One of the highlights of our visit to the Keweenaw Peninsula was our excursion to the Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. It is located down 3 bumpy forest trail miles from Copper Harbor.
The Estivant Pines Sanctuary is truly a natural wonder that has become the “jewel” of the Keweenaw. Five hundred eight acres of virgin northern hardwoods, interspersed with groves of eastern white pine, give the visitor a glimpse of Michigan before man changed most of our natural ecosystems.
Three trail loop combination's give the hiker a choice of 1 mile, 1.2 mile, or 2.5 mile loops over rugged terrain. The trails are some of the best in Keweenaw with most of the wet areas covered with boardwalks.
The Cathedral Grove Loop is a one mile trail where you will gaze in awe at the old giants, and imagine how Michigan once appeared. Only a fraction of the big pine can be seen from the trails as most are tucked away in hard to reach places.
The Cathedral Grove holds some of the biggest and oldest pine, measuring over four feet in diameter, they are 125 feet tall and 500 years old. All sizes of pine are present, from tiny seedlings to aboriginal giants.The Memorial Grove Loop is 1.2 miles long and takes you through a large grove of younger, 200 year old pine which was seeded in after a hot fire cleared the competing hardwoods and exposed the thin mineral soil. Along this trail you will pass red oak over 40 inches in diameter. Yellow birch up to 48 inches in diameter are also found in this region.
The Estivant Pines got their name from their pioneer owner Edward A. J. Estivant of Paris, France. Mssr. Estivant bought 2,400 acres south of Copper Harbor in 1861, during the boom days of early copper mining in the region. The land remained in the Estivant family until 1947 when it was purchased by Calumet and Hecla Mining Co.
By 1900 only 750 acres of virgin Estivant timber remained. But in 1970, over 300 acres were cut by the new owners, Universal Oil Co. A movement by local citizens, backed by the Michigan Nature Association, to save the remaining virgin remnant was successful in stopping the cutting. After a three year fund drive, raising $57,000 from all parts of Michigan, a 160 acre sanctuary was established.
Again in 1987 loggers encroached on the sanctuary and cut 24 big trees. This trespass helped the local Estivant Pines organization realize how important it is to have a protective buffer of acreage around the old growth stand. Adjourning landowners manage their land as commercial forest. This fact requires that the MNA continues to purchase land around the old growth tract to protect it.
It was amazing to be among the giants with the impressive canopy over our heads. We are so fortunate that this piece of Michigan forest has been saved. A large thank you should go to: Michigan Nature Association: P.O. Box 102, Avoca, MI 48006 or go to: