The Kangaroo Lake Preserve is distinctive in that it was the first nature preserve that the Door County Land Trust purchased. Established in 1996, the preserve began with 57 acres and today comprises nearly 700 acres thanks to the efforts of The Nature Conservancy, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Kangaroo Lake Association and the Town of Baileys Harbor.
The preserve contains a looping hiking trail that begins on a high ridge that was once the shoreline of the ancient Lake Algonquin. From there, the trail descends 130 feet along rocky outcrops to the edge of Kangaroo Lake, where hikers have views of the lake from the northwest shoreline.
The upper and lower sections of the trail are quite different. The higher portion currently has wildflowers dotted among old prairie and upland hardwood forest that contains sugar maple, red oak, white birch and ash – all of which will soon offer a brilliant array of changing colors. Areas of the upper trail are rocky, with exposed bedrock, deep crevices and fractures that date back to the postglacial lake period, when waves crashed against the bluff.
The trail’s lower portion contains more cedar swampland and can be quite damp. As the trail reaches the lake, the ground can be muddy, so hiking shoes or boots are recommended. Nearby Peil Creek, which is spring fed, feeds into the lake at the north end and creates a marshy wetland area that’s critical to many wildlife species. Look for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, dorcas copper butterfly and three species of rare land snails. The area is also an important breeding ground for shorebirds and diving and puddle ducks.
The total trail length is one and a half miles. It’s relatively flat outside of the bluff sections, which ascend and descend at a gentle grade. I think the best time of year to hike this preserve is coming soon. Try it on a sunny day when the trail is relatively dry and the tall hardwoods’ leaves have begun to change to bright orange, red and yellow.
The trailhead is in the parking lot near the intersection of Maple Road and County E in Baileys Harbor. If you’re searching for fall colors, the drive south on Maple Road will reward you with a beautiful view of the fall forest that soon envelops the road with a tall canopy. Don’t forget your camera!