Although also known as Lookout Mountain, Mount Baldy earned its name because wind has clearly shaped this bald community with stunted, wind-contorted conifers at its highest elevation. Towering 730 feet above Lake Superior in northern Keweenaw County near Eagle Harbor and Lake Bailey, the mountain offers spectacular panoramic views of Lake Superior and the Keweenaw Peninsula.
The preserve features a craggy, mile long ridge top that harbors a “northern bald” community, containing several nearly treeless openings. Northern balds are restricted to large escarpments of volcanic bedrock ridges and are characterized by sparse vegetation, areas of exposed bedrock, and thin, slightly acidic soils. This ridge-line drops in a precipitous 230 ft. cliff along the south face, and more gently, in forested slopes northward to the shores of Lake Bailey. Down slope and along the ridge stunted oak forest dominate the preserve and further down the vegetation is dominated by a mix of conifer and northern hardwood forest. Local inhabitants include the black bear, snowshoe hare, peregrine falcon, ruffed grouse, golden-crowned kinglet, black-throated green warbler and yellow-rumped warbler.
While bedrock balds are common in the Appalachians and adjacent Canada and New England, Mt. Baldy is the least disturbed example of only a handful of known occurrences of a northern bald natural community in the Keweenaw Peninsula. Other similar ridge-tops in the Keweenaw all have signs of previous forestation, such as stumps and charcoal, and require further study to determine proper classification and quality ranks. Thus, this is likely the finest example in Michigan with natural alpine-like vegetation. Northern Michigan balds have a distinctive flora, probably due to the less acidic basalt/conglomerate bedrock compared to Canada and New England, and the climatic distinctness compared to Appalachian balds.
Why TNC Selected This Site
Northern bald communities are extremely rare in Michigan and only occur around the Keweenaw from Isle Royale to Gogebic County. Mt. Baldy is believed to be exceptional locally because it harbors a unique variety of plant life at its peak, where treeless openings harbor several disjunct northern (“alpine”) and western ("prairie") plant species scattered amongst wind-contorted white cedar and ground juniper. It also accommodates an amazing array of bird species that pass over the site during their annual migration.
What TNC Has Done/Is Doing
Every July, TNC allows Mt. Baldy to become the site for the “Hill Run” portion of the Run the Keweenaw, a three-day trail running festival. Runners run on a specifically designated trail which avoids the rare plant communities.
In 2006 TNC dedicated the main ridge trail as a memorial to Nicole Bloom. Nicole was a Michigan Tech student who was active in many environmental issues but sadly died in a mountain climbing accident the summer after she graduated.