited in the 1980s, the shoreline at the life-saving station was a sandy beach that would rival Daytona. Today, trees and blueberry bushes are taking hold.

It’s good to see LTC preserving places we might take for granted. If you enjoy a trail and wish to help the organization maintain its mission, the website provides opportunities to assist, including a special challenge grant that has been established for Vermilion:

All LTC preserves are open to the public. The LTC website,, will point the way to adventure with a comprehensive list of preserves and amenities. Click “explore,” for an interactive map and list of trails that provide parking.

By Tom Pink