McMahon Lake Preserve

This area has largely avoided logging and development due to its remote location and swampy nature.

Open to the Public


Things To Do

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

Plan Your Visit

Located in Luce County in the Upper Peninsula View All

Get Directions

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. Local residents include the pine marten, moose, otter, pileated woodpecker, sandhill crane, northern harrier, bear, wolf, loon, coyote, ruffed grouse, gray jay, sedge wren and northern Parula warbler. Many of these creatures thrive in vast expanses of unfragmented habitat, such as McMahon Lake and the surrounding environs.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

The variety of wildlife at this preserve is truly astounding. Many of these creatures thrive in vast expanses of unfragmented habitat, such as McMahon Lake and the surrounding environs. The Conservancy purchased the first 960-acre southern portion of the preserve in 1989.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
In 1993, an anonymous donor contributed the funds for this purchase in memory of former Conservancy 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 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.

Early May and late July through October are the best times to visit this preserve to take advantage of Upper Michigan’s beauty while avoiding biting insects. Come prepared with head netting and insect repellant, since the black flies and mosquitoes are abundant. We also strongly recommend wearing ankle-high boots because portions of the strangmoor are very wet.

The Nature Conservancy allows hunting for white-tail deer on this preserve to reduce an unnaturally high deer population in the area and 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.

Please see "Preserve Visitation Guidelines."

Permitted Activities:

Prohibited Activities:

  • No Motorized and non-motorized vehicles
  • 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

From Newberry, Michigan:

  • Take M-123 north 4.5 miles to H37 (a.k.a. County Road 407)
  • Turn left (west) onto County Rd 407 and travel 15 miles to Pine Stump Junction and the intersection of County Roads 407 and 412 (gravel)
  • Turn right (east) on 412; continue east on County Road 420 at the intersection of County Roads 412 and 420; the total distance on 412/420 from 407 to the Preserve sign on the right (south) side of the road is about 2.1 miles.
  • Park on the shoulder or in the small turnout on the left (north) side of the road that is about 0.1 miles east of the sign. The preserve surrounds both sides of the road. (Note: County Road 420 is very narrow and can be impassable for standard vehicles in spring or after heavy rains.)

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

Add Your Comments

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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