The Maxton Plains Preserve consists of 1,185 acres located on the northern portion of Drummond Island in Chippewa County in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Drummond Island is the second-largest freshwater island in the United States and includes 129 square miles of land and 120 square miles of water, mostly state owned land and parks. There are 150 miles of rugged, scenic shoreline and 36 inland lakes. Drummond Island is located in Lake Huron, and you will need to take a car ferry or a boat to get to the island. While the population of Drummond Island is small, it grows during the summer and fall due to tourism and vacation homes. Some of the permanent residents are employed by several quarries located on the island.
Maxton Plains is an alvar, a biological environment consisting of a very thin layer of soil over a sheet of limestone, which creates a grassland area where plants only grow in cracks in the limestone. This unique environment was created by the last glacier that receded over 10,000 years ago, leaving little to no soil on top of the limestone bedrock. Some people say that alvar areas look like abandoned parking lots with weeds growing through the cracks of the pavement; however, alvars support a distinctive group of prairie-like plants. In fact, eight of Michigan’s rarest plants grow in the alvars in Maxton Plains Preserve. Alvars have only been documented in parts of Scandinavia, Estonia, Ireland’s County Clare, and the Great Lakes area. Bring your binoculars with you when you visit the Maxton Plains Preserve to see a multitude of birds and other wildlife. This site attracts an array of birds, including such rare and threatened species as the upland sandpiper, osprey, northern harrier, and sharp-tailed grouse. You might see eagles soaring overhead or deer feeding on the edges of the forest, or maybe you’ll be lucky enough to spot a bear! Maxton Plains is also a very popular place for stargazing because of its dark sky and large open spaces.