Skip to main content

Maxton Plains


  • Nominated for Legal Dedication
  • The Nature Conservancy Natural Areas Registry (2)

Size: 2017 acres

Location: In the northern part of Drummond Island

Management: Lake Superior State Forest

Activities: Nature study, photography, education, hunting, birdwatching

Importance: The natural community in the area has a very unusual biology, which is derived largely from the unusual geological condition and history of the site. It is a relatively undisturbed example of one of the rarest natural communities in Michigan, known as "alvar." Alvar occurs in areas where all of the soils have been scraped away by wind, water and ice, leaving the 400 million year old limestone bedrock exposed. These areas are typically treeless, the vegetation dominated by grasses, sedges and herbs that grow in cracks within the bedrock, or in a very thin soil layer over the bedrock. To some, it may look like an abandoned parking lot with weeds growing in the pavement cracks, but the life that flourishes in alvar areas is abundant and special.

Two unusual early blooming flowers growing in the alvar are Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum), which is a species threatened with extinction in Michigan, and the early buttercup (Ranunculus fasicularis), and also the early saxifrage (Saxafraga virginiensis).

Areas of alvar are unique in a global sense, being found only in portions of Canada, the United States and Sweden. The alvars on Drummond Island are the largest remaining high quality alvars in North America. Maxton Plains provides habitat for 10 Michigan state rare plants, and the unusual mix of arctic with prairie species is unique in itself.

The pieces of state-owned land that are proposed as natural area are intermixed with pieces of land that form The Nature Conservancy's Maxton Plains Preserve, all together creating a much larger, contiguous natural area that encompasses a large portion of the existing alvar.