- Natural areas
- Contact information
- For information on State Natural Areas, contact:
- Thomas Meyer
Natural areas conservation biologist
Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Whitefish Dunes (No. 175)
Within Whitefish Dunes State Park, Door County. T28N-R27E, Sections 2, 3, 10. 256 acres.
Whitefish Dunes State Natural Area preserves the largest and most significant Great Lakes dunescape in Wisconsin. The complex of active and stabilized dunes protected by Whitefish Bay along the Lake Michigan coast contains a rich flora particularly adapted to this dynamic habitat. All stages of succession, from open beach through northern mesic and wet-mesic forest, are represented here. The lakeside fore dune is open, sandy and vegetated with common milkweed, beach wormwood, beach pea, lyrate rock cress and several beach grasses, including the state-threatened thick-spike wheat grass (Elytrigia dasystachya ssp. psammophila) and prairie sand-reed (Calamovilfa longifolia var. magna). Wisconsin's largest and most viable population of the federally-threatened dune thistle (Cirsium pitcheri) inhabits the shifting sands of the fore dune. The backside of the fore dune is forested with white birch, balsam fir, and white cedar and contains a ground cover of abundant Canada yew. The dunes farther from the lake are more stabilized and heavily wooded with northern mesic forest of sugar maple, large-toothed aspen, eastern hemlock, and American beech. Also present is a small bog lake with associated sedge meadow and frontage on Clark Lake, a baymouth bar lake. Common nesting birds include red-eyed vireo, veery, black-throated green and Canada warblers, American redstart, and eastern wood pewee. Whitefish Dunes is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1980.
From the intersection of State Highway 57 and County Highway T in Valmy, go north on 57 1.1 miles, then east on Clark Lake Road (County Highway WD) 2.1 miles to the entrance of Whitefish Dunes State Park. Continue 1.5 miles to the park office and parking area. Several hiking trails lead south into the dunes. A Wisconsin State Park sticker must be displayed on all vehicles entering the park.
Whitefish Dunes is owned by:
The DNR's state natural areas program is comprised of lands owned by the state, private conservation organizations, municipalities, other governmental agencies, educational institutions and private individuals. While the majority of SNAs are open to the public, access may vary according to individual ownership policies. Public use restrictions may apply due to public safety, or to protect endangered or threatened species or unique natural features. Lands may be temporarily closed due to specific management activities. Users are encouraged to contact the landowner for more specific details.
The data shown on these maps have been obtained from various sources, and are of varying age, reliability, and resolution. The data may contain errors or omissions and should not be interpreted as a legal representation of legal ownership boundaries.
Manage the site as a reserve for northern mesic forest and Great Lakes dune and interdunal swale, as a rare plant preserve, as a significant geological site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes will determine the structure of the natural communities of this site. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native Great Lakes dune ecosystems.
The native communities are managed passively, allowing nature to determine the ecological characteristics of the site. Exceptions include control of invasive plants and animals, maintenance of existing facilities, and access to suppress wildfires. Salvage of trees after a major wind event can occur if the volume of woody material affects trails and access.
- Although removal of hazardous trees from over and near trails and field roads is an allowed activity, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance should be minimized to the extent possible.
- Boardwalks need occasional repair and repositioning.
Very few State Natural Areas have public facilities, but nearly all are open for a variety of recreational activities as indicated below. Generally, there are no picnic areas, restrooms, or other developments. Parking lots or designated parking areas are noted on individual SNA pages and maps. Trails, if present, are typically undesignated footpaths. If a developed trail is present, it will normally be noted on the SNA map and/or under the "Access" tab. A compass and topographic map or a GPS unit are useful tools for exploring larger, isolated SNAs.
In general, the activities listed below are allowed on all DNR-owned SNA lands. Exceptions to this list of public uses, such as SNAs closed to hunting, are noted under the "Access" tab above and posted with signs on site.
- Cross country skiing
- Horseback riding
- Rock climbing
- Vehicles, including bicycles, ATVs, aircraft, and snowmobiles except on trails and roadways designated for their use
- Collecting of animals (other than legally harvested species), non-edible fungi, rocks, minerals, fossils, archaeological artifacts, soil, downed wood, or any other natural material, alive or dead. Collecting for scientific research requires a permit issued by the DNR
- Collecting of plants including seeds, roots or other non-edible parts of herbaceous plants such as wildflowers or grasses
- Camping and campfires
For rules governing state-owned SNAs and other state lands, please consult Chapter NR 45 Wis. Admin. Code [exit DNR]