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U.S. Forest Service

Eastern Region Viewing Area


Calypso orchid. This tiny, rare calypso orchid is known from the conifer forest of Round Island. See if you can find this species, but please take only pictures.

Linnaea borealis. Twinflower (Linnaea borealis) is common along forest edges most frequently beneath cedar trees.

Iris lacustris. As this plant's name suggests, dwarf lake iris (Iris lacustris), grows to only a few inches tall. This species is endemic to the northern shorelines of Lakes Huron and Michigan, and is listed as threatened by the Endangered Species Act and the State of Michigan.

Round Island Wilderness Area

Forest: Hiawatha National Forest

District: St. Ignace Ranger District

Description: The vegetation of the 380-acre Round Island represents three distinct ecological communities: beach and marshy shore, conifer forest, and hardwood forest. Nearest the shoreline is a mix of cobble beaches punctuated in some areas by marshy swales with marl soils. On the northeast part of the Island's shore is a sand beach along a small cove. The shore area supports mainly herbaceous species, but a few shrubs such as redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea), buffaloberry (Shepherdia canadensis), ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) and the prostrate bear berry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), persist here. The interior portion of the Island is built upon a plateau that rises 100 feet above Lake Huron water levels. This zone of the Island supports a mature beech-maple forest. In addition to American beech (Fagus grandifolia) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum), paper birch (Betula papyrifera) is also a dominant species in this forested community. Providing a transition from shore to upland hardwood forest is a conifer forest dominated by northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis), white spruce (Picea glauca), red pine (Pinus resinosa), and Michigan's state tree, the eastern white pine (Pinus strobus).

Wildflower Viewing: On the sandy beach, among common and creeping juniper (Juniperus communis and J. horizontalis), one can find common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata), starry false lily of the valley (Maianthemum stellatum), and death camas (Zigadenus glaucus). Cobble beaches host a colorful array of wildflowers including wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum), pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), bluebells (Campanula rotundifolia), and tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata). The wildflower species growing on the marshy shores include Ontario lobelia (Lobelia kalmia), bird's eye primrose (Primula mistassinica), blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium montanum), northern bog violet (Viola nephrophylla), limestone calamint (Satureja arkansana), Indian paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea), Kalm's St. Johnswort (Hypericum kalmia), and jewelweed (Impatiens capensis).

The conifer forest occurs inland from the shorelines, presenting many wildflowers from spring and summer species. These species include Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba), fringed polygala (Polygala paucifolia), calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa), Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), feathery false lily of the valley (Maianthemum racemosum), starflower (Trientalis borealis), twinflower (Linnaea borealis) and the tiny orchid summer coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata) – to Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora), which emerges in late summer. The beech-maple forest hosts spring beauties bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), (Claytonia virginica, C. caroliniana), trout lily (Erythronium americanum), Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), Trillium (T. grandiflorum), Solomon's seal (Polygonatum pubescens), and herb-robert (Geranium robertianum). Many fern occupy Round Island's hardwood forest: maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), oak fern (Gymnocarpium dryopteris), fancy fern (Dryopteris intermedia), and marginal woodfern (Dryopteris marginalis).

Safety First: Visiting Round Island can be a great adventure, but please plan. First, and most importantly, coordinate the departure time and meeting place for your ride off the Island, whether in your own boat or by charter, before exploring the Island. Pack a lunch and bring plenty of drinking water or a purifier to pump water from the lake. Dress in layers to prepare for changing weather conditions. Even on a sunny day, shorelines can be cool due to winds off the water. Also, be sure to wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, as the sun's reflection from the water can be intense. Poison ivy grows on Round Island, particularly at the edges of the forest alongside the shoreline. Long pants are recommended for protection from poison ivy and biting insects. It is a good idea to carry insect repellent –bugs may be especially abundant in the forested interior of the Island. There are no amenities on the Island, so you may want to pack a small shovel to ensure that you "leave no trace" in the wilderness area.

Directions: Round Island is situated in the Straits of Mackinac west of the Mackinac Bridge between Michigan's lower and upper peninsulas. The Island is only accessible by boat, and the nearest public boat launches are located in St. Ignace, Hessel, and Mackinac City. If you will be operating your own boat for travel to Round Island, be sure to review the charts and check the weather to locate the best anchorages. You may also arrange for a charter boat to transport you from Mackinac Island or one of the nearby mainland communities.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Hiawatha National Forest, St. Ignace Ranger District.

Closest Town: St. Ignace, Michigan.