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DeYoung Natural Area

DeYoung Natural Area at a Glance

Features: bench, birding, easy, flat terrain, fishing, fishing platform, guided tours, hiking, historic structures, hunting by permit only, lake frontage, stream(s), viewing platform or overlook, wildflowers

Acreage: 191

Year Preserved: 2006

Trail Mileage: 2 miles

Trail Difficulty: moderate

Trail Map
Guided Hikes

The 191-acre DeYoung Natural Area combines an historic farmstead with a mile of shoreline on Cedar Lake and was preserved in partnership with Elmwood Township. The farmstead dates back to 1870 and serves as a gateway to the county’s agricultural corridor. Recreation opportunities abound at this natural area, named for Louis DeYoung, an innovative farmer who died at 104 and dreamed of protecting his land. The TART trail bisects the land and a Universal Access trail leads to a lakeside fishing and viewing platform. Upland trails wind past heritage-variety apple trees and over a small stream, and offer sweeping views of the farm and Cedar Lake.

The project is one of the largest the Conservancy has taken on. “Cedar Lake has the greatest amount of shoreline protected of any inland lake in the County,” said Heiman. Much of the shore contains wetlands critical to the health of Cedar Lake, he adds.

Trail System

A Universal Access trail (.5 mile) leads to Cedar Lake fishing/viewing pier from the parking lot off Cherry Bend Road. The upland trail system (1.5 miles) winds around the historic farmstead and over a small stream and rolling hills. For the upland trail, park at the parking lot off of Strang Rd.


Getting there: From Traverse City take M22 to Cherry Bend Road. The parking lot for the Universal Access trail down to Cedar Lake is located on the Right 2 miles up Cherry Bend Road. For the upland trail, continue past the Cherry Bend Road parking lot and take a left on Strang Road. The parking lot is to the left in the open field.

A Storied History

Click Here to view an Overview of DeYoung’s History

The land became available when Louis DeYoung, Sr. passed away at the age of 104. His son, Ted, said it was his father’s dream to see the land forever preserved. Ted, a retired aerospace engineer living in California, began exploring options with the Conservancy late in 2003. (Ted passed away in April, 2018)

Just minutes from Traverse City, the property features frontage on both sides of Cherry Bend Road and sits in the middle of a rapidly developing residential area. “The DeYoung family turned away many offers from developers and sacrificed financially by offering this property to the Conservancy because they care tremendously about seeing it remain as it is today,” said Matt Heiman, Director of Land Programs with the Leelanau Conservancy who worked with the family. “Under some scenarios, the property could have supported as many as 100 homes.” From the property’s highest vantage points there are views of west and east Grand Traverse Bay.

The farm has a rich agricultural history. (Learn more about a partnership with EMU’s Graduate School in Historic Preservation and the work to document the history of DeYoung by clicking on some of the links below.)

The aging mustard colored farmhouse along Cherrybend Road is where Louis and his wife, Esther, raised two children and, early on, tended a dairy cattle herd. After morning milking, Louis herded the cows to pasture, sometimes leading them over railroad tracks to graze on the shores of Cedar Lake. Louis drove his milk into Maxbauer’s Creamery on Traverse City’s West Front in a one-seat Ford pickup. The DeYoungs weathered the Depression, nearly losing their farm. Louis was the first in the area to bring electricity into their home. He rigged up a car generator and a couple of 6-volt light bulbs and hooked it all up to a water wheel on a stream that ran beneath his workshop.

After the Depression, the DeYoungs were also the first of their neighbors to give up farming with horses for tractors. Soon after they gambled on cherries, planting 8 acres, and enjoyed an extended period of profitability—one that put both his children through college.


Forested stream valley lush with horsetail, cedar swamp

Woodpeckers, nesting wood warbler, green heron

Historic farmstead offers some occasional learning opportunities

The Edible Trails Project has planted a food forest along the section of the TART Trail that runs through the lakeside portion of DeYoung, harking back to the farm history of the property.

Click Here to view a 36-second video tour of the DeYoung Natural Area!

Plants at DeYoung

The DeYoung FQA and Summary is available here. The FQA, or Floristic Quality Assessment, tells the story of the types and quality of flora at DeYoung Natural Area.

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Safety & Hunting

Poison Ivy is commonly found on impacted areas. Keep an eye out for this three leafed groundcover for it can give you an itchy rash. If your skin comes in contact with ivy, wash that area with soap a.s.a.p. Stay on the trails to reduce risk of contact.

THIS AREA IS OPEN TO HUNTING with written permission from the Leelanau Conservancy to reduce an unnaturally high white-tail deer population.  Too many deer threaten wildflowers and tree seedlings. Please use caution when hiking during hunting season, wear orange and keep dogs on a leash.