Biological research at the Huron Mountain Club

This painting of Ives Lake and the Stone House was completed by John M. Longyear in 1901. (Photo courtesy of the Marquette Regional History Center)

The Huron Mountain Club occupies a special place in the local imagination. It is a prominent symbol of exclusivity. In the late 1880s and early 1890s, Marquette-based land speculators Horatio Seymour Jr. and J.M. Longyear created a hunting and fishing club for some of the most prosperous people in the Midwest.

The club, located approximately 35 miles from Marquette, north of Big Bay, owns nearly 26,000 acres of land, including over 8,000 acres of virgin hardwood forest, along Lake Superior. The club also contains several large inland lakes.

Historically important grand camps built as summer retreats for its patrons exist in this unique private wilderness. Membership remains extremely difficult to obtain. Its original charter limited membership to 50 families and 100 associates. Many current members are descendants of the club’s founding families.

What many people do not know is that in addition to being an exclusive gated retreat for select families, the Huron Mountain Club is the site of important biological research and an inspiring example of land conservation.

In 1938, Chicago-based philanthropist Laird Bell hired famed naturalist Aldo Leopold to take inventory of the club’s natural resources. Leopold reported that the club’s extensive land holdings were ideal for conservation research. Leopold’s encouragement started a course of action that would transform local scientific history.

He convinced Bell to lend financial support to Richard Manville, then a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan, who went on to conduct a three-year study of small mammal wildlife within the Huron Mountain Club.

In 1955, Laird Bell, Elizabeth DeLong, Katherine Dunbaugh, and Edith Farwell held the first meeting of the Huron Mountain Club Wildlife Foundation. Recognizing that the club offered researchers exceptional opportunities to study nature under primitive wilderness conditions, the newly formed foundation recommended that club lands be made available to scientists interested in the flora and fauna of the Upper Peninsula.

This decision transformed the club’s private forest from a recreational retreat to a living laboratory.

Now 63 years old, the Huron Mountain Club Wildlife Foundation continues this research tradition. Based at the Ives lake Field Station within club grounds, biologists affiliated with the foundation conduct long-term investigations into local natural phenomena.

The Ives Lake Field Station provides remote work and laboratory space for researchers. The facility is off-grid, powered by solar panels and a propane back-up generator, and satellite internet is available. Housed in the picturesque Stone House and Red House buildings on what was once J.M. Longyear’s dairy farm, the research facility enjoys beautiful views of the surrounding wilderness.

Recent projects include a 20-year study of fungi and their mycorrhizal relationships with trees, searches for new species of fungal endophytes living within plants and lichens, documentation of lake trout morphological diversity, surveys of earthworm species, and native moth population research. The Ives Lake Field Station’s rich research history has allowed biologists to draw an uncommonly detailed picture of the local environment. The ongoing All-Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, cataloging all plant, fungi, and animal life found within club grounds, now lists 5,175 species.

The Marquette Regional History Center will be leading a trip to Ives Lake on Sunday, June 3. This rare opportunity to see the Huron Mountain Club is not to be missed. Tickets to this special event, catered by Rock River Farm, cost $75 and proceeds benefit the History Center.

Tickets are for sale to MRHC members now and a limited number of tickets will be available for purchase by the general public May 7.

For more information, contact the MRHC at 906-226-3571 or go to marquettehistory.org.