Great Lakes islands: Part III of a series

by Jim Nies

This is the third in a series of snapshots of some of the islands that are part of the Great Lakes Islands Coalition (GLIC). The information is taken from material placed online by member organizations at the Island Showcase, GLIC’s website hosted by Northland College. (https://www.northland.edu/sustainability/crc/great-lakes-islands/#island-showcase) You can also check out Manitoulin’s entry there, too.

Looking back: week of July 25—some thoughts on islands in general, an introduction to GLIC, and Madeline Island in Lake Superior. Last week (August 1), Beaver Island.

Note: if you are interested in Great Lakes islands and would like to be a member of the Manitoulin GLIC team, please email member Alicia McCutcheon at editor@manitoulin.ca

Les Cheneaux Islands

The Les Cheneaux Island community is located along the shores of northern Lake Huron in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula between St Ignace and Drummond Island. The community includes the towns of Cedarville and Hessel which are connected by M-134, designated Pure Michigan Byway that is accessible from I-75.

Our land and water make us who we are. There are 36 islands in the Les Cheneaux archipelago, eight nature preserves and numerous public recreation areas in the community.

Our people connect to this place. Our living heritage includes our community’s Native American culture and traditional hand-built crafts and educational experiences such as wooden boat and paddle building and local culinary and fine arts programs. We are proud of our historic connection to Aldo Leopold, a famed leader in land conservation, who spent his childhood summers here. We host an annual festival to honor his legacy and to celebrate the lands and waters that inspire us all today. Our local businesses and community events are infused with respect for our history and our land ethic. Our vision for our future honors our past and celebrates the land and water we love.

There are many ways to enjoy the natural environment on Les Cheneaux. Our current conservation projects cover a wide range of environments and opportunities for locals and visitors. Birding opportunities are abundant: The North Huron birding trail highlights the abundant bird species and creates more opportunities for people to learn about and view the birds of Les Cheneaux, and Search Bay, the 2,000 acres of the Hiawatha National Forest where drivers, hikers, and campers can see various bird species and other wildlife. Paddlers have an opportunity to travel over 120 kilometres of the northern-most shores of Lake Huron from the Carp River near St Ignace through the Les Cheneaux Islands, continuing on to DeTour Village at the mouth of the St. Mary’s River. Hessel beach, improvements to Cedarville Harbor, and Government Island, the only wholly publicly owned island in thearchipelago with nine campsites, also give visitors access to the abundant water. Hiking opportunities abound in Les Cheneaux’s eight separate nature preserves representing more than 3,500 acres of conserved lands that are open to the public.

Other opportunities on the island include: the Avery Arts and Nature Learning Center, which is a non-profit housed in the Hessel Schoolhouse and also serves as the trailhead for the North Huron Birding Trail, and the location of the annual outdoor Aldo Leopold Festival; the Lex Cheneaux Culinary School, which offers students a comprehensive one-year program, the last four months of which are spent working in the adjacent 55-seat restaurant; and the Great Lakes Boat Building School, which is the only licensed school of its kind in the state, teaching quality wooden boat building skills and preservative craftsmanship.