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Kehl Lake Natural Area

Kehl Lake Natural Area at a Glance

Features: birding, boardwalk over wetlands, canoeing, easy, flat terrain, fishing, guided tours, hiking, hunting by permit only, kayaking, lake frontage, stream(s), viewing platform or overlook, wildflowers

Acreage: 279

Year Preserved: 1992

Trail Mileage: 2 miles

Trail Difficulty: moderate, often wet

Trail Map
Guided Hikes

Located between the Leelanau State Park and Cathead Bay is a pristine jewel known as Kehl Lake. Three quarters of its shoreline is protected along with 279 acres of wetlands and towering mixed forest. The 100-year-old hemlocks and old-growth white pines which surround the lake provide food and cover for wildlife, particularly birds, and contribute to the lake’s exceptional water quality. Its close proximity to Lake Michigan makes Kehl Lake part of a critical flyway for migrating birds and it is also part of an extensive wildlife corridor of protected lands at the tip of the peninsula.

Trail System

Kehl Lake Natural Area features 2-mile trail network on moderately sloped terrain. There is a viewing platform over marshland for bird watching. Please note that during wet times of year, like early spring, portions of the trail can be very wet or underwater. It is recommended that you wear waterproof boots if you visit during these times.

Getting there: Take M-201 1.5 miles north of Northport. After 2.5 miles, 201 becomes Co. Rd. 640. Stay on Co Rd. 640 (Woolsey Lake Rd). Go left on Snyder Road.Snyder Road“T”s at Sugar Bush Road. Go right on Sugarbush Road.Sugar Bush Road takes a sharp left turn to the North and becomes Kehl Rd.  Stay on Kehl. .2 mi after you pass Ottis Road on your right, see the  Conservancy sign for Kehl Lake Natural Area and parking area on left.

No boat access from KLNA, public access is on north side of lake at end of Kehl Road. Motorless boats only, please!


Kehl Lake Natural Area is an important part of the network of preserved land serving as a wildlife corridor and refuge at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. The land surrounding this peaceful lake was used for generations by the Ottawa and Chippewa for seasonal settlements. The lake’s legging-like shape inspired the name Medahas-ah-eegan in the Anishinaabemowin language, or Leg Lake, which is printed on early maps of the region. In the 1860s, the Kehl family began to farm the Southern part of the property. Along the lakeshore today you will discover pristine water and a towering mixed forest with majestic old growth White Pine trees. The wetlands provide food and cover for wildlife, particularly birds, and contribute to the lake’s exceptional water quality.


Plants at Kehl Lake

A Kehl Lake FQA and Summary is available here. The FQA, or Floristic Quality Assessment, tells the story of the types and quality of flora at Kehl Lake 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 from October 1st – December 30 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.