Why Is This Preserve Significant?
This area was immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s story “Big Two-Hearted River,” a tale of a man trying to find inner peace in the wilderness after he gets back from World War I. Hemingway himself spent many summers in northern Michigan and wrote this story based on his own memories of the area.
The 4,084-acre McMahon Lake Preserve, located in Luce County, lies within the watershed of the Two-Hearted River, a state-designated Natural River. This area has largely avoided logging and development due to its remote location and swampy nature. As a result, traveling through the preserve is like traveling back through time.
What Can I See?
The variety of wildlife at this preserve is truly astounding. Moose wander the vast expanses of unbroken, undeveloped land of the preserve. Various species of woodpecker can be seen and heard throughout the beautiful pine forest. The majestic marsh hawk can be seen from the air, while the sandhill crane stalks through the swamp. Not to mention wolves, coyotes and bears. Oh my!
In 1993, an anonymous donor contributed the funds for this purchase in memory of former TNC board member and Matthaei Botanical Garden director, William S. Benninghoff. This portion of the preserve was dedicated to Dr. Benninghoff, who was instrumental in helping the Michigan Chapter identify and protect some of the most critical natural habitat in the state. Other significant gifts helping to make up this site included a 360-acre donation from The Escanaba Paper Company, and a 760-acre donation from William Malpass.