This year, Little Traverse Conservancy (LTC) celebrates half a century of land protection and preservation across its five-county service area in Northern Michigan. From Charlevoix to the tip of the Upper Peninsula, LTC has protected nearly 70,000 acres of land since 1972, including these five projects that are especially beloved for their public water access. Take a deeper look at each one below.

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Map of Michigan Preserves

Charlevoix County

Size: 261 acres
Frontage: 2.3 miles along St. Clair Lake & Sinclair River
Why it’s special: This natural area— protected in partnership with Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy— provides a universal access hike and a kayak launch for accessing the upper Chain of Lakes. Beautiful for canoe- ing, kayaking or paddleboarding, this area is one of the longest stretches of undeveloped shoreline within the Elk River Watershed.
Trails: The Mary Behrens Sorrell Trail (universal access) allows people of all ages and abilities to appreciate this natural wonder. The preserve lies along the Chain of Lakes Water Trail.

St. Clair-Six Mile Nature Preserve from above

Photo by Dave Weidner

St. Clair-Six Mile Nature Preserve sign

Photo by Dave Weidner

St. Clair-Six Mile Nature Preserve trail

Photo by Dave Weidner

Emmet County

Size: 30 acres
Frontage: 950 feet along Lake Michigan, with 300 feet of beach open to the public
Why it’s special: Located just 10 minutes northwest of Harbor Springs, this preserve features not only a Lake Michigan beach, but also a beautiful trail network and a nature center. (Note: Dogs and horses are not allowed at Thorne Swift).
Trails & Facilities: A large parking area lies adjacent to the Elizabeth Kennedy nature Center, One and a half miles of trail, a dune observation platform, a pond observation platform, gazebo, amphitheater and seasonal guided programs all make this an excellent family destination. Call 231.526.6402 for current programs and seasonal hours.

Photo by Rachel Haggerty

Beach at Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

Photo by Rachel Haggerty


Size: 145 acres
Frontage: 3,500 feet along Duncan Bay/Lake Huron
Why it’s special: This preserve is walkable from downtown Cheboygan (less than a mile) and has become a special community area offering public access to Duncan Bay, just down from where the Inland Waterway empties into Lake Huron via the Cheboygan River. (And the beach is gorgeous!)
Trails: The land can be enjoyed with an easy 0.9-mile trail loop and boardwalk leading to the shore. A short overlook platform offers stunning views. This preserve lies along the Sunrise Coast Birding Trail and the City of Cheboygan’s Bike Route.

Trails at Duncan Bay Nature Preserve

Photo by Little Traverse Conservancy

Duncan Bay Nature Preserve beach

Photo by Little Traverse Conservancy

Mackinac County

Size: 207 acres
Frontage: More than a mile along Lake Huron
Why it’s special: Just a half hour east of the Mackinac Bridge, this preserve takes you through moss-covered boulders and cedar trees and along the shores of “The Snows” channel in northern Lake Huron. It’s LTC’s most visited preserve in the Les Cheneaux region, and is a magical place for a hike. Trails: A nearly 3-mile trail loop. Public parking is available for the preserve on Club Road thanks to the Les Cheneaux Club and Les Cheneaux Community Foundation.

Kayaking at William B. Derby Nature Preserve

Photo by Little Traverse Conservancy

A couple sitting on the bench at William B. Derby Nature Preserve

Photo by Little Traverse Conservancy

Size: 175 acres
Water frontage: 9,240 feet along Lake Superior
Why it’s special: About half an hour northwest of Paradise, you’ll find this gorgeous and rugged Lake Superior preserve that features a wide sandy beach, low shore dunes, upland forest, old cranberry bog wetlands and a stream. Ecologically, this is known habitat for the federally endangered piping plover. This area is also home to a historic U.S. Coast Guard Life Saving Station.
Trails: A dirt road leads to a parking area where easy access to the beach is available. Look for the marked trail when walking between the historical buildings.

“A sleepy little nonprofit started in 1972, the brainchild of a group of very different but forward-thinking founders who shared a common vision, was nurtured and fed by generous people with the ability to think beyond themselves.”

- Kieran Fleming, LTC Executive Director