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For information on State Natural Areas, contact:
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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Rock Island Woods (No. 382)

Rock Island Woods

Photo by Josh Mayer

Resource links:

Rock Island State Park


Overview

Location

Located within Rock Island State Park, Door County. T34N-R30E, Sections 14, 22, 23, 24. 570 acres.

Description

Description

Rock Island Woods features a mosaic of plant community types including a northern hardwood forest, northern wet-mesic forest, forested seeps, and shaded cliff community. The interior plateau of Rock Island contains a mature mesic hardwood forest dominated by beech and sugar maple. Canopy associates include basswood and red oak. Groundlayer species are wild leek, spring-beauty, trout-lily, large-flowered trillium, common lady fern, blue cohosh, and jack-in-the-pulpit. Rare plants include drooping sedge (Carex prasina), Chilean sweet cicely (Osmorhiza berteroi), broad-leaf sedge (Carex platyphylla), and climbing fumitory (Adlumia fungosa). Several moist swales and forested seeps are found on north-facing depressions within the forest containing herbaceous species such as ostrich fern, clustered snakeroot, hairy sedge, and squirrel corn. Dolomite cliffs and ledges occur on the margins of the forest and some support an upland stand of nearly pure white cedar with some balsam fir and white birch along the rocky coastline. About 4 linear kilometers of low moist shaded dolomite cliffs are found in the interior of Rock Island. These moist seepage slopes support a lush growth of ferns with bulbet bladder, fragile, walking, slender cliff brake, northern wood, and intermediate wood ferns. Bird life is diverse with spotted sandpiper, cliff swallow, veery, ovenbird, American redstart, and Canada, blackburnian, and black-throated green warblers. Rare plants and animals include common tern (Sterna hirundo), Caspian tern (Sterna caspia), northern ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii), rock whitlow-grass (Draba arabisans), and mystery vertigo (Vertigo paradoxa), a land snail. Rock Island Woods is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2002.

Access

Driving directions

Most visitors reach the area by taking the Washington Island ferry from Northport to Detroit Harbor then drive to Jackson Harbor and take the passenger ferry to Rock Island. No motorized vehicles are allowed.

Ownership

Rock Island Woods is owned by:

  • WDNR

Maps

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.

Objectives

Site objectives

Manage the site as a reserve for southern mesic forest, northern dry-mesic/wet-mesic forest, moist cliff, Great Lakes dune and forested seep, as well as an ecological reference area. Natural processes will determine the structure of the natural communities represented here.

Management approach

Native species are managed passively, allowing nature to determine the ecological characteristics. Exceptions include control of invasive plants and animals, and maintenance of existing facilities.

Site-specific considerations

  • Although removal of hazardous trees from over and near trails is an allowed activity, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance should be minimized to the extent possible.

Recreation

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.

Allowable activities

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.

  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Hunting
  • Trapping

Prohibited activities

  • Camping and campfires
  • 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
  • Drone use, unless authorized by a SNA research permit
  • Geocaching
  • Horseback riding
  • Rock climbing
  • Vehicles, including bicycles, ATVs, aircraft, and snowmobiles except on trails and roadways designated for their use

For rules governing state-owned SNAs and other state lands, please consult Chapter NR 45 Wis. Admin. Code [exit DNR]

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Last revised: Thursday, October 19, 2017