Dwight Peck's personal website

Scenes from northern Wisconsin, summer 2015

More annual lakeside fun in the Northwoods

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

The Door County Wetlands Ramsar Site

We're driving over to Door County on Lake Michigan, near Green Bay (home of the only US pro football team owned by its own fans), and passing an extremely patriotic chain restaurant. It's 12 August 2015.

Our cabin on the golf course and . . .

. . . the golf course (as I was reading in that red chair by the front door, a golf ball bored into the earth six feet away. A near miss).

This is the Maxwelton Braes Lodge and, of course, Golf Course just south of Baileys Harbor on the eastern side of the Door Peninsula -- it includes the Sandpiper breakfast restaurant, which was great, and the "Pasta Vino" Italian-wannabe restaurant which really shouldn't have tried.

We're here to meet our group tomorrow for a Wisconsin Wetlands Association tour of the myriad bits of the wetland complex newly listed by the USA under the global Ramsar Convention on Internationally Important Wetlands, and today we're sightseeing in The Ridges Sanctuary near downtown Baileys Harbor.

Within The Ridges, these are some cabins of the first white settlers to the region, dating from about 1854, installed here in 1983 and now serving as work and educational rooms.

From the Upper Range Light behind us, it's a straight 300-meter boardwalk to the Lower Range Light on the coast, first constructed in 1869 to replace an earlier lighthouse. The idea was that mariners approaching the treacherous entrance to Baileys Harbor could line up the light on the lower tower with the one atop the building behind us and be assured that they were coming in among the reefs safely.

The Upper Range Light (in the tiny room on the roof), manned until 1923 when the wood-burning lights were replaced first by acetylene and then by electricity in 1930. Thereafter, Lutheran ministers occupied the seven-room house, followed by a succession of resident naturalists employed by the Sanctuary. It now houses offices for staff.

The Lower Light. The two buildings are leased from Door County by the Sanctuary and were renovated by public subscription in the 1990s.

The 650-hectare Ridges Sanctuary, founded as a not-for-profit land trust in 1937, is centered on 40 low ridges parallel to one another and the present shoreline, representing various stages in the Lake Michigan shoreline over the past millennium and a half, interlined by shallow 'swales' between them. There's now a pleasant network of paths throughout the core part of the site, providing access to viewing an enormous biodiversity.

The Lower Range Light, as portrayed on the side of Nelson's Shopping Centre

The marina. The first boat in line is paradoxically called the 'First Choice II'.

The Baileys Harbor marina and the Nelson Shopping Centre

A very patriotic jetty

Downtown Baileys Harbor, with a charm and authenticity of its own. There are several better known villages on the western, or Green Bay, side of the Door Peninsula, like Egg Harbor and Sister Bay, but they're also more touristy and somewhat upscale.

The Nelson Shopping Centre, with . . .

. . . everything.

-- If you can't find it here, it doesn't exist.

Out for a drive up the peninsula, we find the Nordic Lodge in Sister Bay with goats living on the roofs. The pitter patter of little feet.

13 August, and our group is assembling at the newly inaugurated Ridges Sanctuary Nature Centre, with the executive director, Steve Leonard, awaiting us.

Joellen, Kristin, and Cousin Rob preparing for our orientation session

The reception area and gift shop -- the main floor, where we are now, is awaiting the creation of exhibits throughout, in the coming weeks, but in the back there are offices, conference rooms, and work rooms already in use.

The bookshop

Steve Leonard describes the many studies and experiments underway, conducted by natural scientists and conservationists from the university, local staff, and other organizations.

Rapt audience, from left, Tod Highsmith, a member of the board of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association; Erin O'Brien, Wetland Policy Director for the Association; Steve Leonard and Cousin Rob in the background; Joellen; Tracy Hames, the Association's Executive Director; and, of course, Kristin.

A variety of colored flags indicate different study projects.

We're out to the Range Lights boardwalk. In the foreground, Sue and Mark Martin, retired Department of Natural Resources (DNR) scientists with their own wetland reserve near Madison and an active involvement in many conservation activities in Door County. Behind Mark, with a reddish shirt, is Ed Miller, one of the most active friends of the Sanctuary.

The Upper Range Light, now housing Sanctuary offices and occasional accommodations for visiting naturalists

The light, now restored and working again, is in the tower on the roof.

An aerial photo of the core of the Ridges Sanctuary in one of the work rooms, showing Baileys Harbor on the lower left, the parallel Ridges themselves across the lower centre, and the Toft Point state nature area on the lower right, just below Moonlight Bay.

Mark Martin describing the biodiversity to be found in the Toft Point Nature Area

To the coast

Tod, Tracy, and Kristin on the coastal wetland along Moonlight Bay

Mark and Tracy describing the natural wonders of the site

Rob photographing little squirming things in the water

The 'Door Peninsula Coastal Wetlands' Ramsar Site was designated by the USA and added to the Ramsar List of Internationally Important Wetlands in June 2014. The Ridges and Toft Point are just two components of the discontinuous hodge-podge of valuable wetlands sprinkled northward along the eastern side of the peninsula, owned by a variety of authorities, like the Ridges Sanctuary, State Natural Areas, The Nature Conservancy, the Wisconsin DNR, and the Door County Land Trust, as well as several private owners.

This is the Annotated Ramsar List entry for the site, based on extensive data provided by the applicants: Door Peninsula Coastal Wetlands. 10/06/14; Wisconsin; 4,630 ha; 45°13'20.26"N, 86°59'44.09"W. The Site, which occupies a major section of the Eastern Lake Michigan shoreline of northern Door County, comprises diverse examples of regionally and globally significant wetland communities, including interdunal wetlands and northern wet-mesic forest. It supports numerous species of fauna and flora including the rare dwarf lake iris (Iris lacustris) and over 150 species of birds that use the site for nesting or as staging areas during autumn and spring migrations. It also hosts the largest known population of the federally-endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora hineana). The Site is part of a karst hydrologic system that contributes to accelerated groundwater recharge. Areas of groundwater recharge are a critical habitat component for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly. Threats to the Site include invasive species such as giant red grass (Phragmites australis), urban development, and increasing recreational vehicle use. Climate change has also been identified as a potential threat, as it could lead to changes in levels of the groundwater and of Lake Michigan, changes in water pH and declines in species richness and diversity. Ramsar Site No. 2218. Most Recent RIS Information: 2014.

Tracy scanning the horizon; Kristin looking for frogs.

A frog. Note that the Ramsar site is described as host to the endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly, very rare, but nonetheless we saw one. Or most of one. The Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association got one stuck under the windshield wipers as we drove along from one biodiversity hotspot to the next.

An early settler's barn near the Three Springs Nature Preserve, now the property of the Door County Land Trust.

Our new guide, local naturalist Marilyn Hansotia of the Door County Land Trust, is explaining the monitoring activities that have compiled data on the Three Springs reserve over many years.

The Three Springs reserve

Look closely: little bubbles of spring water plooping up out the sand all round

Downriver, the Three Springs Creek, partly within the Ramsar Site, leads into the North Bay nature area.

A moment of repose before our next stop

Our group reassembles

Lunch at the Gordon Lodge resort. Flags flying.

A lovely tourist bus -- two of them have just rolled in to Gordon Lodge for group lunches. The company, out of Egg Harbor, sponsors Scenic Tours, Lighthouse Tours, Wine Tours, Beer Tours, Culinary Tours, 'Ghost Tours' (whoo), Spring Blossom Tours, and perhaps best of all, the Bloody Mary and Brunch Tour ('a Sunday morning eye opener').

The Katie III, like its mate the Eric II, was created by Double K, Inc., Trackless Trolley Buses, of Crandon, Wisconsin.

I almost never ride on them, but I collect photos of them, in all their festive diversity.

Next stop, more wetlands . . .

My notes have become confused by this time. I don't know where this was taken.

Surveying the birds and the phragmites

Strange and threatening clouds across the way, and Cousin Rob racing for the best vantage for a photograph

Rob gets his photo, and races the storm back to the car

Just made it

The storm lightens ten minutes later and it's back to observing The Nature

The meteorological hijinks continue

At the end of the day, our last stop, near an area prized for its rare Hine’s emerald dragonflies, from left, Mark and Sue Martin, with Cousin Rob behind, Kristin and Joellen with Himself behind, Tracy Hames and Tod Highsmith, photo by Erin O'Brien.

It was an excellent Wetland Association study tour, and we stayed over an extra evening for another dinner with Mark and Sue Martin at the wonderful Cornerstone Pub in Baileys Harbor (and an equally congenial breakfast at the Sandpiper) before starting for home. Last year we accompanied Tracy and his colleague Katie Beilfuss to another recent Ramsar Site, the Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs, equally rewarding and fun.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 12 October 2015.


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