| TABLE OF CONTENTS
B LOCATION AND HISTORY
2 Location within the State Forest System
3 Land Ownership
4 Land Use
5 Purchase of Property
6 Current Administration of Property
C INVENTORY OF NATURAL RESOURCES
4 Forest Cover
8 Rivers and Streams
D COMMUNITY ECOLOGY AND HABITAT MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
1 Coastal Wetlands Management
5 Streams, Rivers and Lakes (Ecology)
6 Old Growth
7 Threatened and Endangered Species and Rare Communities
F PUBLIC USE MANAGEMENT
Traditional Hunting, Trapping and Fishing
Interpretive and Education
G LAND ACQUISITION
INDEX OF APPENDIXES
Appendix A Simmons Woods Advisory Committee
Appendix B “Simmon’s Woods – A Short History” (1940)
Appendix C Simmons Woods Location Within the State Forest System
Appendix D Plat Book Map Showing Ownership Patterns
Appendix E Simmons Woods Soils Type Map and Soils Map Topography
Appendix F Simmons Woods: Acres by Cover Type
Appendix G Simmons Woods: Acres Prescribed for Treatment
Appendix H Simmons Woods: Proposed Old Growth
Appendix I Simmons Woods Maintained Road System
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY HUBBARD
Simmons Woods is located in western Mackinac County, four miles southeast of Gould City. Two large tracts of existing Lake Superior State Forest (LSSF) were connected when approximately 10,000 acres of Bethlehem Steel property were purchased by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and sold to the State of Michigan. The first parcel of 9,008.66 acres contains 5.3 miles of Lake Michigan frontage. The Lake Michigan shoreline on both sides of the second tract, 1,214.80 acres, is part of the LSSF.
The entire Bethlehem Steel tract is a level to gently rolling property comprised of 85 percent upland and 15 percent lowland. A variety of forest cover is found on the tract, which includes mixed northern hardwoods, aspen, and areas of spruce-fir type. Most of the aspen areas have been harvested, resulting in areas of regeneration but the hardwood areas exhibit well stocked poles and nominal amounts of saw timber. Access to the property is very adequate and is provided via both public roads, including hard surfaced Gould City Road, and a private network of interior gravel roads. The latter are mostly single lane roads of good quality which were developed for logging and recreational purposes.
The most significant feature of the entire property is the 28,000 feet of Lake Michigan frontage which begins at Point Patterson on the south and extends northeasterly to include the mouth of the Crow River, roughly three quarters of a mile southwest of the Big Knob State Forest Campground. Both the beginning and ending points of the lake frontage are within dedicated state forest boundaries. The great majority of the frontage is sand beach, though some areas of limestone cobble are included. Additionally, the property includes substantial frontage on the Catarac River, the Crow River and several creeks, and contains Sherman and Amadon Ponds, Burns Pond (11 acres), entire 205 acre Duel Lake, 30 acre Brown’s Lake, 25 acre Mud Lake, 22 acre Stone Lake, six acre Turtle Lake, and a portion of 55 acre Dry Lake. A total of 24 miles of water frontage is contained in the entire tract, which includes the 5.3 miles on Lake Michigan, 11.5 miles of inland lake and pond frontage and 7.25 miles of river and stream frontage.
The acquisition of this property has created an ecologically significant connection between two large portions of the LSSF which forms the southwest and northeast boundaries of the tract. By securing this block of undeveloped shoreline, the fragmentation of habitat for sensitive species has been avoided, allowing for the continued maintenance of their populations. This linking of two large blocks of state forest has been a significant step in securing a 16 mile stretch of northern Lake Michigan shoreline in its natural, undeveloped state. This is among the longest protected stretches of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline remaining.
To meet the goal of serving all the publics who use state lands, Upper Peninsula Forest Supervisor, Bernie Hubbard, contacted local residents, the township supervisor, TNC, Mead Paper Company, the Sierra Club, Michigan Karst Conservancy, Superior Access, Michigan United Conservation Club (MUCC), Michigan Association of
Timbermen and the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Alliance, and requested they participate with area Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) employees in
developing a management plan. The members are not only representatives of each user group but also represent different management philosophies.
See Appendix A – Simmons Woods Advisory Committee
The first meeting of the advisory committee was held May 23, 1996, and included a tour of Simmons Woods. At the second meeting in June, members developed a Mission Statement:
“Serve the public by successfully developing a management plan for Simmons Woods, addressing concerns of all interested parties and incorporating concerns into a comprehensive plan.”
To keep focused on the Mission Statement and goals for the area, the committee decided their plan of action would be to gather information about the area and address issues involved in responsible management. These actions allowed them to develop a comprehensive management plan that incorporates the concerns of all interested parties.
There were many issues discussed regarding use of the property. One of the major issues was to get a complete inventory of the property, a project which will be completed by Naubinway Forest Management Unit staff with specific inventories being accomplished by TNC, Michigan Karst Conservancy and Michigan Natural Features (MNFI) personnel. Information concerning historical sites will be located and presented by area residents.
The majority of issues revolved around access, vehicle use, land use, protection of threatened and endangered species, accessibility for all who want to participate in the outdoor experience, preservation of historical data and sites, and education of the public to enable them to appreciate the unique features and qualities of Simmons Woods. It was agreed that use of the area would follow State Land Use Rules for State Lands Other than State Parks and Recreation Areas (By authority conferred on the Commission of Natural Resources by Sections 2 and 3a of Act No. 17 of the Public Acts of 1921, as amended, and Sections 9 and 252 of Act No. 380 of the Public Acts of 1965, being Sections 299.2, 299.3a, 16.109 and 16.352 of the Michigan Compiled Laws). Any uses other than those identified, will be noted as “specified exceptions”. It was agreed that major disagreements on issues would be resolved by consensus.
B LOCATION AND HISTORY
Four Indian families were found living at Fox Point when the first white settlers came in 1868. These families lived off the wildlife of the forest, fishing, and a few vegetables that they grew. Fall and winter were spent trapping to trade with the fur dealers from Mackinac Island. In the spring, they peeled cedar bark which they sold to the white people for roofing.
The first white people stayed at Simmons Woods only during the summer to fish off
Fox Point and then went back to Mackinac Island in the winter months. Barrels to ship the salted fish were made by coopers on site. In 1873, a portion of the fishing group
decided to winter in the Simmons Woods area to cut lumber for the Bay de Noc Lumber Company. After this winter, the group started homesteading in various locations in Simmons Woods. Many of the natural features and roads were named after these early settlers.
In 1902, the Simmons Company bought the holdings of virgin timber. This was the beginning of Simmons Woods and construction of housing began on Duel Lake‘s north shore. The first lumber mill was constructed on the southeast shore of Duel Lake. Later, the Simmons Northern Railroad was built to haul timber to other mills. The railroad came from near Gould City and ran to near Duel Lake before splitting into two branches. These were the prosperous times and at one point, 30 families dotted Duel Lake’s north shore.
Simmons the town, boomed until 1906 and then the decline began. In early 1907, the Simmons Lumber Company was sold to the Earle Lumber Company. That same year a fire destroyed the town store and adjacent buildings. In late 1908, ownership transferred to the Wisconsin Land and Lumber Company of Hermansville. The sawmill burned down in 1913 along with most of the remaining buildings and houses. That effectively ended the village of Simmons. There was a gradual disintegration to the Simmons Woods area without any industry.
See Appendix B - “Simmons Woods – A Short History” (1940)
2 Location within the State Forest System
Simmons Woods is located between the Big Knob area and the Batty Doe Lake area of state land south of Gould City. This 10,000+ acre block was added to the Naubinway Forest Area’s 186,000 acres of state land. The Naubinway Area is now part of the Sault Management Unit in the Lake Superior State Forest and EUP Eco-region for planning purposes.
See Appendix C – Simmons Woods Location within State Forest System
3 Land ownerships
The purchase of Simmons Woods provided a well blocked in parcel of land, except for three in-holdings. The large in-holding of 205 acres around Dry Lake in Sections 1 and 2 is owned by descendants of the Earle family. They reserved an easement through state land to their property before it was sold to Bethlehem Steel Company. Michigan Limestone Company, Port Inland Operations, owns 80 acres in Section 21 and 230 acres in Section 22. Three other owners own 50 acres in Section 22 that adjoin Michigan Limestone Company lands. The west and north sides of Simmons Woods are also bounded by other private holdings.
See Appendix D – Plat Book Map Showing Ownership Pattern
4 Land Use
The far past land use was well covered in the “History Of Area” section. Simmons Woods was used as a satellite property from Blaney Park Resort for trophy deer hunting in the 1950’s and 60’s. The road system was maintained for these well-heeled customers.
In the 1960’s, Bethlehem Steel acquired the property from the Earle’s after the Blaney Park Resort era passed for a possible limestone/dolomite quarrying operation. They never did open a quarry operation in Simmons Woods but they did maintain a caretaker on the property. The company allowed recreational uses of the property through per day fees and access through the gate by the caretaker’s house. There were separate fees for fishing, hunting, camping, day use and ORV use. Most of the recreational use was dispersed, except there was group camping at Duel Lake and camping at the Steakfry Beach and along the Catarac River mouth. During the 1980’s and until the state acquired the property, Mead Paper Company had a contract to manage the forestlands and to cut enough timber each year to pay the property taxes. Mead provided road maintenance in areas where they hauled out timber products and the caretaker provided some road maintenance.
Prior allowed ORV use of the area has caused problems now that the state owns Simmons Woods, especially along the Lake Michigan shoreline. ORV use is unlawful on publicly owned Great Lakes shoreline. Signing to halt ORV use has not been too successful. Barricades using boulders has helped some but there is still illegal use going on. Having a conservation officer living on -site has not totally eliminated this illegal activity even with a concerted effort on her part.
The Bethlehem House was used for a summer church camp for children in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. The Bethlehem House has not been used as a church camp from a year prior to acquisition to the present. In fact, the most use that the Bethlehem House has received is by our advisory committee. No local group has stepped forward to use the building as a local historical museum as was hoped.
The advisory committee recommended that the dispersed recreation continue without any campgrounds being developed and that the one access point to Simmons Woods be maintained. A sizeable area was proposed for Old Growth Management, where there would be no or very little cutting allowed (discussed later). In the balance of the area, cutting would be done for management of timber products and wildlife.
5 Purchase of Property
The Great Lakes shoreline of the Simmons Woods property was identified by MNFI, a partnership between TNC and the MDNR, as an important natural area in the early 1980’s. TNC and the state have worked diligently to ensure that the area would be protected. TNC acquired the Simmons Woods property in 1995 to allow the major acquisition to meet the timeline for Bethlehem Steel and the timeline for legislative appropriation. Through funding from the Natural
Resources Trust Fund, Simmons Woods was acquired over a two-year period for just under $ 4 million from TNC with the largest block being acquired in June of 1995. The balance of the property was acquired in 1996. Added to the blocks of state shoreline on either side of this purchase, we now have 16 contiguous miles of Lake Michigan shoreline protected from development.
6 Current Administration of Property
The land administration of Simmons Woods is provided by the Naubinway Field Office, part of the Sault Ste. Marie Management Unit. The current Unit Manager is Dean I. Reid. What activities have been accomplished, have been done by personnel from the Naubinway Field Office, US 2, P.O. Box 287, Naubinway, MI 49762; phone number (906) 477-6048.
C INVENTORY OF NATURAL RESOURCES
See Appendix E – Simmons Woods Soil Type Map and Soils Map Topography
There are a variety of state mineral ownerships in the lands acquired for the Simmons Woods property. Some parcels are in fee ownership in which we own all the mineral rights. Also some parcels have shared mineral ownership of up to 50 %.
3 Forest Cover
See Appendix F – Simmons Woods: Acres by Cover Type
Including lakes and streams, Simmons Woods contains 20 different habitat types over approximately 10,000 acres. All the major habitats common to the southeastern Upper Peninsula (UP) are represented. While a full and complete inventory of the wildlife within Simmons Woods has not been conducted, habit diversity allows us to assume that most forest wildlife species common to the U.P. occur. In addition to evidence of the more widespread species (i.e. white tailed deer, coyote, snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse, woodcock, etc.), several species of special interest are known to utilize Simmons Woods. These species include gray wolf, moose, fisher, bald eagle and common loon.
5 Karst Features
Karst, most often limestone, areas are best known for the underground drainage systems or solutional cave systems that often evolve there but may also be characterized by intricately sculptured rock surface, sinkholes, sinking streams and springs.
Such landscapes can offer an extraordinary variety of economic, scientific,
educational, recreational and aesthetic resources. They are also potentially
highly sensitive, comparable in this respect to desert or coastal margins and
careful protective management is essential. Effective management on karst
terrain must include analysis of features beneath the surface dimensions
that managers usually consider. Cave passages traversable by man are only
a tiny percentage of the below ground passages traversed by water and small
organisms. Dye traces and analyses are required to begin to understand karst
Karst areas in Michigan are limited but this rarity increases their
interest and importance. There is considerable variety in Michigan karst
areas: gypsum karst is found in Kent and Iosco counties; a significant surface
drainage goes underground in Monroe County and reappears at “blue holes”
in Lake Erie; spectacular sinkholes and earth cracks are found in Alpena and
Presque Isle Counties; and the broad band of outcrops of the Niagara
Escarpment in the U.P. hosts a number of karst sinks, springs and caves.
The Niagara Escarpment, which is about 50 meters high - the same
height as Niagara Falls - has a cap rock that is a distinctive, highly resistant
limestone called Niagara limestone. The State of Michigan rests on a saucer
of Niagara limestone where the edges of the saucer crop to the surface.
Today, the Niagara Escarpment (Silurian Period - 500 million years ago)
begins on the western shore of Lake Erie north of Monroe, Michigan, then
goes south into and across northern Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. It then swings
northward past Chicago and follows along the western shore of Lake
Michigan. From there, its north facing bluffs can easily be followed all the way
from Wisconsin to New York State. In northern Wisconsin, the edge of the
Silurian outcrop saucer forms the Dour Peninsula on the eastern side of Green
Bay. It then crosses into Michigan to form the Garden Peninsula. Then, the
edge of the Silurian outcrop swings east across the southern side of the U.P.
and the Manitoulin Islands. Continuing its circle, it then forms the basic rock
formation in the Bruce Peninsula. From there it crosses south across Ontario,
Canada, to the western end of Lake Ontario. At this point, the edge of the old
Silurian seas swing eastward between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and
continues across the northern part of New York State.
Simmons Woods is in the Niagara Escarpment. Because of this, it has
all the use benefits and management problems described previously. Specific
management suggestions are:
make certain karst features are known before logging an area;
have longer rest periods between cuttings to protect sensitive karst features from excessive erosion;
dye trace to understand groundwater flow;
erect signs explaining area geology.
Of all the lakes in Simmons Woods, Duel Lake shows the most promise for successful fisheries management. During a 1996 fisheries survey, it was found that there were moderate numbers of small northern pike and limited spawning habitat for a natural increase in their numbers. In addition, yellow perch and rock
bass were abundant but growing slowly. This lake would benefit from the presence of another panfish predator. Shoreline habitat ranges from sand to gravel to large emergent boulders. Little emergent vegetation exists. Submerged habitat contains similar gradations. The central island consists mainly of jumbled rock and large boulders. Some submergent vegetation, Elodea and Potamogeton americanus, exists in scattered colonies, most noticeable in the deeper waters and around the island.
A 1996 survey of Brown’s Lake produced abundant, but small, northern pike. Angler comments described a fishery of occasional large pike. Perch were moderately abundant but were growing slowly. In addition, surveyors remarked on the large numbers of forage minnows observed. However, brown bullheads dominated the catch. The observed bullhead imbalance was potentially caused by excess angling harvest of pike, which would skew the community structure towards bullheads. Rectifying that bullhead imbalance and restoring a viable fishery will require significant management intervention. Almost the entire lake perimeter is colonized by colonies of Scirpus and cane grass that extend well out into open water. Such emergent vegetation implies that Brown’s Lake would be very good for northern pike. However, it is marginal for depth, averaging roughly three feet, with a maximum observed depth of roughly eight feet.
Water depth in Mud Lake was too shallow to allow adequate net sets. Roughly 80-90 percent of the surface is inundated by bulrush colonies. If this was a land-locked pond, we could predict frequent winter-kill situations. As the headwaters of Catarac Creek, however, it apparently benefits from significant spring water flows. Although such flow can protect the lake from winter-kill situations, winter ice depth still extends deeply into the shallow water. The resulting lack of water volume during the winter will serve to either drive most fish downstream or to concentrate them around the spring water upwelling. Both situations tend to preclude effective fisheries management in Mud Lake.
Water depth in Sherman Pond was too shallow to allow adequate net sets. It will probably not winter-kill due to flow-through of the Crow River. But the lack of water volume precludes effective fisheries management. This pond does, however, function as an upstream corridor for spawning salmonids.
Amadon Pond is similar to Sherman Pond. Fisheries’ visual survey found a very shallow-water ecosystem. Angler reports, however, describe a small area of greater depth near the upstream inflow from the Crow River. During fall 1996, adult coho and chinook salmon were observed immediately below Amadon Pond. To get there they had to pass through Sherman Pond and they could easily continue upstream above Amadon Pond. In addition, because of the high numbers of small brook trout throughout the Crow River, potential also exists for spawning runs of coaster brook trout, early in the fall.
Stone Lake is too inaccessible for the kind of standard netting surveys conducted by Fisheries Division. It should, however, be visually surveyed in the
near future, to round out the Simmons Woods inventory. Management generally implies use of boat or truck access. For that reason, Stone Lake may remain natural throughout the foreseeable future.
Burns Pond is also inaccessible. Still, it should be looked at. If its limnology hints of management potential, an angling survey could provide some answers to its fishery questions. Even so, serious management efforts will require use of boats which at this time cannot be transported to the pond.
7 Rivers and Streams
The Crow River has produced angling rumors for years about smelt, salmon and coaster brook trout spawning runs. A 1996 Fisheries survey during summer months found high numbers of small brook trout. Water temperatures were quite warm and both rock bass and white suckers were also captured. Its short flow distance contains enough impoundments to produce similar warm temperatures every summer which may preclude a significant resident brook trout population. Other fish population influences include lack of deep water habitat and heavy angling harvest. Seasonal spawning migrations were recently documented for coho and chinook salmon. In addition, the large numbers of immature brook trout, found with no adults, imply a migrating spawning population, most probably coaster brook trout from Lake Michigan. Also, given good spawning habitat for those salmonid species, one can likely assume the spawning presence of steelhead, as well, during winter and spring seasons.
Catarac Creek was surveyed in 1996. Good number of brook trout up
to 11 inches were found. In addition, surveyors found an abundant variety of
minnow species. This stream was much colder than the Crow River, cooling
considerably as it flows from Mud Lake downstream to Lake Michigan. For
summer trout fishing, this is the creek to target in Simmons Woods.
McEarchern Creek was too small to work with. There appears to be
little deep water habitat nor enough water volume to produce any viable
Flowing from Burn’s Pond, Shedowin Creek is likely considerably
warmer than Catarac Creek, probably emulating the Crow River for seasonal
temperature regime. It was not surveyed by Fisheries personnel. It should be
visually surveyed in the near future and a more intensive survey initiated if it
shows management potential.