The Huron Mountains
Ask 10 people where the Huron Mountains begin and end, and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. But everyone will agree that they fall within the fuzzy boundaries of Lake Superior to the north and east, and U.S. 41 to the south and west. That’s a swath of land some 50 miles wide by 25 miles long, where the terrain rises into rugged hills and, yes, even mountains. Mount Arvon, about 15 miles due east of L’Anse, tops out at 1,979 feet, the highest point in the state.
Look at a map, and you’ll see it’s an intriguing parcel of land, virtually devoid of towns and roads. What the Huron Mountains do have, however, includes washboard peaks and valleys, virgin white pine forests, hundreds of lakes, the headwaters of a half-dozen classic wilderness rivers, dazzling waterfalls, far more wildlife than people, and utter silence. Even by U.P. standards, it’s a rugged, remarkable place.
The preservation wasn’t the result of happy accident; beginning around the 1880s, the Huron Mountains became the wilderness retreat of choice for several millionaire industrialists. Cyrus McCormick, head of the lucrative farm implement company that would become International Harvester, amassed a huge wilderness estate around White Deer Lake, now part of the Ottawa National Forest’s McCormick Tract Wilderness Area.
Frederick Miller of Miller Brewing owned his piece of wilderness at Craig Lake, now a wilderness state park. Dozens of others owned “camps” at the Huron Mountain Club, an organization so exclusive, even Henry Ford was turned downed for membership when he first applied. The members easily had enough clout to stop construction of a road that was to link L’Anse with Big Bay—County Road 550 abruptly ends west of Big Bay at a gate and security guard house.
Today, the 25,000-acre enclave is shared mostly by the descendants of those original members, who quietly protect and preserve this spectacular landholding. Though locals grumble about the lack of access onto the property (remember, trespassing is considered a right here), no one can argue that the Huron Mountain Club has proved to be an exceptional steward of the land. It kept away the loggers, the miners, and the developers, leaving what some consider the most magnificent wilderness remaining in the state, maybe even all of the Midwest. Within its boundaries lie towering virgin pines, blue-ribbon trout streams, pristine lakes, and waterfalls that don’t even appear on maps. If the club should ever come up for sale, government officials admit (albeit off the record) that they would clamor to turn it into a state or national park.
In the meantime, the rest of us have to be content simply knowing that such wonderful natural beauty is there, and lovingly protected. Besides, there’s plenty of Huron Mountain wilderness open to the public—more than enough to go around for those who are fortunate and smart enough to explore this special place.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel