maiden-hair trees

Estivant Pines

Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary is a 508 acre nature sanctuary located in Keweenaw County, MI. It is maintained and preserved by the Michigan Nature Association which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting Michigan's exceptional natural habitats and extraordinary and endangered plants and animals.


In the early 1970s logging began just south of what is now the sanctuary. The Michigan Nature Association purchased the land and vowing to protect the 508 acres of precious woods. Some of the trees are as many as 600 years old and have been called a living museum. They are among the very last old-growth white pines in Michigan.

Also in March of 1971, Charles Eshbach took pictures of loggers cutting these pines. These were published in the Milwaukee Journal. An order came down to halt any cutting. These two acts started the "Save the Pines" movement. After long negotations, on August 17, 1973 the MNA received a copy of the deed and the Estivant Pines were saved.

About the sanctuary

The Estivant tract is believed to be the last stand of virgin white pine in the Upper Peninsula. In 1955, in recognition of its grace and beauty as well as its role in the wealth and development of Michigan, the white pine was designated the official state tree of Michigan.

If you hike today into the MNA-saved remnant of Keweenaw forest, you discover a living museum, a monument of ancient trees. A dense primeval forest hems you in as you traverse a pristine woods path where pines are set against the sky on ridges above you. At the gateway to the “cathedral” pines, ahead and beneath on both sides appear dark, ghostly straight trunks of huge pines.

Among the pines, it is the size that impresses you. Their height- 130 to 150 feet- is inspiring. When you try to reach around one you find it takes three people!

All ages of trees down to seedling growth can be found, with gigantic ones scattered throughout. When a majestic tree falls, an opening is created for replacements.

The cathedral grouping is the end of the walking trail, but only an estimated one percent of the trees can be seen on a trip as far as that point. The pines are scattered and many of the finest clusters are in solitary places hard to reach in the southwest corner of the sanctuary, and an observer can count more than 125 big pines from one spot.

Fewer plant species survive the boreal climate and thin topsoil backed by bedrock here in the Keweenaw than thrive in the warm and fertile forests further south. Nevertheless there is ample variety in the ground cover, which includes asters, clintonia, baneberry, miterwort, violets, pyrolas, twisted stalk, spring beauty, bloodroot, twin flower, anemones and sarsaparilla. Ferns include maiden hair, spleenwort, holly fern, Braun’s holly fern, rusty woodsia, and common polypody.

Some 85 bird species have been found nesting here, including indigo bunting, red crossbill, flycatchers, hawks, jays, nuthatches, owls, sparrows, thrushes, warblers, woodcock, and woodpeckers.

Other unique features of the sanctuary are rock out-croppings, steep, craggy hillsides, cliffs, and old copper mine workings dating back over 135 years, From the edge of the beaver meadow in the southeast part of the main 160 acres, there is a magnificent view of lofty prominences with a change in elevation of 400 feet.

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