The Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Nature Preserve, located within the city limits of Sturgeon Bay, is as ecologically diverse as it is beautiful. From the water, sand dunes give way to a forested ridgeswale landscape where towering white pines, hemlocks and red maples blanket ancient shore ridges. To the west, Strawberry Creek emerges from a large cedar wetland and meanders its way to the waters of Sturgeon Bay. A sand ridge on the northern preserve boundary offers magnificent views of two historic lighthouses and the entrance to the ship canal below.
Rare and threatened species such as the dune thistle, dune goldenrod, dwarf lake iris, bald eagle, Caspian tern and osprey call this preserve home. It is also one of the region’s most critical resting spots for migrating neo-tropical birds.
The Ship Canal preserve has witnessed much history. It was once the site of a heavily-travelled Native American portage route between Lake Michigan and Green Bay. In 1872, European settlers began construction of the 7,400-foot canal, which permanently linked the two bodies of water. More recently, the property was considered for large-scale developments including a coal-fueled power plant and an aquatic-based industrial center. In its preserved state, it will be enjoyed by visitors and residents for generations to come.
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.
Camping in parking lots or on Land Trust protected properties is not allowed. Use of the nature preserves is allowed from dawn until dusk.
Fires are not allowed on Land Trust protected properties.
Picnicking and beach lounging are allowed only immediately along the waters’ edge within the natural waterline, not in dune areas or vegetation areas. Walking or lounging in the dune areas is strictly prohibited. Under state law, violators may be fined up to $1000 and up to nine months in jail. Violators may be subject to additional penalties as defined by the federal Endangered Species Act.
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.
- 445 protected acres
- 2.5 miles of hiking trails on level-to-sandy terrain with scenic overviews of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal
- Lake Michigan beach; sand dunes; ancient ridge-swale shorelines; mature stands of hemlock and white pine; extensive wetlands; old fields; threatened and endangered plants including the dune thistle
- Views of two historic lighthouses; access to the ship canal breakwater pier