Cedar River Preserve
A paddle through the Cedar River Preserve is the perfect place to view stunning yellow pond lilies, see a mink slip into the water or watch an osprey dive for its dinner.
The wetlands here provide not only a home for a vast array of wildlife, they also filter water entering Lake Leelanau and are a crucial hedge against pollution.
A kayak or canoe ride through the Cedar River twists dramatically through four ecosystems and many micro-habitats, giving rise to a rich collection of rare wetland plants and animals. The environment includes fen, shrub scrub, and aquatic systems. Cedar swamp occurs in the northwest stretch of the Natural Area. Dominant trees here are white cedar, yellow birch, balsam fir, black ash, and tamarack. Most of the area, however, is fen, which is a “quaking mat” of tight vegetation over open water. This is a wetland with alkaline soil fed primarily by ground water, different from bogs, which have acidic soil and are fed by rainwater.
An Undisturbed Past
The Cedar River Preserve is in Solon Swamp, near the southwest corner of South Lake Leelanau. This extensive wetland complex is key to the health of Lake Leelanau. The area has sustained no observable human impact, except for some cedars that were cut over 100 years ago. In 1990, the Conservancy fund-raised to buy the first 120 acres, which included 1,200 feet of Lake Leelanau shoreline. Since then a total of 395 acres has been protected.
So Much to See
Fortunately for kayakers and canoeists, the current on the Cedar is almost nil. Noticeable plants here are cattails, bog lady’s tresses, sundews, bladderworts, and the insect-eating pitcher plants. In more open water, fish, turtles, and whirligig beetles live among pond lilies and the burping echoes of green frogs. Note male frogs by their bright yellow throats. Whirligig beetles are the tiny manic insects carving loops in the river’s surface. They hunt for food with one set of eyes scanning above the water and one looking below.
Few deer live along the river, because fen won’t support their weight. But mink and muskrats thrive here. Upright dead tree trunks make perfect perches for ospreys or kingfishers, and you can recognize the swamp sparrow’s calls by listening for the sound of an old fashioned sewing machine. Also on the wing are rare Saturniid moths, famous for their large wing spans (as much as five inches) and dramatic eye spots. They cannot survive under artificial night lighting, which disrupts their life cycles. They thrive in Solon Swamp, where only moonlight cuts the night blackness.
Cedar River Access
380 Acres – Open to the Public
Wetlands are wondrous places to watch nature in action. Grab a kayak or a canoe, and immerse yourself in Leelanau’s finest wetland complex!
Spring Specialties: bird-watching, blue flag iris
Summer Surprises: canoe, kayak, & boat tours, pitcher plants
Fall Fun: colorful tamaracks
Winter Wonders: ice formations
If you visit during hunting season, you should be aware that hunting is allowed at Cedar River Preserve—by permit only. Please use appropriate caution if you decide to head out here during hunting season.
Getting there: There is no trail system at this Natural Area. You can only reach the property via boat on the Cedar River. Start at the Cedar Village Park. You’ll reach the Conservancy property after about 4 miles (1.5 hours paddling).
Plants at Cedar River Preserve
Click here to learn more about Cedar River High Quality Plant Species or view the entire Cedar River Floristic Quality Assessment and a summary description of all plant species found on the property here: FQA and Summary Table.
Cedar River Preserve Grows to 438 Acres