Eastern Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Pointe Aux Chenes Natural Area
Forest: Hiawatha National Forest
District: St. Ignace Ranger District
Description: Pointe Aux Chenes is a section of Lake Michigan shoreline that is protected by the Hiawatha National Forest as a candidate research natural area. It runs from the mouth of the Pointe Aux Chenes River west for about 1.5 miles. The area is a prime example of a dune and swale complex natural community, where you can find sandy beaches, vegetated dunes, and wetland swales. This little-known beach has few access points and is seldom used by recreationists, making it a fine viewing area for native wildflowers. You can find rare plants such as Pitcher’s thistle (Cirsium pitcheri), Houghton’s goldenrod (Solidago houghtonii), and Lake Huron tansy (Tanacetum bipinnatum huronsense) along the sand dunes. Other notable wildflowers include harebells (Campanula rotundifolia), Indian paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea), wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum), yellow puccoon (Lithospermum caroliniense), and death camas (Zigadenus elegans). On your walk to the dunes make sure to look for ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes cernua) in the marsh area as well as sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) and pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea). In the fall you may find some wild cranberries. This natural area is also excellent for bird viewing.
Directions: Pointe Aux Chenes is located on the east zone of the Hiawatha National Forest, in the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The natural area is on both sides of US Highway 2 approximately 10 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge (or 4 miles west of the St. Ignace Ranger District). The best place to access the shoreline is from a two-track sand road on the south side of US-2 (the road is west of a private driveway with a mailbox). Park near the entrance to the road and walk in on the trail. The trail traverses a beautiful marsh area before getting to the dunes shoreline. For more information, stop at the St. Ignace office if you are coming from the east.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Hiawatha National Forest, St. Ignace Ranger District.
Closest Town: St. Ignace, Michigan.