Environmental: Harbor Island National Wildlife Refuge
By James G. Kelley Parking and launching:Closest site is the Drummond Island Yacht Haven. Other locations are Township Park and any resort along Tourist Road, Distance one way:Closest point Drummond to north end of main harbor. 2.6 miles round trip 5.2 miles. Level: Intermediate Closest point Drummond to North side of Cedar Island.5.25 miles 10.5 miles. Level: Advanced or expert Also visit:Seney National Wildlife Refuge / Satellite Refuge Page for Harbor Island
In the later half of the eighteen hundreds, after living in the Sault, Sugar Island and Traverse City, Jesse Church, his wife Rosalie and family, took up residence on Harbor Island. In the clearing on the left as you enter the main harbor if you look closely you can still see the foundation to a two story home that Jesse built for his growing family. Jessie made his living in many ways.
Photo by D. Sandell
He tended to the sick and was a Judge, but his main labor was boat building. Judge Church was considered "well to do" and more than one marriage and party took place at the Judge's home. These were social events attended by most of Drummond's residents.
Photo by G. Andrie
Harbor Island is today as it was when it was formed so many million years ago. It is a pristine virgin wilderness. It has never been timbered or dredged.Harbor Island is shaped like a giant horseshoe lying on top of another, to form two distinct spaces. False harbor, the one to the west as you approach the main harbor, is popular with sailboats for overnight moorings and with fisherman for pike, smallmouth bass and perch. The main harbor a large shallow inner harbor is over ½ mile wide. Harbor Island is zoologically and botanically rich.
Cooper hawks, osprey, northern harriers, common loon and bald eagles are all on the state's special species concern list and can be observed here. Of special interest to the botanist are orchids, gentians and lobelias.Walking the deep green forested hills is like walking the halls of a great natural cathedral.Harbor Island National Wildlife Refuge GPS entrance is N46 02.850 W83 45.775, the 695-acre, island became part of the National Wildlife Refuge system in 1983 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services purchased it from The Nature Conservancy. Harbor Island is overseen by the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Seney, Michigan.
Photo by S. Walker
Photo by J. Kelley
Harbor Island hosts a variety of habitats including a marsh that runs almost fully around the main harbor.On the north side there are sand beaches, on the east side across from Bald Island is a mature stand of white pine and if you head north from there you will come to what the locals call the narrows. In this area you will find an old growth forest of oak. There are at least thirty-one types of trees and shrubs on Harbor Island.
Photo by G. Andrie
The Island is open for public use during daylight hours only and can be used for hiking and swimming. No fires, no camping and no motorized vehicles are allowed. It’s a “boots only” refuge. Harbor Island National Wildlife Refuge manager and staff are reviewing the possibility of a trail system to open in 2010. From here you can travel to Mare Island on the west side of Harbor and with a state camping permit (available at Drummond Island Tourism Office) you can spend the night.
Photo by S. Walker
Or continue on to Cedar Island also state owned and on the North Side there is a Blue Heron Heronry high in the trees. This is always a great site in spring and early summer. At this point you are less than one mile from the international boarder with Canada, be very aware of changing weather conditions and never travel this far out from main land unless you are physically able and traveling with others.