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Allouez Bay-Wisconsin Point

Back to Western Lake Superior

Counties: Douglas


Wisconsin Point - Allouez Bay Marshes. 15 Oct. 1996. Aerial view of south side of eastern end of Allouez Bay, showing inflow of Bear Creek (lower right). Photograph, E.J. Epstein

Site Description

Wisconsin Point

Wisconsin Point is the eastern portion of a long coastal barrier spit separating the waters of Lake Superior from Allouez Bay a portion of the St.Louis River Estuary. Major site features include several miles of open sand beach and dunes, small interdunal wetlands, and a xeric forest of white and red pines. The point and adjacent Allouez Bay receive heavy visitation by migrating birds in the spring. Developments include roads, vehicle turnouts, a Coast Guard station, and breakwater.

A small, open interdunal swale near the western tip of the point supports a marsh community dominated by low graminoid plants, especially sedges and rushes. Several rare plants are present. The swale is surrounded by dense thickets of tall shrubs - mostly speckled alder, willows, and red-osier dogwood. These shrubs are encroaching on the openings and should be monitored and controlled if necessary. The shrubs do provide a measure of security for this fragile site by screening it from most passersby. During 1996 this swale was very wet, with standing water reaching a depth of over 30-cm in July and August. This site will require both vigilance and active management to maintain and protect the many valuable natural features present.

A similar community was unintentionally created east of the Coast guard station when an area was cleared of vegetation and then fenced in the hope the Federally endangered Pipe Plover would nest here. The center of this sand area was excavated to a depth slightly below the water table, providing suitable conditions for colonization by some of the interdunal swale plants, including several rare species

Allouez Bay

Allouez Bay is situated between the City of Superior's east-side neighborhood of Allouez and Wisconsin Point. The eastern end of the bay is shallow and contains a large marsh with patches of sedge meadow and a drowned tamarack swamp present near the base of Wisconsin Point. Several streams, Bear Creek, Bluff Creek and the Nemadji River empty into the bay. A portion of the wetland at the head of the bay, but now cut off by the access road to Wisconsin Point, was filled in the past.

The marsh is dominated by tall native graminoids, such as bur-reeds, bulrushes, spikerush, sedges, and cattails. Broad-leaved arrowhead is also among the dominants. Deep areas within and on the margins of the emergent marsh support floating-leaved and submergent aquatic macrophytes. The portions of the wetland nearest the shore are dominated by sedges. Tamarack snags are scattered throughout parts of this area.

It is possible that this wetland formerly contained extensive mats of wire-leaved sedges, but eutrophication, sedimentation, and other disturbances led to changed conditions which aided the spread and eventual dominance of the coarser, more nutrient tolerant emergents. Nevertheless, this wetland is composed mostly of native species, and plant diversity and wildlife values are quite high. In the early spring, substantial numbers of waterbirds of many kinds congregate here. This site may be especially significant in years when the break-up of ice on Lake Superior is late, and little open water is available inland. The marsh also supports many nesting birds, including uncommon marsh species and a few rare invertebrates.

Additional Comments

This site is a critical part of the regionally-significant lower St. Louis River Estuary, containing good, though disturbed examples of natural communities endemic to the Great Lakes. This area supports many rare species and hosts major concentrations of migratory birds in the spring.

Last revised: Wed, 20 Jun 2012 17:21:15 CDT