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Protected Lands

Lightfoot Bay Cooperative Coastal
Wetlands Nature Area

 

Acres: 131
Established: 2007
County: Baraga
Category: Public Nature Area

The multi-partner Lightfoot Bay Nature Area project was developed to protect unique Great Lakes coastal wetland and shoreline habitats that contribute to the overall health of Huron Bay and its diverse fishery. The nature area permanently protects much of this rare and unique coastal wetland complex, including over 6,500' of shoreline within Lightfoot Bay and 2,500' of Lake Superior barrier beach shoreline on Huron Bay. Over 70% of the project area is in nationally declining wetland habitat types, making it an important area for long-term conservation.

The Lightfoot Bay wetland, near-shore, and upland plant communities play a critical role in maintaining the ecological integrity of greater Huron Bay, providing habitat for migrating waterfowl, breeding birds, native plants, threatened and endangered species, and other aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. Lightfoot Bay opens seasonally onto Huron Bay, closing late in the summer as water levels in the embayment drop and creating a sanctuary for warm water fish species. In the springtime melt, water rushes through the sand bars and allows cold water species to enter and spawn before retreating to the cool depths of Huron and Keweenaw Bays. Huron Bay supports a diverse assemblage of fish species considered rare in Lake Superior, including coaster brook trout and lake sturgeon populations, both USFWS conservation priority species. Members of the nearby Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of Ojibwa frequent the waters of Huron Bay to fish the abundant stock found there.

In addition to the high quality fishery values, Lightfoot Bay also contains a number of other important habitats for biodiversity. Extensive cranberry bogs, fens, beaver ponds, and alder thickets make up a large part of the nature area, attracting migratory birds and waterfowl from across the region. Bald eagles soar over the water, perching in the tall white pines that fringe Lightfoot Bay. The wetlands often erupt into song when the spring peepers sound their calls, providing a natural backdrop for evening hikes. With little to no development in the surrounding area, Lightfoot Bay's night skies are among the darkest in the region and make it a perfect location for star gazing and aurora viewing.

The nature area was created in 2007, and further expanded in 2010 and 2016 for a current total of 131 acres under protection. Funding for this project was obtained from multiple sources, including the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's National Coastal Wetlands Conservation program and several partners who helped provide local match, including the original family that sold the core property to KLT at bargain sale.

Visitors can enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches and wonderful trails found at Lightfoot Bay free of charge year-round. An access drive leads off of Pinery Cemetery Road down to the parking area. Hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing are encouraged on the trails that traverse the landscape. However, motorized use of the nature area is prohibited.

There are two cabins at Lightfoot Bay that were used for generations by the family that once owned this land. They have been refurbished and are available to groups or individuals for reservation by free-will donation. The main cabin is available in summertime and the smaller cabin is insulated and available throughout the year. Please click on the tab for 'Cabin Rental' to learn how you can stay the night in one of Baraga County's most scenic areas and help support ongoing stewardship and other conservation efforts in this ecologically rich area.

 

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