Lighthouse West Natural Area
For thousands of beautiful songbirds and broad-winged raptors that migrate to nesting grounds in the Upper Peninsula, our Lighthouse West Preserve at the Tip of the Peninsula is a godsend. Here, 42 acres and 640 feet of undeveloped shoreline along Lake Michigan provide a place to stop, feed and rest before crossing the big water. Lighthouse West provides an array of habitat for over 100 species of our feathered friends.
The fabulous cobble beach there features wetland vegetation that, depending on water levels, feeds wading birds and waterfowl. Offshore, you’ll find open, shrubby land with intermittent pockets of wetland ideal for sparrows, indigo buntings, waxwings and other open-land birds. Finally, further from shore is a terraced slope with boulders deposited by the glaciers and hardwoods like beech and maple. This land is home to woodpeckers, chickadees, jays, cardinals and many other birds that depend on seeds, buds and nesting sites that hardwoods provide. The native plants on the property host a wealth of insects, which are essential to migrating and nesting songbirds.
Also present on the property is Pitcher’s thistle (Cirsium pitcheri), which is listed as threatened by both the state and federal government. In addition, Lighthouse West is a great place to view the evidence of receding glaciers.
This land is part of a larger wildlife corridor we have been working to protect since we opened our doors in 1988. All told, the Leelanau Conservancy has protected 625 acres north of the village of Northport. Lighthouse West abuts 23 acres and 1,000 feet of shoreline on private land already permanently protected by a conservation easement. It is also very near the newly expanded Leelanau State Park. Both the State Park expansion and the Lighthouse West property were funded in large part by grants from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund—grants written and administered by the Leelanau Conservancy. We also depended on the generosity of many private donors to purchase Lighthouse West.
Given that protection of rare habitat and critical stopover habitat for migrating birds is our top priority, plans are in the works to create trails for birding opportunities and other public access that are compatible with protecting its natural features.
Special note: Dr. Gregory Butcher, International Migratory Bird Species Coordinator for the US Forest Service, birded Lighthouse West in September 2013, his second visit to LHW. Greg found what he called a “fantastic flock of migrating birds” at LHW. Included were warblers, vireos and flycatchers, which took fifteen minutes to identify.
Lighthouse West Access
Visit our spectacular trail and walkway that leads down the bluff to the lakeshore. Unless otherwise specified, hikes at the Lighthouse West Preserve last about 1-2 hours and are somewhat rigorous. From Northport, head north on M-201 through the Village, taking M-201/Mill Street north out of town. M-201 becomes Co. Rd. 640/Woolsey Lake Rd. Stay on Co Rd. 640/Woolsey Lake Rd. Stay straight as Co. Rd. 640/Woolsey Lake Rd. becomes Co. Rd. 629/Woolsey Lake Rd (Co. Rd 640 splits off to the right). Continue on Co. Rd 629/Woolsey Lake Rd for approximately 3 miles when it becomes Co. Rd. 629/Lighthouse Point Rd. Continue on Co. Rd. 629/Lighthouse Point Rd for approximately 2 miles, then go left on Cathead Bay Dr. Parking is approximately 0.1 mile on the right-hand side.
Plants at Lighthouse West Natural Area
Click below to see a list of High Quality Plant Species at Belanger Creek along with a summary and description of the Floristic Quality Assessment outlining all plant species found on the property: Lighthouse West FQA and Summary
- Lighthouse West: Critical Bird Habitat
- Wildflowers, Warblers, Wonder and Water! – May 2012
- Early Detection, Rapid Response – May 2012
- New Hike Trail Established at Lighthouse West – October 2009
- Northport Teens Raise Money for Lighthouse West Natural Area – August 2009
- Interested in learning about our upcoming hikes, workbees, and other events? Click here!
- Leelanau State Park Expansion–For the Birds!