Baileys Harbor Bedrock: The Ridges Acquires Appel’s Bluff

As of this summer, visitors to The Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor have another parcel to add to their hiking itinerary in the form of the recently acquired land known as Appel’s Bluff.

The nearly 70-acre property, located between Highways 57 and Q and just north of Sun Plaza Drive in Baileys Harbor, is a geologically unique addition to the 1,600-acre sanctuary.

Appel's Bluff. Photo by Alyssa Skiba.

Appel’s Bluff. Photo by Alyssa Skiba.

Since this summer, naturalists with The Ridges have led hikes through the property’s lowland and upland areas, along its bluff, through its open meadow, and along the rock wall full of fossils, all while teaching guests about its rich geological history.

“The edge of this bluff actually represents an old shoreline from one of the old Lake Michigan stands,” said Brian Forest, education and land management specialist with The Ridges. “ … The lake used to extend up and kind of cut that bluff. Then up on the top, at an elevation probably 30 feet higher, there’s actually a representation of an older lake stand. So, at one time, this was likely an island; as water inundated this whole area, this area stood resistant … it’s much older than surrounding landscape.

“As far as The Ridges property, it’s a great opportunity that you won’t see in the sanctuary to get up on top of this bluff and look at the hardwoods up there and the more open, deciduous forest, especially this time of year,” he continued. “It’s a great spot for fall colors, a great spot for spring wildflowers. We have amazing biodiversity here in the sanctuary but this is just a completely different habitat than we’ve got on any of this other property.”

While trails have not yet been formally designated, a number of pre-existing trails and a gravel road from the land’s use by Parent Construction Inc. will help guide visitors on a moderate hike through the property, as will a section of the existing snowmobile trail. Because it was purchased using the public Knowles-Nelson Stewardship funds, Appel’s Bluff will remain open to snowmobiles and hunters.

For the next two years, the property’s gravel pit will continue to be mined by Parent Construction Inc. When finished, the land will be reclaimed to The Ridges’ specifications, adding to the land’s work-in-progress status, Forest explained.

One of many interesting fossils to be found at Appel's Bluff in Baileys Harbor. Photo by Alyssa Skiba.

One of many interesting fossils to be found at Appel’s Bluff in Baileys Harbor. Photo by Alyssa Skiba.

“When [Parent Construction Inc. was] working the land and using it, it was stripped for the topsoil and now it’s growing back with cedar trees and juniper but it’s lost its diversity because everything was stripped off,” he said. “We’re looking at possibly doing a reforestation project there and that would be an education opportunity, to bring people out there and show them what goes into a plot where you’ll do reforestation: selection of species, distribution and things like that to return it to more of a natural state.

“We can show everything doesn’t have to be a pristine sanctuary; we’re happy to protect land that’s a work in progress too because realistically there’s not that much land that’s undisturbed anymore,” Forest continued. “All degrees of land use have various degrees of impact on the landscape so something that’s been used a little heavier still serves a purpose to us as far as protecting our interest, meeting our mission, and it gives a great opportunity to have an educational and possibly some research opportunities too.”

The next naturalist-led hike at Appel’s Bluff begins at 10 am on Saturday, Nov. 14. Cost is $5 for adult members, $8 for adult non-members, and free for individuals under 18. For more information, call 920.839.2802 or visit


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