Door County, WI offers a treasure trove of natural beauty, and Toft Point State Nature Area near Bailey’s Harbor stands out as a prime example of this stunning wilderness. This 743-acre nature reserve, jointly owned by the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and the Wisconsin Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, is an ecological masterpiece and a testament to nature’s splendor.
A Breathtaking Wilderness
Toft Point is a place where the natural world comes to life in all its glory. This remarkable site is a rugged 0.8-mile-wide peninsula along Lake Michigan’s coastline in Door County, offering over two miles of pristine shoreline. It features dramatic wave-cut dolomite cliffs, picturesque limestone cobble beaches, and a diverse array of native plant communities. Along the eastern shoreline, influenced by Lake Michigan’s cooling effects, a narrow strip of relict boreal forest takes root, dominated by balsam fir and white spruce.
Venture further inland, and you’ll be immersed in a lush mesic forest, where sugar maple, yellow birch, hemlock, balsam fir, and scattered white pine create a harmonious tapestry. To the north, along Moonlight Bay, an expansive calcareous sedge meadow gradually transitions into shrub-carr and wet-mesic forest, dominated by white cedar, with occasional paper birch and black ash. Pockets of tamarack swamp and alder thickets are scattered throughout the wetland, adding to the diverse landscape.
Rich in Biodiversity
Toft Point isn’t just a pretty face; it’s a biodiversity hotspot. The area boasts more than 440 vascular plant species, including several rare and unique plants, making it a botanist’s paradise. Moss and liverwort enthusiasts will also find plenty to admire, as Toft Point features one of the most diverse bryophyte floras in the state. Orchid aficionados will be delighted to discover several orchid taxa making their home here.
For birdwatchers, Toft Point is a haven, as it’s home to many area-sensitive bird species, including seventeen species of nesting warblers. Keep your binoculars ready, and you might catch a glimpse of these feathered wonders in their natural habitat
A Journey Through History
Toft Point is not just a natural wonder; it’s also steeped in history. The area is named after Kersten Toft, who received the land as compensation for his work at a limestone quarry once located here. An historic kiln on the site stands as a testament to the region’s industrial past. It’s the best-preserved example of early circular kilns that once dotted the Niagara Escarpment.
Additionally, the site preserves remnant structures from a summer resort that operated from 1920 to the early 1970s. The Friends of Toft Point maintain these structures, including an ice house, four cottages, a boat house, and a barn. A flag pole near the former summer kitchen’s foundation pays tribute to Roy Lukes, a beloved naturalist and a dear friend of Emma Toft.
A Sanctuary for Research and Conservation
Beyond its natural beauty, Toft Point serves as a site for research and conservation. Managed with the goal of providing habitat and promoting ecological processes, it’s a living laboratory for various fields of study, including biological sciences, art, English, and physical education. It’s a place where students and researchers can connect with nature in a profound way, contributing to our understanding of the natural world.
Plan Your Visit
To ensure the preservation of this delicate environment, visitors are kindly asked to adhere to certain guidelines. Leave your pets at home, stick to designated parking areas, stay on the trails, avoid camping or picnicking, and refrain from smoking or having campfires. Biking is also not allowed on-site.
Parking is limited, so if the lot is full, consider carpooling from Bailey’s Harbor Town Hall to minimize the site’s visitor impact.
How to Get There
To reach Toft Point State Nature Area, begin at the Ridges Nature Center on Hwy 57 in Bailey’s Harbor, then head east along Ridges Road for approximately 1.4 miles. The main entrance, marked by Toft Point Road, will be on your left.
For GPS users, the main entrance’s address is 1982 Ridges Rd, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202.
Please note that there are no bathroom facilities on-site, but you can find them at Bailey’s Harbor Ridges County Park beach or Baileys Harbor Town Hall.
Toft Point State Nature Area in Door County, Wisconsin, is a hidden treasure waiting to be explored. Whether you’re a family of hikers, nature enthusiasts, or simply looking for a peaceful retreat in a breathtaking natural setting, Toft Point offers an unforgettable experience. Pack your hiking boots, binoculars, and a spirit of adventure, and set out to discover the beauty and wonder of this pristine natural area.