Little Lake Nature Preserve, Washington Island

Photo by Julie Schartner.

The Little Lake Nature Preserve encompasses the north end of Little Lake, Washington Island’s only inland lake. Located within 250 feet of Lake Michigan, this 33-acre landlocked lake was created thousands of years ago when waves washed gravel and cobblestones across a shallow bay of glacial Lake Nippising (now Lake Michigan.) As glacial waters receded, a narrow ridge was formed to create the inland lake. A ¾-mile trail takes hikers along the north side of the lake to the narrow ridge of cobblestone that separates Lake Michigan from Little Lake; standing in one spot, both lakes are visible.

Little Lake Nature Preserve features stands of white cedar, hemlock and a floating bog mat that provide habitat for calcareous-loving plants such as buckbean, marsh bellflower and marsh cinquefoil. The preserve also provides habitat for nesting and foraging resident waterfowl and migratory songbirds including bald eagles, white pelicans, osprey, herons and black-throated blue warblers and is a major breeding site for a host of amphibians including the blue spotted salamander.

The Little Lake Nature Preserve was dedicated a Wisconsin State Natural Area in 2007.

The Door County Land Trust is celebrating 25 years of preserving Door County’s finest open spaces and wild places. Over the course of the summer and fall, this column will feature one of the special places the Land Trust is working to protect.

The Door County Land Trust is challenging people to visit all of the places featured in this column. People are encouraged to email [email protected] when they accomplish this feat and to have their name entered into a drawing to win a copy of the Land Trust’s Guide to the Places We Protect due to be published this fall. To view previous columns, for more information on the Land Trust and to download preserve trail maps, visit

Just the Facts: The Door County Land Trust’s Little Lake Nature Preserve, Washington Island

Acres protected: 33

Feet of shoreline protected: over 5,000

Miles of trails: approximately 3/4-mile of easy to moderately difficult trail

Total acres protected on Washington Island by the Land Trust: over 700

Partnering organizations: Fox River/Green Bay Natural Resource Trustee Council, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Knowles Nelson State Stewardship Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department and many generous individuals.

Directions: From the ferry dock, take Lobdell Point Road (County W) to Main Road. Turn left (north) and continue on Main Road. Access to the Little Lake Nature Preserve is across the street from 2288 Main Road between Gundmundsen Drive and Boyers Bluff Road. (It is about 1.2 miles past the intersection of Main Road and Jackson Harbor Road.) Park along the side of the road. A small yellow Land Trust sign on the west side of the road marks the access to the rustic trail. Follow the blue arrows and orange flags.

Did you know? The Little Lake area was once home to a large village of Native Americans. Numerous artifacts dating back approximately 3,000 years have been found here and some may be viewed at the nearby Jacobsen Museum. The Little Lake Nature Preserve was also once home to one of America’s most famous economists, Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929.) Veblen wrote “The Theory of the Leisure Class” and coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption.” He purchased property on the west side of Little Lake in 1915 for use as a summer retreat and was known to row across Little Lake with his daughters each morning in a homemade skiff to purchase milk and butter from a nearby Icelandic farm. Exposed rock marks the spot where Veblen’s study cabin stood until it was moved to the grounds of the Jacobsen Museum by the Island Heritage Conservancy.

When you’re on the island, pick up “A Guide to the Washington Island Nature Preserves of the Door County Land Trust” at the ferry office.