Why is this Reserve significant?
Wilderness Lakes Reserve sits amidst the northern forests of the Great Lakes. These northern forests are some of the largest remaining unbroken swaths of hardwood forest in North America. They play many critical roles for people and nature: storing carbon from the atmosphere, filtering the headwaters of the Great Lakes, providing habitat for a wide range of species of migratory birds and supporting major economic drivers such as timber, recreation and tourism.
Wilderness Lakes Reserve is a key piece of a network of protected lands that The Nature Conservancy is working to help create across this important region, in collaboration with other forest owners. In 2021, we nearly doubled the reserve’s size by acquiring another 4,853 acres. With the adjacent Craig Lake State Park, this contributes to a mostly contiguous protected area about 30 square miles in size! This helps provide iconic Upper Peninsula wildlife like moose and eastern gray wolf with the room they need to roam.
What can I see here?
The Michigamme Highlands are known for containing a diverse range of habitats and the Reserve is a good example. Forests, wetlands, lakes, rivers and rock outcroppings all connect together in a beautifully pristine area. Forests on the property include a mix of conifers and hardwoods, including eastern white pine, northern white cedar and yellow birch. These communities provide diverse habitat for rare and threatened animal species including northern goshawk, bobcat and loon.
The property contains high-quality examples of white cedar seepage swamp, a unique wetland known for its remarkable number of plant species, including blueberries, native honeysuckles, ferns, orchids, mosses and sedges.
The Nature Conservancy is managing this property as a Forest Reserve, following sustainable forestry practices that build forest health and resilience, such as selective harvesting to improve biodiversity, and ensure critical protection of wetlands and buffers around the many lakes, rivers and streams. The entirety of the property will receive Forest Stewardship Council certification and be enrolled in the State of Michigan’s Commercial Forest Program.