The Carl A. Gerstacker Preserve at Dudley Bay features five miles of Lake Huron shoreline.
Gerstacker Preserve at Dudley Bay The Carl A. Gerstacker Preserve at Dudley Bay features five miles of Lake Huron shoreline. © Leann Heywood/TheNatureConservancy

Places We Protect

Carl A. Gerstacker Nature Preserve


Dudley Bay features one of the most spectacular limestone bedrock shorelines in Michigan.

A true representation of the Great Lakes, the 1,615-acre Carl A. Gerstacker Nature Preserve contains five miles of shoreline across four bays on Lake Huron, two small islands, Big and Little Trout Lakes and parts of two creeks. The preserve offers a rich tapestry of intertwined habitats, including limestone shoreline, sand beach, two inland lakes, interdunal wetlands, conifer swamps and mixed hardwood forest. These habitats provide shelter to an abundance of endangered and threatened plant species such as Dwarf lake iris, Houghton's goldenrod and Pitcher's thistle. Visitors might also see a variety of animals including the loon, pileated woodpecker, osprey, wolf and several species of neotropical migratory songbirds such as the American redstart and magnolia warbler.

Why TNC Selected This Site

The goal is to protect a large expanse of contiguous forest on and near the Lake Huron shoreline to support migratory bird species and rare plant and animal species.

What TNC Has Done/Is Doing

The preserve was created in 1993 through the generosity of Marilyn Twining and her family who, over a period of years, sold in a bargain sale to TNC the major parcels of land to protect them as the Little Trout Lake Preserve and the Dudley Bay Preserve.

In honor of a combined grant from The Dow Chemical Company Foundation, the Herbert H. & Grace A. Dow Foundation and the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, the preserve was renamed in 1996 after Carl E. Gerstacker. Gerstacker was the former chairman of the board and director of The Dow Chemical Company as well as a founding member of the TNC’s Michigan board of trustees.

In 2010, TNC purchased an additional 722 acres which includes most of Big Trout Lake and additional Lake Huron shoreline. TNC also holds conservation easements on 215 acres near the preserve.

The month of May presents one of the best times of the year to visit this preserve as migratory songbirds are either resting, en route to other destinations, or settling on breeding territories for the summer. In mid-September, take a walk down the trail leading to Little Trout Lake and enjoy the spectacular beauty of an autumn day. Bring insect repellent, a hat and sunscreen. Please avoid trampling Pitcher’s thistle plants that may be along the beach. Most of them should be flagged to aid identification and awareness.

The Nature Conservancy allows hunting for white-tail deer on this preserve to reduce threats too many deer pose to our conservation targets. All hunters are required to receive a permit from TNC as well as a Michigan deer hunting license. Additionally, hunters must report any deer taken from the preserve.

Permitted Activities:

  • Hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing
  • Bird watching, nature study and photography
  • Swimming
  • Geocaching
  • Kayaks and canoes are permitted on Lake Huron. Vessels must be carried from the parking area.
  • Research projects and educational studies with approved permit
  • Hunting with a TNC-issued permit for whitetail deer

Prohibited Activities:

  • No rock climbing and rappelling
  • No motorized and non-motorized vehicles
  • No building of new trails
  • No pets
  • No hunting or trapping without a Conservancy-issued permit
  • No removal of plants or animals (alive or dead)
  • No removal of rocks, water, or other non-organic materials
  • No camping, bonfires, fireworks, or other fires
  • No firewood collecting
  • No littering