Kayakers Explore Les Cheneaux Islands

By Adrienne Bozic, MNA Regional Stewardship Organizer – Eastern Upper Peninsula

Kayaking the Les Cheneaux Islands

Kayaking the Les Cheneaux Islands. Photo courtesy of Adrienne Bozic

On Saturday, June 29, ten MNA members from across Michigan traveled to the Eastern Upper Peninsula to kayak the tranquil waters and see the beautiful Les Cheneaux Islands, under the expert guidance of Jess Hadley of Woods and Water Ecotours. The Les Cheneaux area lies east of the Mackinac Bridge along the northern shore of Lake Huron. Translated as “the channels” in French, the islands are glacially-formed rocky fingers of limestone, sand, and gravel that stretch out southeast into Lake Huron. The sheltered bays and channels around these landforms make for ideal boating since small craft are protected from the Great Lakes’ winds and much bigger waves.

The Les Cheneaux Islands from above. Photo by Marge Beaver/Photography Plus

An unpretentious treasure of the eastern Upper Peninsula, the Les Cheneaux area showcases 36 rocky islands, showy wildflower meadows, old-growth forests and diverse wetlands.  Much of the area is protected by a number of nature preserves and conservation easements, including several MNA sanctuaries.

In addition to the spectacular natural scenery, the region has hosted a long history of boating, exploration, trade, and tourism. Charming cottages, old-timey storefronts, historic harbors, and local character all define the Les Cheneaux area and add to its laid-back charm. The area’s fishing, natural beauty, and tranquility have attracted artists, academics, anglers and unique personalities from many walks of life, many of whom have been returning for generations.

Exploring one of the islands. Photo courtesy of Adrienne Bozic

Exploring one of the islands. Photo courtesy of Adrienne Bozic

MNA’s six-hour kayak tour included equipment sizing and fitting (all equipment was provided), beginner-level kayak instruction, a homemade picnic lunch, and a scenic tour through some of the islands near Hessel.

We had wonderful views of Marquette Island, Long Island, and Birch Island, with interesting local lore, facts and history provided by Jess.  The islands have been a popular resort and boating  incdestination for over a century, and Woods and Water is actively involved in promoting responsible, low-impact, silent sport ecotourism throughout the region.

MNA will host another kayak adventure through the Les Cheneaux Islands on Saturday, August 17. Trips are limited to 10 people. To make your reservation, contact Jessie Hadley at (906) 484-4157 or info@WoodsWaterEcotours.com. See the MNA website for more information.


Kayaking the Les Cheneaux Islands

By Dave Wendling and Tina Patterson

Kayak Tour Group

The wonderful group of kayakers! Photo by Marilyn Keigley

On July 14, fifteen MNA members and two guides began, for many MNA members, their first kayak trip. At 10 a.m. we all gathered in quaint Hessel, Michigan, to meet Jessie Hadley (owner/operator of Woods and Water Ecotours) and her assistant for the day, Jake, a personable young man who had just arrived from Illinois to work with Jessie for the summer. We also got to know Adrienne Bozic, MNA’s Regional Stewardship Organizer for the UP, as she joined us in the kayak adventure. You can meet her too, if you join us on the Odyssey stop at Twin Waterfalls on September 25, since she will be leading the hike.

Tina is an experienced kayaker, but this being my first time I appreciated the comprehensive orientation, lifejackets, and the care that was taken to get first-time kayakers ready for the guided tour through the quiet bay.  With lunch provided by Jessie, we took a break on Marquette Island where some took advantage of the exceptionally hot weather to take a dip in the warm waters of Lake Huron.


Having a great time! Photo by Jan Wanetick

Following lunch we continued our trip into a shallow marsh area where we learned of the cooperation between many nature organizations (including MNA) to keep this area free from degradation. Passive use of the lake and marsh is being encouraged because of its critical role for spawning fish, migratory birds, and waterfowl.  We were delighted to see great blue herons, a bald eagle, and other birds using the area.

Jessie explained to us what “ecotourism” is and how it promotes travel to natural areas to help people understand the cultural and natural history of the environment, taking care not to alter the integrity of the ecosystem while producing economic opportunities that make the conservation of natural resources beneficial to the local people.  She explained how she works closely with local businesses and homeowners to make environmental tourism beneficial to their local economy.  MNA supports these efforts, as we all should.  One way to do this is to participate in one of their wonderful outings and nature programs which include kayaking, hiking, snowshoeing, biking, and even snorkeling.  Contact Jessie for a program that fits your interest and skill level.  Custom trips can even be arranged.  What a wonderful way to learn about Michigan’s natural wonders.  There are also, of course, many outings through MNA as well.

Adrienne Bozic

MNA’s Adrienne Bozic enjoys a beautiful day on the water. Photo by Marilyn Keigley

Returning at 3 p.m., we were glad to get back to shore as thunder rumbled in the distance.  MNA participant comments included, “My first trip on a kayak but not my last”, “I am going to go buy a kayak”, “Awesome, can’t wait to come back”, “I didn’t know it would be this much fun”, and “This was so much easier than I thought it would be.”  Thanks to our great guides, Jessie and Jake, our photographers Marilyn and Jan, and to all the MNA members for coming out to experience a great day, learn a new skill, and make new friends.

For an album of photos from the trip, visit the MNA Flickr page.

MNA and Woods and Water Ecotours are working to put together another some kayak outings for next summer and fall. Keep your eye out for details!

July 14-15: Join MNA for an Exciting Weekend in Mackinac County

By Chelsea Richardson

Kayak the Les Cheneaux Islands

Join us for a kayak tour of the spectacular Les Cheneaux Islands

The second weekend in July will be a busy one in Mackinac County for MNA members.

On Saturday, July 14, the Michigan Nature Association is teaming up with Woods and Water Ecotours for a guided paddling excursion through the beautiful Les Cheneaux Islands.

The Les Cheneaux Islands lie east of the Mackinac Bridge along the northern shore of Lake Huron near Cedarville. The 36 island archipelago that makes up the Les Cheneaux Islands provides sheltered channels and bays within the straits of Mackinac.

Historically, these islands were used by Native Americans and French explorers to reach the straits of Mackinac. They have been designated by the Nature Conservancy as one of the last greatest places in the Western Hemisphere because of their pristine environment.

Participants will paddle the protected waters of this 36 island archipelago near Cedarville, exploring inner bays, beautiful boreal forests, wildflowers and freshwater marshes. The area has long been a popular summer escape for paddlers, with sailboats and summer cottages around the islands.

A certified kayak guide/instructor, all equipment and lunch are provided. No experience is necessary. For more information about the kayak trip, visit the MNA website.

Not too far from the Les Cheneaux Islands is MNA’s Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary. On July 15 at 1 p.m., the Odyssey Tour will visit this this beautiful sanctuary and hike its easy terrain while taking in all that Northern Michigan has to offer.

Purple Coneflower

A purple coneflower at Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Aaron Strouse

This sanctuary, once called the Purple Coneflower Plant Preserve, is one of only two places in Michigan where the purple coneflower can be found.

In a single day’s trip to the sanctuary, visitors have reported seeing blue-eyed grass, violets, evening primrose, St. John’s wort, and a number of orchids in addition to coneflower.  Bald eagles have been spotted on occasion, as well as evening grosbeak, sandhill cranes, deer, a red fox, and a large black bear.

For more information about the Odyssey Tour, see the Odyssey page on the MNA website.

We hope you’ll join us in Mackinac County during this fun-filled weekend! Give us a call at (866) 223-2231 if you have any questions.

Sweet Water Kayak Tour of the Les Cheneaux Islands

By Mitch Lex

MNA members and supporters are encouraged to join Woods and Water Ecotours on a guided paddling excursion through the scenic waters and shorelines of the Les Cheneaux Island archipelago on Saturday, July 14th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Kayak Tours

Participants stop to smile during a kayak tour

Participants will paddle the protected waters of this 36 island archipelago near Cedarville, exploring inner bays, beautiful boreal forests, wildflowers and freshwater marshes. The area has long been a popular summer escape for paddlers, with sailboats and summer cottages around the islands.

A professional guide will discuss wildlife and varying habitats, as well as the history of the area, which includes the “grandfather of conservation” Aldo Leopold’s childhood cottage. The cost of the event is $75 for members and $95 for nonmembers. All gear, equipment and lunch are included, and no experience is necessary!

For reservations or more information, contact Woods & Water Ecotours at (906) 484-4157 or by email at info@woodswaterecotours.com. Hope to see you there!