Weden's Bay Research Natural Area

[photo:] Uprooted Northern white cedar at Weden’s Bay RNA. USDA Forest Service - Hiawatha NF Photo

Rapid River

Weden’s Bay RNA provides protection to a unique juxtaposition of lakeshore, dune, swale, and wetland and upland complex.  The undisturbed nature of the upland and wetland ecosystems offers a rich species diversity and the opportunity to study fresh water transition zones. Also, the relatively pristine remnants of pre-European settlement lakeshore to upland transitional ecosystems are uncommon in the region, providing great biological significance.

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA:
Escanaba (station ID number: GHCND: USW00014824, latitude 45.7181°, longitude -87.0939°). The station is about seven miles due northeast of the RNA.
Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) :
Annual precipitation averages 28.7 inches (73 cm); 50% received as snowfall. Average seasonal snowfall is 49.5 inches (125.7 cm).
Maximum and minimum temperatures:
Daily summertime temperatures average 50.9° F; average daily maximum temperatures average 51.6° F. Average temperature in the winter is 32.1° F; average daily minimum temperatures average 31.7° F.
Elevations range from 579 feet (176 m) to 592 feet (180 m) MSL.
Geology and Soils:
Bedrock of the area includes Big Hill Dolomite (45%) and Stonington Formation (42%) with surficial geology of thin to discontinuous glacial till over bedrock (81%).
Along the Lake Michigan coast, soil complexes consist of Eastport Series, which are well drained or moderately well drained, nearly level or gently sloping soils on beach ridges and low dunes. These soils formed in sandy material and are generally 1–60 inches (2.54–152.4 cm) deep. Limestone bedrock is often found below these soils at depths ranging from 40 inches (101.6 cm) to a maximum depth of 4–8 feet (1.2–2.4 meters). These soils have low available water capacity and low natural fertility; runoff is slow and permeability is rapid. Smaller areas within Weden’s Bay are classified as marsh and Tawas muck.
Aquatic Features:
The shoreline and wetland areas in Weden’s Bay RNA are important to several wildlife species. Avian species use the wetland areas as a resting stop during migratory flights. The shores are a pristine habitat for piping plover, and the entire site’s high water table benefits the plant and animals species that require wet habitats.

Ecological Classification & Inventory

Laurentian Mixed Forest Province, 212R Eastern Upper Peninsula
212Rc Escanaba Lake Plain and Thin Till
Landtype Association
Stonington Till Plain Rc18

National Vegetation Classification:

  Forest and Woodland
Subclass Temperate Forest
Formation Temperate Flooded and Swamp Forest
Division Eastern North American Flooded and Swamp Forest
Macrogroup Northern and Central Swamp Forest
Group Northern and Central Conifer and Hardwood Alkaline Swamp
*majority of RNA is in this association
Thuja occidentalis - (Larix laricina) Seepage Forest CEGL002455.

View or download Complete Plant List (pdf)

MI Natural Community Types:
Weden’s Bay RNA is composed of the following: 41% Rich Conifer Swamp, 33% Boreal Forest, 18% Limestone Cobble Shore and 8% Limestone Bedrock Glade.
Common Flora:
To the north of the shoreline is a small foredune with characteristic vegetation of sedges, rushes, and emergent wetland plant species. Past the foredune is a closed-canopy forest with an overstory of Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), Northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis), and scattered paper birch (Betula papyrifera). Continuing farther north, the overstory is mostly northern white cedar with a mid-canopy of scattered birch, white spruce (Picea glauca), and black ash (Fraxinus nigra). Ground cover is mostly Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla), Cornus canadensis (Canadian bunchberry), Trientalis borealis (starflower) and Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower). Nearer to the shore, Iris lacustris (dwarf lake iris) is prevalent.
Common Fauna:
Common mammals include coyote (Canis latrans), snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), porcupine (Ethizon dorsatum), and white-tail deer (Odocoileus virginianus).
Common bird species include: spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularius), common tern (Sterna hirundo), ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis), belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon), red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), song sparrow (Melospiza melodia), winter wren (Troglodytes hiemalis), American robin (Turdus migratorius), nashville warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla), common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) and black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus).
Potential Research Topics:
Weden’s Bay RNA provides a wealth of fauna and flora to study in detail or in conjunction with climate change research and its effects on shorelines and northern wetlands.  The shoreline and wetland areas also provide opportunities to focus studies on the rare and endangered species endemic to the RNA.

Related Reports and Publications

Haas, Skye.  2013. Fauna Field Surveys. Unpublished report found on file at the Forest supervisor’s office, Gladstone, Michigan.

Hall, Christine.  2016.  Establishment record for Weden’s Bay Research Natural Area, Hiawatha National Forest, Rapid River District, Delta County, Michigan.  36 pp.

NGDC. National Geographic Data Committee. 2012. National Vegetation Classification Standard (NVCS). Available online: Accessed May 2012.

Sanderson, S.  2012. Field Monitoring form. Volunteer RNA checkup form. Unpublished form found on file at the Forest supervisor’s office, Gladstone, Michigan.

Last Modified: August 19, 2021