Mary Macdonald Preserve at Horseshoe Harbor

Open to the Public


Things To Do

This land will be open for foot access and activities such as hiking, snowshoeing, bird watching, swimming and deer hunting by permit. View All

Plan Your Visit

Located in Keweenaw County in the Upper Peninsula View All

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At the northernmost tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, stunted shrubs and trees cling to ancient bedrock directly in the path of Lake Superior’s fierce winds. The 1,261 acre Mary Macdonald Preserve at Horseshoe Harbor is the largest and highest quality mainland preserve for bedrock beach and bedrock glade communities in Michigan. The rock ridges that define the shoreline are wave-eroded edges of sedimentary conglomerate rock uplifted some 600 million years ago. They now create a barrier between the pounding wind and waves of Lake Superior and the woodlands behind them, protecting and allowing the emergence of slower growth plant species.

Only the hardiest plants can withstand constant exposure to the lake’s winds and waves. The bedrock beach mostly supports lichens, which dominate this rare ecosystem. In the damp depressions between the rocks, a variety of shrubs, herbs and sedges grow.

Just inland from the bedrock beach, a boreal forest thrives in the cool, moist climate. Balsam fir, white cedar, white spruce, and white birch shelter species such as the black bear, snowshoe hare, peregrine falcon, ruffed grouse, golden-crowned kinglet, black-throated green warbler and yellow-rumped warbler.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
Horseshoe Harbor is the largest and highest quality preserve for bedrock beach and bedrock glade communities in Michigan. Our protection efforts in this wondrous place began in 1982, when Conservancy member and Copper Harbor resident Mary Macdonald donated the original 535 acres to create this preserve and made an additional gift that allowed the Conservancy to purchase another 334 acres. In all, 11 threatened or rare species have been recorded at the preserve.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
A recent 31-acre acquisition to the preserve now increases this protected area to over 1,200 acres, including five miles of Lake Superior shoreline.

Late summer and early fall are the best times to visit this preserve to fully enjoy the beauty of the Keweenaw Peninsula without the irritation of the biting insects that come out in the early summer. Hiking boots are recommended for walking the trails and shoreline of this preserve. If you want to visit during the early summer months bring insect repellant to protect against biting insects.

The Nature Conservancy allows hunting for white-tail deer on this preserve to reduce threats too many deer pose to our conservation targets. All hunters are required to receive a permit from the Conservancy as well as a Michigan deer hunting license. Additionally, hunters must report any deer taken from the preserve.

Permitted Activities:

  • Hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing
  • Bird watching, nature study and photography
  • Swimming
  • Geocaching
  • Kayaks and canoes are permitted on Lake Superior. Vessels must be carried from the parking area.
  • Research projects and educational studies with approved permit
  • Hunting with a Conservancy-issued permit for whitetail deer

Prohibited Activities:

  • No rock climbing and rappelling
  • No motorized and non-motorized vehicles
  • No building of new trails
  • No pets
  • No hunting or trapping without a Conservancy-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

Please see "Preserve Visitation Guidelines."


From Copper Harbor, Michigan:

  • From the intersection of M-26 and US-41 in Copper Harbor, take US-41 2.5 miles east until the pavement ends.
  • Continue east on the dirt road 0.89 miles.
  • There is a narrow two-track trail heading left (north). (If you don't have a 4 wheel drive or have a car with very low clearance, you may want to park here and walk the 2 miles to the beach). Follow the two track 1.2 miles.
  • Park on the right (south) side of the road and walk east to Lake Superior. There is a sign at the head of the trail.

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

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Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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