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All Things Michigan

Michigan travels, events, photos, and more

The Leetsville Shoe Tree

Andrew Norton

Hundreds of lost soles (ooh, pun number one) have made their way to the branches of a big maple tree on the west side of U.S. 131. When the maple sheds its leaves each fall the shoes, sandals, and work boots numbering around 100, become the new foliage. The shoes are hanging there throughout the year, but are more apt to be seen after the leaves have fallen from this mighty maple. It takes some real sole-searching (ouch, the puns are killing me) to get to the origination of this mysterious maple malady. We came upon the tree in a way that I am sure most folks do. We were taking U.S. 131 south as we traveled home from northern Michigan. We topped a hill just south of Leetsville (between Mancelona and Kalkaska) and in the valley below on the west side of the road we saw a very peculiar looking tree. We pulled off the road for a closer look and some pictures. Needless to say, we were not the only ones to do so at that time. There must have been six or eight other vehicles that stopped to gaze upon this roadside oddity.

Leetsville Shoe Tree

Now, back to the origins of the Leetsville Shoe Tree. Some locals say that is all began with just a pair or two thrown upon the maple's branches. Possibly as a prank of some sort by some road weary travelers who needed an excuse to stop and get some fresh air. Others think that it began with the nearby Kalkaska High students tossing their shoes upon the lofty branches just for fun. Regardless of the reasons, the shoe tree most likely began like all other shoe trees. One or two pairs were thrown up in the tree and when they were spotted, others joined in and now there are nearly a hundred shoes in the tree with some almost 70 feet high.

If you go:

Just south of Leetsville (between Kalkaska and Mancelona) on the west side of U.S. 131.