Approximately 35% of the island, located about 30 miles northwest of Charlevoix in Lake Michigan, is state forest land. With over 100 miles of scenic roads, old two-track trails and beaches, it is ideal for all kinds of nature-based eco-tourism activities.
For those wishing to bring their own bikes, kayaks and other outdoor gear, the Beaver Island Boat Company offers an easy and affordable way to transport such things to the island for day trips, weekend get-aways and extended seasonal stays.
The newly developed Beaver Island Birding Trail (BIBT) encompasses more than 12,000 acres of state and township lands, as well as four Little Traverse Conservancy preserves (including the 28-acre Little Sandy Bay, 230-acre Miller’s Marsh, 28-acre George & Althea Petritz Preserve and the 112-acre Barney’s Lake). A vast diversity of habitats can be found around the island, and in all nearly three dozen birding sites have been identified to provide ideal viewing conditions.
Coming up September 26-27, the Beaver Island Pelagic Birding Tour with Brian Allen and Darrel Lawson provides a great potential for viewing fall migrants and perhaps even a western rarity or two. September is also an excellent time for pelagic birds (gulls, cormorants and other waterfowl) on the Great Lakes. This tour provides ample opportunities to view pelagic birds on Lake Michigan and fall migrants on the island. Participation in the tour is limited to 30 people, and reservations are required by Sept. 12 by contacting the BIBT directly at the website above.
While on the island, be on the lookout for countless butterflies, as well as reptiles and amphibians. During the fall, autumn-colored Monarch Butterflies begin their fall migration south from Canada and the Upper Peninsula, with sightings common in the early part of the season. For details on these, and other species found around the island, click here.
Beaver Island’s 56-square-miles encompass almost every type of habitat found on the mainland – forests, bogs, marshes and beaches. A federally-endangered species with a limited distribution on Beaver Island is the Michigan monkey-flower. This plant grows only on the wet banks and in the water of muddy or sandy free-flowing streams. For more on the island’s unique botany from biology professors Dr. Edward Leuck and Dr. Beth Leuck, click here.
Beaver Island is also home to the Central Michigan University Biological Field Station, offering academic classes in biology and other sciences. Faculty and students utilize the woods and waters surround the Beaver Island archipelago as their outdoor classroom for field trips, research and lectures.
BIKING: The island has several miles of paved roads and a one-mile paved non-motorized path. There are many miles of “logging” forest clay and gravel roads that are ideal for enjoying nature on an off-road type bike. The Happy Paddle offers bike rentals for those who wish to explore the nearly 20 trails that wind and crisscross around the island.
PADDLING: Kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding are increasingly popular activities in Paradise Bay, or along the shoreline and coves of Beaver Island. Happy Paddle offers rentals and tours for those looking to get out ON the water.
FISHING: Beaver Island’s four inland lakes provide options to catch pan fish, perch, pike and largemouth bass. The Beaver Island Wildlife Club has been working for several years to develop Lake Geneserath as a walleye fishery. Salmon fishing varies from year to year. Fishing for the long-lived slow-growing lake trout continues to improve. The area west and south of Beaver Island is a lake trout sanctuary. Smallmouth bass fishing around Garden and Hog Islands has improved in recent years, but in order to continue the positive trend, anglers are asked to practice artificial-bait catch-and-release only when fishing for smallmouth bass in the archipelago. Resident and non-resident fishing licenses can be purchased on the island, at McDonough’s Market.
HUNTING: Beaver Island is an ideal locale for hunting, specifically whitetail deer and wild turkey. Small game populations vary from year to year, but grouse and rabbit hunting are active on the island.
In 1992, now-retired DNR wildlife biologist Doug Whitcomb, with the cooperation of the Beaver Island Wildlife Club, introduced two small groups of Eastern wild turkeys to the island. Today, the burgeoning flock now consists of nearly 600 very healthy birds that reside in the island’s hardwoods and open fields. Michigan hosts two turkey hunting seasons, one in the spring (mid-April through the end of May) and one in the fall (mid-September through mid-November).
Thanks to a successful Quality Deer Management (QDM) program on Beaver Island, the population of whitetail deer continues to increase. In 2011, “three legal points on one side” antler restrictions became the law. QDM principals have created a more balanced herd, with a much improved opportunity to harvest a mature buck. The number of “doe tags” varies each year, but there are usually plenty to satisfy demand. Many land owners have also been planting food plots for years and the island offers lots of state land that is open to hunting.
Hunting licenses can be purchased on the island, at McDonough’s Market.
CAMPING: Visitors will find two established campgrounds on Beaver Island, both owned and operated by the Island Townships and open until the end of November. There are no reservations at either campground, with the primitive sites are available on a first-come, first serve basis. Both campgrounds provide pit toilets and hand pumps; there are no showers at either facility.
Saint James Township Campground is located on the north end of the Island, off Donegal Bay Road one mile outside the St. James Harbor. The campground and its 12 sites overlook Lake Michigan and Garden Island, with views of Squaw and Whiskey Islands. ($5 per night, per campsite).
Bill Wagner Peaine Township Campground is located on the east side of the Island, seven miles south of the harbor and accessible via the East Side Road. This 22-site campground is on the shore of Lake Michigan with a view of the west coast of mainland Michigan. ($10 per night, per campsite).
STAR GAZING: Given its remote locale and limited light pollution, Beaver Island offers countless spots for viewing the constellations, Northern Lights, meteor showers and other astronomical wonders. Make your way to sites in the center of the island for the best viewing. Plan around the September 28 Full Moon (with its Lunar Eclipse) or the October 27 Full Moon.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Of course, no matter the outdoor activity you take part in, there is an opportunity for capturing the experience in pictures. From sunrises and sunsets, plants, wildlife, beaches, lighthouses, historic sites, scenic trails and even the night skies, the subject matter for images are available 24/7/365.
For a complete ferry schedule and rates, call (888) 446-4095, or log onto www.BIBCO.com.
For information on Beaver Island, including lodging properties, visit www.BeaverIsland.org.