There are numerous nature preserves and natural areas within easy driving distance of
Indian River. Some of them encompass hundreds of acres while others are smaller parcels.
Most of the preserves are in wooded wilderness areas and provide opportunities for hiking or cross country skiing and in some instances horseback riding and hunting.
Many of the preserves and nature areas have been set up by and are overseen by the
Little Traverse Conservancy.
In 2020 the Conservancy announced the completion of the former Ellinger Road project, now known as the Harris-Melvin Family Nature Preserve, located along the west shore of Burt Lake. The preserve has 930 feet of Burt Lake shoreline, located along a stretch of Burt Lake that has very little public access. Plans for the preserve include a short boardwalk and a shoreline viewing platform. In combination with the Seven Springs Nature Preserve platform on the east shore of Burt Lake, you could watch the sun rise over Burt Lake from the Harris-Melvin Preserve in the morning and watch the sun set over Burt Lake from the Seven Springs Nature Preserve viewing platform in the evening.
Another large and interesting property that became a natural reserve during 2020 is the Offield Family Viewlands Working Forest Reserve near Harbor Springs. It’s located on what was formerly the Little Traverse Bay Golf Club. It has more than 4.5 miles of trails, some with very steep elevations and some beautiful views of Little Traverse Bay. The address of the property is 995 Hideaway Valley Drive. It’s east of Harbor Springs, off of West Conway Road and Clayton Road.
Among the larger nearby natural preserves are:
The Agnes S. Andrea/Banwell Preserve - Located east of Indian River, it includes more than 500 acres of land and five miles of trails along the Pigeon River. Among the highlights are a scenic footbridge crossing the river and a cabin that is available for use by non-profit or community groups. You can enter the preserve off of either Old Onaway Road or M-68, east of Indian River.
Colonial Point/Chaboinganing - Nearly 500 acres of forests and open fields. Includes huge, magnificent trees in the largest old growth red oak stand in northern lower Michigan.
Enter off of Brutus Road, northwest of Indian River.
Lee Grande Ranch - More than 2,000 acres of land off of M-33 between Indian River, Cheboygan and Onaway. A former buffalo ranch that includes woods, open fields, creeks and ponds. A network of non-motorized trails helps people explore the property on foot, skis or horseback.
Enter off of M-33 east of Indian River.
Seven Springs - A beautiful wooded piece of property with 2,800 feet of shoreline on Burt Lake just minutes from downtown Indian River. Trails from a parking area lead through the woods, down the bluff to the shoreline. At the shoreline you’ll find a wooden viewing platform that provides a wonderful place to let a breeze from Burt Lake blow through your hair as you watch the waves. Enter off of Chippewa Beach Road.
Other area preserves include:
Gauthier - 38 acres near Cheboygan and Lake Huron.
Helmer’s Dam/Robert D. VanCampen - 200 acres with more than a mile of frontage on the Pigeon River. Known as an excellent fishing location.
Vivian VanCampen - 56 acres east of Indian River with nearly 4,000 feet of Pigeon River frontage. Another excellent trout fishing location.
Bear Saw Creek, Bessey Creek, Cain’s Creek Swamp, Fergus, Giaque, Evan and Vern Hanel, Jr., Hildner-Bearce, Judson Pike Marsh, Michigan Wildlife Foundation, Needle Point,
Wendy O’Neil Memorial, Pigeon River Wildlife, Reed’s Alverno, Sturgeon Bay -
Located throughout Cheboygan County these areas offer places to get away from people and enjoy quiet time with nature.