From our 2008 Spring Newsletter
April 2008–Victoria Creek, known by most locals as the Cedar River, is a majestic looping thread of sluggish blue water winding through Leelanau County’s most scenic and ecologically important wetland complex. With the March 21 purchase of 100 acres of forested and open wetland straddling the river, Victoria Creek now provides a thread of connection between the very first, and the most recent, conservation acquisitions in the 20-year history of the Leelanau Conservancy.
Nearly 20 years ago the Leelanau Conservancy, in establishing its very first natural area, purchased 120 acres along the Cedar River at the foot of Lake Leelanau. The land included several stream connections along with the mouth of river, where it empties into Lake Leelanau. This spring, we had the opportunity to buy the last remaining privately owned land that straddles the upstream portion of the river, and we jumped at the chance. To date, the Conservancy has acquired a total of 300 acres and over two miles of Lake Leelanau shoreline and connecting channels along the waterways within the Solon Swamp wetland complex.
Purchasing the property was like putting in a key piece of a puzzle. Now, both banks of the Cedar River from the village of Cedar all the way down to Lake Leelanau are owned by either the State or the Conservancy and open to the public to explore and enjoy. The new acquisition is strategic for another reason: the property includes about eight acres of dry upland along Co. Rd. 645, just east of Cedar. This will be the first access point along a public road north of the Cedar River and only the third road-access point into about 1,500 acres of Pere Marquette State Forest. Conservancy ownership of the 100 acres will allow the public to directly access 275 adjacent acres of State Forest which were previously inaccessible on foot because of the river.
The forested wetlands on the property are thick with northern white cedar, hemlock and spruce. A large pocket of mature tamaracks is present on the 24 acres south of the river. The new acquisition has tremendous ecological value. While a complete inventory of plant and animal species on the property will have to wait for the winter to unlock its grip, nearby land within the Cedar River Natural Area contains over 100 species of plants, including such gems as the carnivorous yellow pitcher plant. The new land is part of a very large and diverse complex of forested swamp, cattail marsh, and freshwater fens, all connected by stream corridors.
This project that adds to our Cedar River Preserve is just one aspect of our commitment, along with such partners as the Michigan DNR and the National Park Service, to protecting the best remaining wild areas in Leelanau. One of the great things about the land conservancy approach to protecting the environment is that ability to take the long view. Twenty years ago the Solon Swamp was absolutely a top priority for protection because of its diverse, pristine wetlands. It still has that quality and importance today. The fact that this area is also sacred ground to so many people, from birdwatchers and kayakers to hunters, fishermen, and even snowmobilers, just makes it that much more important.