The centerpiece of Little Lake Nature Preserve is Little Lake itself. The serene lake has been described as an unspoiled version of Walden Pond and is Washington Island’s only inland lake. Located within 250 feet of Lake Michigan on the island’s northwest side, this 33-acre landlocked lake was created thousands of years ago when waves washed cobblestones across a shallow bay of glacial Lake Nipissing (now Lake Michigan); as the waters receded, a narrow ridge was formed, creating Little Lake. Fed primarily by underwater springs and surface runoff, the level of Little Lake is three feet above that of Lake Michigan.

Little Lake Nature Preserve encompasses the entire northern half of the lake, including over 5,000 feet of shoreline. The preserve provides habitat for waterfowl and migratory songbirds, as well as bald eagles, white pelicans, osprey and herons. The lake is also a major breeding site for a host of amphibians including the blue spotted salamander.

The Little Lake area was once the site of a large Native American settlement. Numerous artifacts dating back to the Late Woodland Period (3,000 years ago) have been found here. For those interested in Door County’s Native American past, the nearby Jacobsen Museum on Little Lake Road is well worth a visit.