Sugar maples dominate the forest of this 15-mile-long island in the St. Marys River. It has been a favorite Indian sugaring spot for many hundreds of years. Many Ojibwa lived here in recent times. The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians bases its tribal membership on being able to trace ancestry to the Sugar Island band.
When the sugar maples turn red and yellow during fall color season, a drive around the island is a spectacular experience. There’s a café and ice cream shop at the ferry and a bar with food two miles up the hill on 1 1/2 Mile Rd. A small township park is on the North Shore Road. Get a map at the Sault Chamber of Commerce on Bus. I-75 or call 800-MI-SAULT. There’s no perimeter road except along the north shore and part of the west shore, so you have to seek out the waterfront places. The downbound shipping lane is along the west shore, by the Michigan mainland. The upbound lane is on the Canadian side and further from shore.
Sugar Island and the St. Marys River are important migration flyways for many migrating birds. The island is considered a birding hot spot for seeing migratory snowy and great gray owls. The Little Traverse Conservancy has acquired four preserves on Sugar Island, mostly shoreline wetlands of significance to many kinds of wildlife – mammals and fish as well as birds. Visit www.landtrust.org and see “nature preserves” for a map and description of these areas. The conservancy states that the habitat of its new preserve on the island’s south end is ideal for species including the spruce grouse and black terns (listed as of special concern in Michigan), sedge wren, and long-eared owl. For preserving expanses of natural habitat, it’s a plus that the preserve is near large parcels of land owned by the University of Michigan Biological Station, land that was once Governor Chase Osborn’s summer home.
For an experience by the woods and water that’s close to town, consider investigating Sugar Island , especially if you like to fish or boat. They are open from May through October. For boat rentals & the tackle shop call 906-635-0573.