McMahon Lake Preserve - TravelStorys

McMahon Lake Preserve

Sponsored by The Nature Conservancy

  • Location: Michigan
  • Travel Type: Walking
  • Trip Time: 30 minutes
  • Language:

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Welcome to the audio tour of the McMahon Lake Preserve! This Michigan preserve is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Established in 1989 thanks to an anonymous donation in honor of former TNC trustee William S. Benninghoff, the preserve has grown to span 4,070 acres today. 

Here, visitors can enjoy the sights and sounds of scenic McMahon Lake and unique wetland habitats from the trail’s two viewing platforms. Spot a beaver lodge, listen for some unusual animal calls, and learn about the preserve’s patterned fen and many other natural wonders. From white pines to lush wetlands, the preserve’s habitats continue to thrive as they have for thousands of years, undisturbed by logging or development. 

The McMahon Lake Preserve is located within the ancestral lands of the Anishinaabe peoples, which include the Ojibwe. This nature preserve protects the headwaters of the East Branch of the Two Hearted River. The river’s name in English echoes its Ojibwe name: “Niizhoodenh-ziibi,” meaning “twin river.”

If you’re planning to visit in person, you should know that the diversity of life on the preserve also includes biting insects. Head netting and insect repellant are highly recommended! The best time to visit is usually August through October, when the bugs have retreated. Then, the beautiful colors of autumn can be enjoyed in peace.

Our hike today is a 2.7-mile loop. It begins with a flat trail to McMahon Lake. The return journey is more challenging, with a ridge that includes some steep up-and-downs.

At the beginning of the tour, you’ll notice the metal art installation by the trailhead. It’s kind of a big deal—the Big U.P. Deal! This dedication site commemorates an important conservation achievement dubbed “the Big U.P. Deal,” that The Nature Conservancy helped orchestrate in 2005. There will be more details about it during the tour, so stay tuned!

While visiting the McMahon Lake Preserve, we ask you to follow the rules posted on the preserve webpage at, and here at the trailhead—this includes leaving pets at home.

Tour Sponsors
This Michigan preserve is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy.

If you enjoy this tour, check out more audio tours presented by The Nature Conservancy Michigan: Nan Weston Preserve, Echo Lake Preserve, Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve, Carl A. Gerstacker Preserve, Mary Macdonald Preserve, and Helmut and Candis Stern Preserve

To find more tours in Michigan or wherever your travels may take you, visit Every place has a story.

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Tour Excerpts

About This Tour

9. “Fir” the Birds

6. Lake Sounds