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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest And Wetlands (No. 284)

Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest And Wetlands

Photo by Thomas A. Meyer



Door County. T30N-R28E, Sections 2, 11, 14. T31N-R28E, Section 35. 489 acres.



Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands contains a unique and diverse landscape, influenced by the local climate along the northeastern coast of the Door Peninsula. Cooler springs and summers, warmer falls and winters, and reduced evaporation rates have allowed northern species and a boreal forest to thrive here, far south of their normal range. Balsam fir and white spruce dominate the forest, which grades into northern wet-mesic forest of white cedar, white pine, paper birch, and hemlock. Many orchids and rare plants find refuge in the forest. The natural area protects over 1.5 miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline. An extensive alkaline rockshore, or bedrock beach, is exposed during periods of low lake levels. Uncommon plants thrive on the open dolomite flats. The forested communities support a wide variety of birds associated with boreal habitats, including yellow-bellied flycatcher, Blackburnian warbler, and merlin. Migratory shorebirds and waterfowl are attracted to the undeveloped shoreline. This area is one of the few known nesting sites in Wisconsin for the common goldeneye, a diving duck that nests in forest tree cavities. Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1995. In 2013, the DNR dedicated a new unit to honor Wisconsin conservationist and long-serving Natural Resources Board member, Jonathan Ela. The Jonathan P. Ela Unit will serve as a living reminder to current and future generations of Wisconsinites that the beautiful landscapes, plentiful fish and wildlife, clean air and fresh waters require informed and persistent action by each of us, working together, at every opportunity.


Driving directions

From the intersection of State Highway 57 and County Highway Q north of Baileys Harbor, go northeast on Q 3.5 miles to Cana Island Road, then go south (right) 0.1 mile and park along the road at the T intersection where Cana Island Road splits to form a triangle. Walk south along Cana Island Road 0.3 miles, then east into the natural area. Look for SNA signs marking the site's boundary.


Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest And Wetlands is owned by:

  • WDNR


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.


Management objectives and prescriptions


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
  • 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 11, 2018