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Shivering Sands Area

Back to Northern Lake Michigan

Counties: Door


Shivering Sands Area, Whitefish Bay Dunes State Park, foredune. Photograph, E.J. Epstein.

Site Description

This site is made up of several smaller sites and includes the Whitefish Dunes State Natural Area.

The Shivering Sands Area is located along the eastern coast of Door County, north of Sturgeon Bay. It is a complex and important landscape with a great diversity of coastal wetland ecosystems. This site is composed of several smaller areas that include a mixture of state, county and private ownership. Each is described below.

Whitefish Dunes

Whitefish Dunes is a State Natural Area located within Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County. The site contains all stages of succession from open unvegetated beach through mature stabilized dune forest. The primary coastal communities on this State Natural Area are active Great Lakes beach and open dunes, mature maple - beech - hemlock forest on stabilized dunes, and northern wet-mesic forest of white cedar, balsam fir, and hemlock. There is also a small lake with an associated sedge meadow and frontage on Clark Lake, a nearby baymouth bar lake. The beach and dune complex contains a unique flora with many species particularly adapted to this habitat and restricted to relatively undisturbed Great Lakes coastal areas. Many neotropical migrant bird species are known to nest in the park.

Shivering Sands

The Shivering Sands is a botanically-rich wetland complex that occurs along the northern coast of Lake Michigan. It is an exceptional site both in regards to its large size and natural community diversity. The vegetation is affected by the thermal balance of Lake Michigan, which has fostered a high degree of floristic diversity. The complex includes three undeveloped lakes and associated wetlands, including white cedar swamp and open fen communities. There is a conifer forest growing on thin humic soils over a dolomite limestone base and lowland conifer forest and wetlands on saturated peat soils over ancient beach ridges throughout the site.

The large, central white cedar swamp surrounding the three undeveloped lakes forms a core rich in rare plant diversity; here many lilies, orchids and sedges flower amidst the mosses and downed trees. The open fen communities found on the lake edges harbor such rare species as tussock bulrush and coast sedge. Dwarf lake iris blooms in the dolomite - based upland conifer forest east of the central cedar swamp. The site supports an impressive diversity of mammals including fisher, otter, black bear, snowshoe hare, porcupine, and mink. Breeding bird surveys have recorded 110 species of resident birds here.

This site is under significant residential development pressure and is threatened by fragmentation. Other threats include hydrologic disruption, detrimental logging practices, the spread of invasive species, construction of roads and other corridors, conversion of agricultural lands to subdivisions, and quarry operations. More minor threats include agricultural practices that diminish water quality and recreational overuse.

Kellner's Fen

Kellner's Fen is a 60 - 80 acre wetland complex. The area includes an open water lagoon, a large open fen, a transition zone of wet shrubs and small trees, coniferous swamps (of spruce, tamarack and white cedar), mixed hardwood-conifer swamps with black ash as an important canopy species, and forested ridge and swale topography. The fen is dominated by brown mosses and native sedges, including one rare species. This site is threatened by a serious infestation of the exotic shrub glossy buckthorn. Much of this site is unsuitable for development, but development of the adjacent uplands could alter the hydrology and have serious negative consequences for the wetlands.

The Shivering Sands area supports a great diversity of rare plants and animal species, including invertebrates.

Additional Comments

This large complex contains a diverse mosaic of natural communities and aquatic features that support a nearly intact biota with many rare species.

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