Exploring the 2,200-acre Storey Lake tract

Posted on November 15th, 2019

Out See Go
By Chris Engle, contributor

I’m now the proud owner of 2,100 acres of woods, trails, a river and a lake — and you are too.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) told the Gaylord Herald Times in October that the long-awaited purchase of the Storey Lake tract, first attempted 18 years ago, finally went through.

What makes it so special, and why the DNR offered three times since 2001 to buy it, are the three words Realtors insist any buyer consider: location, location, location.

An information kiosk stands at an elk viewing area east of Fontinalis Road. The Storey Lake property lies to the west. Photo by Chris Engle

This is definitely the property’s strong suit. Located in the northwest quadrant of Alexander and Fontinalis roads near Vanderbilt, the tract sits right at the western edge of the famed Pigeon River Country State Forest. Not only that, it’s just across the road from a public elk viewing meadow on Fontinalis Road where the DNR put up an information kiosk a few years back for people in search of the herd.

A dock reaches out into Storey Lake in the northwest corner of the property. Photo courtesy White Birch Outfitters of Gaylord

Its other strong attribute is water and the property’s namesake, Storey Lake, resides in the northwest corner near the North Central State Trail. A stretch of Stewart Creek flows north from there into the Sturgeon River, so important headwaters for trout just got opened up to anglers and nonprofits driving the restoration of these vital habitats. Little Traverse Conservancy partnered with the DNR on the acquisition.

The state prioritizes its land acquisitions by their proximity to existing public land and whether there’s water on it, and the Storey Lake property checks both those boxes with ease.

“Emile’s Gate” is one of two gated access points off Fontinalis Road. Photo by Chris Engle

I went up there Nov. 8 with my dog and a .22 rifle to explore a small piece of the sprawling tract and parked near the aforementioned elk viewing area. The southwest corner of the property is home to a red-pine plantation with several two-track roads winding through it.

A thinned red pine stand covers much of the southeastern part of the tract. Photo by Chris Engle

A fresh dusting of snow had already been broken by the tracks of cross-country skis. Outside of hunting season, this would be an ideal place to ski or snowshoe (unless you prefer to hunt on skis or snowshoes, then go for it). I encourage anyone exploring the Storey Lake tract, or any public land for that matter, between now and Jan. 1 to wear an orange vest or hat for safety’s sake.

Getting to the lake will require a hike of several miles from Fontinalis Road. Better access off the North Central State Trail will come in spring after snowmobiling season is over. Note that motorized vehicles, including snowmobiles, are prohibited.

Otis takes a break in the fresh snow. Photo by Chris Engle

That said, the coming years will make the Storey Lake property a popular place for hunting, fishing, dispersed camping, mushroom foraging and all kinds of other low-impact activities. It is a welcome addition to the Pigeon River Country and I’m looking forward to venturing much further on my next visit — and you should too.

Chris Engle lives in Hayes Township, Otsego County. He can be reached at englemobile@gmail.com.


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