Why Is This Preserve Significant?
The dunes at Pt. Betsie are part of the largest freshwater dune system in the world, which covers 275,000 acres of Lake Michigan shoreline. The Pt. Betsie dunes provide critical habitat for rare species, including Pitcher’s thistle. They have also been identified as a potential nesting site for piping plover as the population of this endangered species recovers. The Nature Conservancy works with partners through the Michigan Dune Alliance to conserve this rare coastal ecosystem.
What Can I See Here?
Point Betsie is a dynamic mosaic of shifting sand dunes, wetlands, boreal forest and sandy Lake Michigan beaches constantly battered by wind, ice, waves and currents moving along the shore of the lake. This globally imperiled open dune habitat provides a place where threatened species such as Pitcher’s thistle, fascicled broomrape and the Lake Huron locust can thrive.
Dune vegetation includes marram grass, beach pea and hoary puccoon with forested islands of balsam fir, paper birch, red oak and creeping juniper. Peaceful ponds among the dunes swell and shrink in sync with water levels in Lake Michigan, attracting migrating birds such as the semipalmated plover. Cedar waxwings flit through pockets of forest while spotted sandpiper and killdeer scurry over the sand.
Point Betsie became a preserve through the generosity of Steve and Connie Zetterberg. In 1988 the Zetterbergs donated the original 71 acres of virgin sand dunes which became the Zetterberg Preserve at Point Betsie—property that had been in their family for generations. After having been preserved by the Zetterberg family, Point Betsie is now maintained by TNC and cherished by generations of Michiganians.