Located between the Leelanau State Park and Cathead Bay is a pristine jewel known as Kehl Lake. Three quarters of its shoreline is protected along with 279 acres of wetlands and towering mixed forest. The 100-year-old hemlocks and old-growth white pines which surround the lake provide food and cover for wildlife, particularly birds, and contribute to the lake’s exceptional water quality. Its close proximity to Lake Michigan makes Kehl Lake part of a critical flyway for migrating birds and it is also part of an extensive wildlife corridor of protected lands at the tip of the peninsula.
Kehl Lake Natural Area features 2-mile trail network on moderately sloped terrain. There is a viewing platform over marshland for bird watching. Please note that during wet times of year, like early spring, portions of the trail can be very wet or underwater. It is recommended that you wear waterproof boots if you visit during these times.
Kehl Lake Natural Area is an important part of the network of preserved land serving as a wildlife corridor and refuge at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. The land surrounding this peaceful lake was used for generations by the Ottawa and Chippewa for seasonal gatherings and camps. The lake’s legging-like shape inspired the name Medahas-ah-eegan in the Anishinaabemowin language, or Leg Lake, which is printed on early maps of the region. In the 1860s, the Kehl family began to farm the Southern part of the property. Along the lakeshore today you will discover pristine water and a towering mixed forest with majestic old growth White Pine trees. The wetlands provide food and cover for wildlife, particularly birds, and contribute to the lake’s exceptional water quality.
- Majestic ancient White Pines, Cardinal flowers bordering the lake
- Fabulous ferns and spring ephemerals
- Expansive forested wetland, bird viewing platform along marsh (can be underwater at times)
- Canopy birds & waterfowl: Blackburnian Warbler & Blue-headed Vireo
- Land once used for Ottawa an Chippewa settlements
- Low growing greens such as club moss, gold thread, equissetum
A Kehl Lake FQA and Summary is available here. The FQA, or Floristic Quality Assessment, tells the story of the types and quality of flora at Kehl Lake Natural Area.
Stories of Kehl Lake Natural Area
- New Boardwalk and Platform at Kehl Lake – October 2019
- Kathleen Stocking Essay About Kehl Lake: A Tip of the Peninsula Jewel Posted April, 2017
- “Old Birch Trail” at Kehl Lake Completed – January 2012
- Kehl Lake Natural Area Expands – January 2012
- 52 Acres Added to Kehl Lake Natural Area – March 2011
- Back to Nature: Making the Time – An essay by Carolyn Faught from our Spring 2003 Newsletter. A family escapes video games and cabin fever to rediscover the magic of winter at Kehl Lake Natural Area.