Lighthouse West Natural Area
Leelanau State Park and Lighthouse West Natural Area preserve 230 acres of the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, which includes the historic Grand Traverse Lighthouse. But the bulk of that, along with all the visitor amenities, is in the state park. The natural area is only 42 acres and 640 feet of shoreline along Lake Michigan.
But to thousands of songbirds and broad-winged raptors that migrate to nesting grounds in the Upper Peninsula and Canada, Lighthouse West is a blessing, a stopover for food and rest before crossing the wide expanse of Lake Michigan. And for birders, the preserve is a place to see more than 100 species during the spring and fall migrations.
During the spring migration from mid-April to mid-May, the northern reach of the peninsula is one of the best birding spots in the region. Waves of birds, from warblers, tanagers and orioles to shorebirds, waders and raptors, hug the Lake Michigan shoreline and are funneled up into the Leelanau Peninsula. When foul weather sets in, the birds linger at Lighthouse West while waiting for a warm southerly breeze to guide them across the open water. Other species, including scarlet tanagers, black-billed cuckoos and chestnut-sided warblers nest in the area.
Lighthouse West features 1.2 miles of trail, built in 2009 and designed to traverse the various habitats that appeal to birds, and thus, birders. The perimeter of the system, including a segment to and from the shoreline, makes for a 1.3-mile hike. Note that private property separates Lighthouse West from the state park’s campground, lighthouse and day-use area to the north.
|Difficulty - Easy|