Tucked in the northwestern corner of Washington Island is Little Lake. Part of the Little Lake Nature Preserve, the shallow, 33-acre, inland lake with its Walden Pond-like qualities and secluded location offers quiet respite and is an ideal place to slip a kayak into the water for a calm, easy paddle.
Begin the journey by parking in the lot at Jacobsen Museum (which is worth a stop if it is open when you visit) at the end of Little Lake Road. A short walk down the wooded path toward the lake leads you to a wooden pier that offers an idyllic view of the water and the perfect place to put your kayak into the water and begin your tour.
Traveling along the lake in a clockwise direction, there are a few private docks before you enter a series of small coves, which look like an ideal place to cast a line and try one’s luck at catching smallmouth bass, rock bass or even some perch.
Legend has it that two sturgeon, placed in the lake as a joke and since gone, cleaned out the lake of much of its fish for several years. Any fish I saw were too small to be worth the time.
The third cove, just 250 feet from Lake Michigan on the other side, is the perfect place to go ashore and explore part of the Little Lake Nature Preserve, which encompasses the entire northern half of the lake and includes over 5,000 feet of shoreline.
Back in the kayak, paddling along the northern portion of the primarily spring-fed lake showcases a coastal fen and a variety of plans, including buckbean, marsh bellflower, swamp rose and an array of sedges flanked by older stands of white cedar and hemlock along the shore. The area is also home to many species of migratory and resident birds, a double-feature for those who enjoy bird watching and kayaking. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, white pelicans, osprey and herons above. Along the shoreline, a diverse community of amphibians and reptiles, including the blue spotted salamander and common snapping turtle.
Just before returning to the museum, the water depth becomes shallow again providing a clear view to fish spawning areas below as the kayak moves through reeds and lily pads. Back at the dock, the glass smooth waters make sitting and enjoying the view for a few more moments an easy choice.
Size: 33 acres
Feet of shoreline protected: 5,000-plus
Fun Fact: The area was once home to a large village of Native Americans. Numerous artifacts dating back approximately 3,000 years have been found here and some may be viewed at the nearby Jacobsen Museum.