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Upper Door County Area

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Counties: Door


Newport - Mink River. Emergents growing on exposed lakebed. Photograph by NHI staff.

Site Description

This site is made up of several smaller sites and includes the Mink River Estuary and Newport Conifer-Hardwoods State Natural Areas.

The Upper Door County Area site is located on the northernmost tip of Door County just east of the town of Ellison Bay. The area it encompasses is made up of several smaller sites, listed below. It is an important complex of upland and wetland community types dependent upon or formed by coastal processes. These include estuarine marsh, white cedar swamp, dolomitic bedrock pavement and cobble beach, Great Lakes beach and dune and former glacial lake shoreline now stabilized by hardwood and mixed boreal conifer-hardwood forest.

Mink River Estuary

The Mink River Estuary is owned primarily by The Nature Conservancy and is located in northeastern Door County just outside of Ellison Bay. The river originates in alkaline, spring fed headwaters and drains to the south into Lake Michigan. Between the lake and the headwaters is a dynamic estuarine system formed by the mixing and flushing of Lake Michigan and Mink River waters. During high water seiches the estuarine marshes are flooded; however, during low water the marshes are dry and many spring channels are evident. Bulrushes are the most common species in the deeper marshes, but wild rice, narrow-leaved cattail, and bur-reed dominate the intermediate depths. Shallower areas contain sedge meadow, with blue-joint grass, sedges and common reed grass. Surrounding the marsh is a narrow band of tall shrubs including willows, red osier dogwood, and alder which grades into a white cedar swamp that surrounds the Mink River corridor. This site also includes small areas of second growth northern hardwoods and a stretch of beach along Rowley's Bay. The river is an important fish spawning and bird migration area and the immediate landscape supports a variety of rare plant and animal species.

Newport Beach State Park

Newport Beach State Park (including Newport Conifer Hardwoods State Natural Area) features an extensive northern hardwood forest of medium-age sugar maple and basswood, an old growth forest of white and red pines, hemlock maples and red oak, and patches of forest composed of balsam fir, white cedar, white spruce and various hardwoods. The Lake Michigan shoreline is characterized by exposures of dolomite bedrock, both as low cliff and ledges and as horizontal bedrock beach, and with splash pools and crevices providing microsites for several rare plant species.

Europe Lake

Europe Lake is an embayment lake located on the eastern side of northern Door County, and a portion of the site is within Newport Beach State Park. At one time, this lake was a bay of Lake Michigan but the action of waves and currents has formed a bar of gravel and sand across the mouth of the embayment, forming the lake. There is a forest of old-growth red and white pine and beech, with sugar maple and hemlock on the stabilized dune between Europe Lake and Lake Michigan. Swampy pockets of boreal forest occur east of Europe Lake, and this habitat supports many rare plants. A narrow fringe of open active dunes and sand beach occurs on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Additional Comments

This site contains the best developed freshwater estuary on the Wisconsin shore of Lake Michigan, an extensive block of upland hardwood and mixed conifer-hardwood forest, and over 6 miles of undeveloped shoreline of alkaline rockshore, and beach and dunes. Many rare or otherwise sensitive species have been documented here.

Text describing this site was published previously in a 2002 DNR publication entitled “A Data Compilation and Assessment of Coastal Wetlands of Wisconsin’s Great Lakes” by E.J. Epstein, A. Galvin and W.A. Smith.

NOAA logo Wisconsin Coastal Management Program logo This project was funded by the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management under the Coastal Zone Management Act.

Last revised: Wed, 20 Jun 2012 17:21:12 CDT