I’ve had this dream for years. You’re on this page, so maybe you share it.
Let’s say you yearn to find a perfect whole private lake, centered in big land, improved in state of the art ways with all the right features and benefits. Is this an impossible dream? How do you find it? Where do you start?
Start here. Let’s give this property a name. Call it Whiskyjack after the friendly grey jays of the northern boreal forest.
If you have been successful in business, you probably realize, deep down, that you don’t have the time or skills to put such a property together. That is probably correct. It takes years of hands-on effort to do it right. But surprisingly it’s already been done and the property is available, right here in the U.P. I have to be a bit shy at this point about saying exactly where it is, for privacy reasons. So instead, let’s talk about process. You can tell a lot from that.
Luck doesn’t have much to do with it. To pull this together the owner – I’ll call him Charles – who was himself in business in a distant city, needed to learn the territory and spent a lot of time over fifteen years doing just that. In the process he developed a relationship with a team that now includes scientists, architects, contractors, foresters, biologists, attorneys, others who provide specialized services, and myself. He has endlessly searched the Internet and resources such as lake databases and scientific studies of land and lakes. He put in the time, paid the price, has gone the extra mile, and the results are breathtaking.
He settled for nothing less than a large lake with great access surrounded by forests that hadn’t been cut in 100 years, because that has an effect on the water. A lake like that shows natural signs that it is healthy, like fresh water sponges, clams, and an ability to support delicate plants, like wild rice. He later planted wild rice of the same genetic strain that historically thrived in these northern lakes but died out after forest fires that followed the timbering of the great white pine forests.
Whiskeyjack has 40 acres of surface water with 25 feet of depth. Critically it has a very high refresh rate, the time necessary for all the water in the lake to be replaced. During the spring runoff this lake can completely exchange its water in an incredible three or four days. A lake like that has the capacity to be a high quality fishery and support rare plants. A large river runs through the property and there’s well over a mile of a smaller trout stream (both sides). Four seasonal streams and one that runs all year feed the lake.
It lies within the 1,000 square miles of the Huron Mountains west of Marquette, an area with diverse opportunities for recreation and relaxation. There is easy access to a regional hospital, regional airport with commercial and private jet service, and a diverse community with restaurants, city services, Division 1 sports (hockey) at Northern Michigan University, museums, and social and cultural opportunities.
As he assembled the property, putting together the pieces, Charles first followed the medical principle, “first, do no harm.” He called in the best scientists to evaluate the natural qualities of the lake and the land for a full year. He took the time required to understand what was needed to support the inherent natural qualities of the property that made it exceptional, which is the best way to secure its future. He also knew the things that should not be changed, which is every bit as important. He made a plan.
In the U.P. that usually starts, as it did here, with a need for better roads, small enough to be scenic and pleasant, wide and strong enough to stand up to weather. For easy year round use, roads also need room along the sides to plow the snow in winter. Later an extensive trail system was added.
The Internet is a tremendous resource. On it Charles found, qualified, and hired a unique West Coast timber frame company with just the background to design a timber frame appropriate to this setting. The completed lodge is not too big, not too small, and is designed for easy maintenance. It is frame construction with local rock on portions of the exterior and recycled 100-plus year-old fir timbers and fir, redwood and walnut lumber inside, all of that recovered from an old California winery.
It has in-floor heating throughout and the best Viking range in a kitchen to die for. Furnishings are Stickley Mission. Rugs are Hand Knots imported from Nepal. The windows are custom Eagle Axioms. Doors are custom Douglas fir with Emtech custom arts and crafts hardware. The roof is hand split white cedar. Kitchen cabinets are cherry with walnut inlays. A giant 100-year old fir beam, carved, pinned and lighted, spans the entire living area. There’s much more, but I’ll bet you get the picture.
Nearby, Boulder Cabin (shown in the next photo) awaits your guests, made of birdseye maple and black ash, furnished with the same quality as the Lodge. A three-car log garage made of giant pine logs up to 39 inches in diameter has a large rec room upstairs, custom furnished and equipped for teenagers or guests.
As a final touch this property comes “turnkey”, furnished, equipped, and ready to use. This means all furniture, rugs, lamps, silverware, pots and pans, linens and the like are included. Personal items, artwork and recreational equipment are not. Bring clothes and toys and you’re ready to go.
How do you price something like this? We found nothing to guide us in the Midwest so we searched the Internet for comparable properties. Do that and you will find whole private lakes are rare nationally. The most similar properties we could find are in Montana and Idaho with big land, high quality design, construction, and furnishings.
They have water but rarely have a whole private lake. Some have a spring creek with ponds. Others have a top quality trout stream that runs through the property. Buildings are similar in quality to what is here, offered turnkey. Properties like that in Wyoming or Idaho change hands in the $12MM to $15MM range. That would be there, however, in a developed market. No one has done this before in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and perhaps not in the Midwest. This one is available under $5MM!
For many this is not in some distant place you have to fly to either. The U.P. is within a day’s drive of 60 percent of the U.S. population. If you live far away and want a place up north for northern Michigan’s naturally air-conditioned summers, you can fly here on a jet, private or scheduled commercial.
You could entertain a Head of State at Whiskeyjack. He would be at home and comfortable amidst high end design and furnishings, big land with 750 acres (1.2 square miles), including a beautiful wilderness lake with points and bays, rimmed with birch, spruce and white pine. Best of all it has great privacy.