The Whaleback


Photo: Whaleback by Jeff Gaydash

One of Leelanau County’s more famous geographical landmarks is known as The Whaleback, Carp Point or simply Whaleback. This distinctive point juts into Lake Michigan just south of Leland and forms the north point of Good Harbor Bay. When viewed from the north or south along the shoreline or just offshore, it is shaped like a beached whale, but I was told as a kid that Whaleback is actually named for its resemblance to a style of ship common on the Great Lakes called a whaleback.

Here’s the Whaleback slideshow from the Leelanau(dot)com group.

Technically, Whaleback is a moraine, having been formed by earth and stones deposited there by a glacier. Specifically, The Whaleback is a drumlin, defined as “a long, oval mound of boulder clay molded by glacial action.”

Whaleback is protected by the Leelanau Conservancy as the Whaleback Natural Area. It’s a beautiful trail leading up onto the bluffs looking out over Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands. The trail is steep so be prepared, but the view is worth the effort of the climb. The Whaleback trail snakes through an area that is home not only to a variety of animals, but also, in the spring, to vast swaths of forest flowers such as trillium and columbine.

Cool things to do on the climb: spot trillium and columbines in the spring, spot freighters passing by when you reach the top, try to name the islands you see.

Spring Specialties: thimble berries, bird-watching
Summer Surprises: monarchs on milkweed
Fall Fun: brilliant colors
Winter Wonders: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing