Skegemog Natural Areas

Torch River Ridge: A Cotanche Family Legacy

This new preserve of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy offers scenic trails through mature hardwoods and beautiful ravines. At 290 acres, there is much to explore. Aside from its passive recreational benefits, this preserve is of great importance for wildlife habitat, scenic views and water quality in the Torch River (and entire lower Chain of Lakes watershed). It has more than four miles of hiking trails through upland and lowland terrain. A $1 million check in 2020 from long-time ESLA supporters and Champions Martin and Valerie Cotanche gave the conservancy the final push to complete a below market value purchase of the property from the Weiss Family.

ESLA members on the south and west shores of Lake Skegemog benefit from the spectacular views the property gives them, especially during autumn’s color season, of the hills rising above the lake.

The property adjoins the 210-acre North Skegemog Nature Sanctuary, that includes a nearly 900-foot stretch of wetland, conifer swamp along the north shore of Lake Skegemog forever protected from development. While it has no public trails, the property provides great water protection benefits to Skegemog and Elk lakes. Warren and Suzanne Goodell made this gift to the conservancy possible to preserve the wetlands, wildlife habitat, and the visual appearance of the shoreline.

Skegemog Wildlife Area

Skegemog Wildlife Area - Stream going through the woodsThe east shore of Lake Skegemog, fondly known by many as the Skegemog Swamp, is one of most important natural resources within ESLA waters. A handful of streams flow into the wetlands that, thanks to underwriting from the state and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, now remains permanently public. That means no development can occur inside the 3,300 acres of the natural area. One highlight for the public, is the linear trail beginning just east of Barker Creek Nursery and ending at a parking area off Rapid City Road – less than a three-mile hike. To put its size into perspective, the natural area is about 500 acres larger than Lake Skegemog and has nearly seven miles of meandering shoreline. It contains a mixture of woods and wetlands which serve as a giant natural water filtration system benefitting Elk and Skegemog Lakes. Its natural habitat accommodates thousands of plant and animal species, including the relatively rare and shy massasauga rattlesnake, which is poisonous but not deadly.

Many individuals were crucial to the Skegemog Wildlife Area protection, including Harry and June Janis, Warren and Sue Goodell, Paul and Delphine Welch, Bill and Pat Huxtable, Charles and Evelyn Drummonds and Nick and Audrey Thomas, to name a few. ESLA current board member Dale Claudepierre and former board members Dave Hauser and Tim Wheeler also have been involved in recent volunteer work in the area. Motorized vehicles are prohibited which means that a walk on the pathway is peaceful and serene.

For more information and trail maps, use the link below.