Places We Protect

Laughing Whitefish Lake Preserve


An autumn forest surrounds a calm lake on a clear day at Laughing Whitefish Lake Preserve.
Laughing Whitefish Laughing Whitefish Lake Preserve features a variety of habitats—marsh and swamp, hardwood and beech-maple forests—that work in unison to support abundant wildlife. © Richard Baumer

George Shiras III took the first photographs of wildlife at night here at Laughing Whitefish Lake Preserve.



Situated between Laughing Whitefish Falls Scenic Area and Hiawatha National Forest, the 1,728-acre preserve lies along Laughing Whitefish Lake and River, six miles south of where the river empties into Lake Superior. The preserve includes three-quarters of the lake as well as more than 1,000 acres of surrounding wetlands and upland forest.

Abundant wildlife including bald eagles and loons, along with black bear, river otter, beaver, leopard frog and a host of warblers, thrushes and woodpeckers frequent the area. The varied habitats here—marsh and swamp, hardwood and beech-maple forests—all work in unison to support these inhabitants.

Thanks to committed volunteers who regularly monitor the preserve, remove invasive species and contribute to special projects, Laughing Whitefish Lake Preserve remains a thriving natural area. The preserve is in good ecological condition. However, human activities such as unauthorized motorized vehicle use are a threat to the landscape.



Pets are not permitted.


This land is open for foot access and activities such as hiking, snowshoeing, birdwatching and deer hunting by permit.


1,728 acres

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Exploring the Preserve

The activities below will help you explore this preserve and enhance your connection with nature—from the comfort of your home or while onsite.

  • A green illustrated icon of a bird sitting on a branch.


    Help our scientists and restoration managers keep track of the species in our nature preserves by using iNaturalist. You can record your observations, help others identify species and view other users' identifications. Learn More

  • A green illustrated icon of a river running through a forest.

    More Ways to Explore

    We offer a variety of ways to explore including geocaching, webinars, events and volunteer opportunities. You can even request a permit to use TNC land for scientific research! Learn More

Dogsled Race (0:56) While TNC usually prohibits dogs on nature preserves, an exception was made for the UP 200, a qualifying race for the Iditarod. A leg of the race runs right through Laughing Whitefish Lake Preserve.

Plan Your Visit

Frequently Asked Questions

  • This preserve is open year round. Visitors to this preserve during the spring and fall seasons may witness a number of neotropical migratory birds and a profusion of colorful wildflowers in the spring and the beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows of the autumn foliage. While skiing or snowshoeing the preserve pathways during the winter months, keep an eye out for snowshoe hare and whitetail deer.

  • Be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen as well as sturdy walking shoes or boots and bug repellent.

  • As you enter the preserve from the parking area you are invited to take the self-guided “George Shiras III Discovery Trail,” a mile-long loop with an accompanying interpretive brochure that describes plants, animals and historical markers of interest along the route.

    View the trail map.  

  • For the safety of both the habitats at this preserve and visiting guests, we ask that you please follow the rules listed below.

    • No motorized and non-motorized vehicles, including bicycles
    • No building of new trails
    • No pets
    • No hunting or trapping without a TNC-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
  • The Nature Conservancy allows hunting for white-tail deer on this preserve to reduce threats too many deer pose to our conservation targets and to ensure that the preserve does not become a “refuge” for deer during the hunting season.

    In order to be eligible to hunt at this preserve, hunters are required to receive a permit from TNC, follow TNC hunting program rules and comply with all local, state and federal laws and ordinances governing hunting activities, including obtaining all required government licenses or permits. For more information, please visit our Deer Hunting in Michigan page.

  • Have questions about the preserve? Contact us at

A team of sled dogs move past a snowy preserve sign.
Laughing Whitefish Abundant wildlife including black bear, river otter, beaver, leopard frog and a host of warblers, thrushes and woodpeckers frequent the Laughing Whitefish Lake Preserve. © Jason Whalen/Big Foot Media


As you walk along the shaded trails of the preserve, you will be following in the footsteps of renowned wildlife photographer George Shiras III, who invented the method for nighttime photography on this land. Laughing Whitefish Lake became famous when Shiras' pictures won prizes at the 1900 World Exposition in Paris and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. In 1906, National Geographic Magazine devoted an issue to his photos.

Keep Exploring

From shifting sand dunes to granite bald mountains, explore our preserves and reserves spread across the state of Michigan.

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

See the Complete Map

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