Glass Lake in the Huron Mountains

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Glass Lake is the sort of place we imagine, but rarely find. The property adjoins more rugged big county than you will ever hike, snowmobile or drive. A Federal wilderness and three state parks lie nearby and large segments of the private land to the north are in “CFR”, which by law means they are open to the public and available for your “hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation”.

There are no comps, so how do we think about and become comfortable with the value of a whole, private, uniquely beautiful, 45-acre mountain lake in a 360-acre ownership of spectacular wild land on the edge of big, beautiful country? Well as usual, it just requires thinking it through. Here’s a start:

The real estate cliche is that land offers “features and benefits” to an owner. The features and benefits listed below, highlighted in bold text, are the ones my experience tells me will set the value. Let’s keep it simple and rank these 1 to 10, with 10 being best:

2The Area: When you buy a property the first decision is actually about the area and whether you want to be there. The Huron Mountains are my personal favorite place to be. I think of them as a 1,000 square mile area with a 175 miles perimeter north and west of Marquette. That’s a huge area, and it is wild. Check it out on Google Earth. This is the largest area without paved roads and power east of the Mississippi. It contains every kind of land from mountains to plains, rock beaches to sand, and it’s a playground for lovers of wild land and the wildlife that lives here. This is where the State of Michigan chose to reintroduce moose to the state and they’ve done well. You’ll see tracks everywhere. And occasionally if you’re lucky or good, you’ll see the animals.

The only paved road extends just 10 miles up the Peshekee Grade north of Lake Michigamme and that is how you approach this property. These ruggedly beautiful Huron Mountains are a wonderland of high rock faces, stone outcroppings, sugar maple forest, old growth white pine and blue mountain lakes. They are the remains of an ancient mountain range, eroded and scarred by glaciers and time, majestic and beautiful. Parts of this area were once proposed for a National Park, and no wonder.

This is scenery reminiscent of the mountain West and it is a surprise to find it here in the Midwest. Glass Lake is near it’s southern border about 6 miles from the Peshekee Grade, the nearest paved road, and its deeded access is insured by the title company. That puts it roughly an hour from Marquette, Marquette General Hospital, K.I. Sawyer jet airport, restaurants, shopping and services. Marquette was just selected March 1 as the Trust for Historic Preservation’s national “Dozen Distinctive Destination Fan Favorite” contest. There is lots of beauty here but these mountains are my very favorite area in the U.P. Score “The Area”: 10.

3Entrance: The approach frames a property and how you think about it, and it is important. There are two ways in. One is over state and timber company land from the south and east. There is no recorded right of ownership over this road and it is longer, but most people would use it as their access to Glass Lake. It’s the route I’d use by car in the summer. In winter this is one of the major snowmobile trails in the U.P., passing about a mile and a quarter east of Glass Lake and if you have a snow machine it’s the way you’d come in winter. Parts are rough, it is pretty long and there is a lot of logging along the route in, which can visually affect the beauty until the forest grows back. The entrance can be improved, but people in the know are split on the result. Score: 5.

Land Area: 360 acres, more than half a square mile of wild land with uncut forest to buffer the lake, provide privacy, and offer opportunities to develop hiking trails, snowmobile trails, hunting or photographic blinds and the like, all right on your property. For a mile the western side adjoins state land. In addition to the lake this property includes creeks, a whole 3-acre pond and most of another surrounded by magnificent, rough, ancient mountain land. More is always better and you could add some. Score: 7.

Lake Surface Area: Glass Lake has 45 acres of surface area as scaled from USGS data by White Water Associates Inc. of Amasa. By my count it is the largest of the only 3 other privately held, single owner, natural (no dam) lakes in the Huron Mountains that approach this size. It is totally undeveloped, which is wonderful. Glass has 2.3 miles of shoreline. Visually it is a 10 but I have to break my own scoring rules and give it an off-the-charts 5-point bonus for being the largest undeveloped lake remaining in the Huron Mountains outside the Huron Mt, Club, and I could argue that’s too low. This is the gold standard for Midwest mountain lakes. Score:15.

4Lake Depth: Maximum water depth in the lake is 37 feet deep, which is excellent. This is great depth for a lake in this country, comfortably more than the 15-17′ minimum required to prevent winter kill of the fish in winter when heavy snow blankets the ice and the dissolved oxygen levels of lakes drop to their annual low. The water study confirms it. Score: 10.

Lake Water Quality: Glass Lake has an excellent ph of 6.8, as measured by White Water Associates. That is just on the alkaline side of perfectly neutral, and it’s excellent for trout. You can download White Water’s report which includes some great aerial maps as a pdf by clicking right here on the Glass Lake Report. Score: 10.

Property Access: There are two issues about access to consider: legal access, and how usable it is. This property has two ways in over existing roads. The insured legal access is from the north over a road that is rough in some places and overgrown in others. If you have a Hummer or ancient pickup you may LOVE this route unimproved, just as it is, as part of the wilderness experience. You may also come the other way, which is a better but much longer road. You have no insured legal right to that way in but lots of people use it as their only access to the lands they own and it will probably always be available. It’s a subjective thing, but I’ve scored it down for the length and roughness of these existing roads. (You could improve them!). Score: 6.

5Fish: Fish studies have not been completed and stocking will likely be required, but recent the water studies and the depth of the lake indicate that this has the potential to be a first class fishing lake. I’ll give it an 8 pending further study of the fish population, which may move this score higher. (Bring your rod and we’ll do a little scientific check that way!) Score for now: 8.

Scenic Beauty of the Lake: There’s zero question on this one: This lake is a forest jewel as you see from the photos. Score: 10.

Four additional features should not be overlooked, but they are less important than those above because if there is a problem with these it can be fixed so I give them less weight, a maximum 2.5 points each as follows. I see no problem with any of these at Glass Lake, although I’ve marked two down a point for “unknowns” so for the moment this collection of four totals another eight points. Here they are:

Improvements: The property is unimproved except for the very basic road. I love it – that’s wonderful. It is your blank canvas. The land around this lake is wild, pristine, unscared by human “improvements”. If you buy it and plan to build please take the time to understand what you own, what is rare, and therefore what is valuable. Then make changes only after lots of thought. Too many people buy a wilderness lake in the U.P. and their first act is to destroy it with a homesite cut and bulldozed from the forest right on the shore. And the wilderness they bought and paid for is gone forever. Be careful what you do. Score: 2.5

6Lake Name: This may seem silly, but how would you like to buy a lake named Carp, Mud or Leach? Those are common names and I think they affect pride of ownership and certainly affect value. If I had one with a poor name I’d rename it for sure, but it is hard or impossible to get that changed on the maps. I like the name “Glass Lake” a lot and don’t know of another in the U.P. Score 2.5

Electric Power: The Huron Mt. area is one of the largest remaining areas east of the Mississippi without electric power. Celebrate the fact that it remains that way! The wildness of this area is one of the great reasons to be here. Electricity is part of modern living however and you can have electric power from a variety of alternative power systems. Generator systems have vastly improved over the last few years and propane, solar, or wind driven systems or some combination of those will provide all the electric power you need. You can also create full connectivity to the world with TV, Internet, email and phone. There’s a cost for that of course and I’ll charge a point for it. Score 1.5

Well Water: In this area and with acreage this large water in sufficient quantity and quality for domestic uses should be available. If you encounter sulfides in the well and it has a flat or salty taste you can choose to filter it or use bottled water for drinking. There’s no way to know well water quality until you drill so I’ll charge a point for “no data”. Score 1.5

Total Score: 89. What does that mean? To me 89 out of 100 on this simple ranking is a very high score for an undeveloped property. There is no such thing as a perfect property. Most come with issues that need to be addressed to make them just right for you and doing that is part of the fun. Most Private lakes fall short on features that can’t be changed where Glass has scored a 10. My little analysis above is subjective and each feature or benefit can vary in quality and value depending on the plans of the purchaser. But we need some kind of system. There are no comps because the market has been quiet but more importantly because comparing any other lakes I know of that have sold to Glass Lake requires too many and too large “adjustments.” So I submit that this is a thoughtful and useful snapshot of how you can rate this property. By my count Glass Lake scores very, very high.

7Private lakes are rare nationally. Don’t take my word for it: search the Internet. You’ll discover that the Upper Peninsula may be the only place in the country where you can buy one and it certainly is the only place you can buy one at this kind of price! Similar properties in Montana or Idaho, which may not have lakes but do have trout streams, creeks and ponds, with perhaps a million dollars of improvements, trade up in the $12MM – $15MM range. Check it out yourself. The U.P. is still relatively “undiscovered” and because it is a less developed market a property like this does not approach those Western prices, yet.

But the features and benefits of the land I’ve described here are only half of the story. The other part of that real estate cliche’ is that people have “needs and desires”. Do the features and benefits of this property strike a chord with your needs and desires? What would you pay to own something as rare and as fine as this? There are so few comparable undeveloped lakes remaining in the Huron Mountains. I’ve found only three of this size in the Huron Mountains’ 1,000 square miles.

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Glass Lake is a unique and wonderful lake and we have the water studies and photos to prove it. Imagine the fun of owning it, being here, and doing the things to make it better like improving the access, planting fish and wild rice, building your wilderness “camp” of whatever style and finish and starting traditions with family and friends. Come settle in with the neighbors: moose, trout, and loons. Get a closer look, make your own assessment, and let’s see how we can make it happen. Sooner is usually better than later when you want the best. There are always others with the same idea, and only first counts.

Woody Allen had it right when he observed, “Ninety percent of life is just showing up.”

$1.8MM

View the Glass Lake Report.

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Disclaimer: Information presented in this web site is and by nature will likely always be a "work in progress" subject to errors, omissions and revision. It is intended as a primer for those interested in buying U.P. real estate and contains personal observations and opinions with which others may disagree. Information was obtained from sources deemed reliable, but is not warranted by Dick Huey or Huey Real Estate, LLC.