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.
Help us continue to protect Door County’s special places. Door County Land Trust nature preserves were established to protect fragile ecological resources and provide habitat for plants and wildlife. You can help maintain the health of the forest, meadows, and wetlands by respecting the nature preserves in the following ways:
Stay on the trails. Hiking off-trail disturbs vegetation and wildlife, and increases your chances of encountering poison-ivy, other natural hazards, or trespassing outside of preserve boundaries.
Clean your boots or shoes. You can reduce the spread of invasive plants by brushing your boots or shoes where a boot brush station is provided.
Pets are welcome. Please keep your pets on a leash at all times and pick up after your pets.
Collecting is not allowed. Collecting of any vegetation, wildlife, or other material is not allowed.
Leave no trace. Please carry out everything that you carry in, including garbage.
Some activities are not allowed. Horseback riding, ATVs, bicycles, snowmobiles and other motorized recreational equipment is not allowed on the preserves.
Wear brightly colored clothing during hunting seasons. Hunting, trapping, and fishing may be allowed at some Door County Land Trust nature preserves. For more detailed information about hunting on Door County Land Trust preserves, please visit our Hunting Program page.
- 32 protected acres
- 1.25-mile hiking trail over fairly level terrain with some uneven areas.
- Over 5,500 feet of Little Lake and Green Bay shoreline.
- White cedar and hemlock forest; wetland-loving plants such as buckbean, marsh bellflower and marsh cinquefoil. Habitat for waterfowl, migratory songbirds and birds of prey.
- Once the site of a Native American settlement and later, summer home to early 20th century famed economist, Thorstein Veblen