Feb. 19, 2020
Outdoor enthusiasts know that the rugged, 108,000-acre expanse of Michigan’s Pigeon River Country State Forest is one of the state’s premier destinations to connect with nature. Three world-class trout streams ramble through forests and wetlands at the heart of the state’s elk range.
What could be better than that? More of it.
|A Department of Natural Resources land deal valued at more than $2 million finalized last month adds the Elk Forest at Black River, a stunning, 597-acre parcel in Montmorency County, to Michigan’s public lands. This ecologically important area is surrounded on three sides by existing state-managed land and will become part of the Pigeon River Country State Forest, known to many as “the Big Wild.”
The purchase provides public access to Walled Lake, a spring-fed, 44-acre double sinkhole lake. A smaller lake and pond are nearby. Adventurers also will enjoy the addition of more than a mile of the Black River, a top-quality trout stream, and a half-mile of Hardwood Creek.
|This stretch of the Black River is supported by DNR Type 1 trout regulations where the minimum brook trout size limit is 7 inches, all tackle types are allowed, and the daily bag limit is five fish. Trout fishing season begins the last Saturday in April and ends Sept. 30. Walled Lake fishing regulations will be identical to those of neighboring South and North Blue lakes: catch and immediate release only, and artificial lures only.
“This area is full of wildlife,” said Kerry Wieber, DNR forest land administrator. “It offers opportunities for hunters to pursue game species such as elk, white-tailed deer, black bear and ruffed grouse, as well as opportunities for wildlife watchers to catch a glimpse of nongame species such as red-shouldered hawk, loons and pine marten.”
|This land deal conserves from development one of the biggest privately owned parcels in Michigan’s core elk range. That in turn protects the Cheboygan River watershed, a critical area for groundwater recharge. It also prevents groundwater contamination through the area’s “karst lakes;” the sinkholes that form the lakes and are directly connected to the groundwater beneath. The forest on the property will be dual-certified as sustainably managed by the Sustainable Forest Initiative and Forest Stewardship Council. This will ensure forest management that promotes biological diversity, health and habitat.
|The $2,019,000 to purchase the property came from the Forest Legacy Program with matching funds from the DNR’s Land Exchange Facilitation Fund and a $75,000 donation from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. The foundation was instrumental in ensuring that this property was acquired for the people of Michigan and that it will be managed sustainably for the health of the forest and wildlife. Forest Legacy funds are used to protect environmentally important forest areas from development and fragmentation.
The Elk Forest at Black River will be accessible from Blue Lakes Road on its west side. Motorized vehicle use at the Elk Forest property is limited until the DNR completes a road inventory and develops an access plan, with public input. Structures on the property will remain in private ownership through the end of May; the DNR urges everyone to respect the owner’s privacy until that time.
Explore Michigan’s largest connected block of natural land in the Lower Peninsula at Michigan.gov/PigeonRiverCountry.