One of the largest tracts of undeveloped land on Washington Island, the Richter Community Forest Nature Preserve features a diverse mix of northern hardwoods, numerous tip-up mounds (uprooted trees), bedrock ridges, and an abundance of spring wildflowers. The forest varies greatly in composition reflecting the different types of forest management activities that have taken place over the past 100 years. The preserve’s large tip-up mounds are clues that this area, unlike most of Door County’s interior, was never clear-cut and tilled for agricultural use. Another clue is the presence of numerous wildflowers. If land is tilled, wildflower seed banks are disturbed. Even as a forest begins to regenerate, it can take a century or more for wildflowers to re-establish themselves.
The small outcrops of bedrock ridges and beach stone along the forest floor are reminders that thousands of years ago this preserve was under water. Postglacial Lake Nipissing (now Lake Michigan) had water levels much higher than they are today. As lake levels dropped over the past 3,000-5,000 years, old shorelines remained.
The Richter Community Forest Nature Preserve was a gift to the Washington Island and Door County communities in 2001. In its preserved state, it will remain a place of beauty for islanders and visitors alike and an educational resource for the island’s school children.