Drive or bike north out to the Maxton Plains. It wasn’t until The Nature Conservancy documented and preserved most of the Plains that we understood we were stewards of a rare corner of the world. Alvar has only been documented in parts of Scandinavia, Estonia, Ireland’s County Clair and the Great Lakes.
The Alvar landscape on Drummond Island is an area about 2 miles deep by 4 miles in length. The Interpretive Signs are a must to read, read them first then look out over this rare Alvar, you will be amazed. I have the feeling I’ve just discovered an old deserted airfield gazing at the “smooth”, scarred limestone created by the glaciers thousands of years ago. If you have the patience, take a flask of water, walk the roadway and look for fossils in the great slabs of limestone. The soil is so thin that very few trees get a foothold, but in the spring it is awash with wildflowers.
Photo by D. Sandell
Photo by K. Kelley
Plant’s native to the Artic tundra, the Great Lakes and the prairies of the Great Plains intermingle here. Three of the most dramatic blooming plants are the prairie smoke (2 miles west of the interpretive signs) found from mid May to mid June on both sides of the road; more frequently seen in summer is the red Indian paintbrush and in early autumn we have the display of prairie dropseed. The Alvar is wet in spring and early summer and dry in the autumn.
Birders enjoy the multitude of birds they can add to their check list. Each spring you’ll find ten pairs or more of sandhill cranes. They get so use to the traffic, it’s your job to stop and let them cross the road. You can find eagles soaring overhead and deer feeding on the edges of the forest and you may be lucky enough to spot a bear.
Photo by K. Kelley
There are a lot of rules to follow at the Maxton Plains: No wheeled (motorized or not) vehicles are allowed on the grasses-YOU MUST STAY ON THE ROAD PROVIDED. If you would like to walk out on the Alvar for a closer look, park your car, bike, or ATV ON THE ROAD (the road is wide enough for two-way traffic or for the passing of another vehicle). Everyone must help in the preservation of this rare Alvar.
Getting to the Maxton Plains: From the Four Corners go east on Johnswood Road (2.25 miles), left onto Maxton Cross Road (1.5 miles), right onto Maxton Road (5.25 miles) to the Interpretive Signs on the Maxton Plains. This should be your #2 place to visit on Drummond Island.