Sanctuary Spotlight: Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary

Those familiar with Michigan history will know of the bootlegging activities that took place on the shores of Lake Huron between Michigan and Canada during the Prohibition Era. Local Huron County lore tells of a place along this shore that was popular with bootleggers due to its limestone shoreline – ideal for speedboats looking to drop their loads quickly. This place was called Whiskey Harbor. Three miles to the north, the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse may have aided these bootleggers in locating Whiskey Harbor. Though not all completed their journey, as evidenced by several shipwrecks offshore, and neighbors having reported finding whiskey bottles washed up on shore.

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Leopard Frog at Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Ganley.

Though a cabin once dotted the landscape, this piece of land has never been developed; bypassed by major roadways like M-25, a dirt road was only extended near this property in 1957. Then, in October of 1989, MNA purchased the lot with a bequest of Mr. William J. Kernan, Jr.’s estate. The more than 45 acre Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary has protected critical wetland and shoreline habitat since that day, as well as protecting a piece of Michigan’s rich history.

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A group of visitors peer across Whiskey Harbor at the Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Katherine Hollins

Birders know the property as a great place to spot migratory and shore birds, as the mud flats provide ideal habitat for frogs, which some birds can feed on as they pass through. There is also an incredible amount of plant diversity between limestone cobble shore, the uplands of the southern mesic forest, and varying riparian land from a creek that runs through the sanctuary to Lake Huron.

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An 1837 Government Surveyor’s map of the area around Whiskey Harbor.

The Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary also offers researchers the opportunity to study how land use within a watershed affects coastal wetlands. MNA is proud to protect Michigan’s natural heritage with unique lands such as those found at Whiskey Harbor. You can learn more about this work, and find a sanctuary near you at michigannature.org.