The True History of Potawatomi State Park

Photo by Len Villano.

Driving through Potawatomi State Park garnered a different feel than the Peninsula State Park I am so used to up north. The roads were a bit more rustic and a bit more bent. There were slightly fewer lakeshore views, traded instead for deep woods scenery. Yet the most noticeable difference was the subtlety at which the 75-foot scenic tower stretched to the skyline through these deep woods. I expected this tower to provide a similar experience as Eagle Tower, which I have climbed every year since visiting the county twenty years ago. But, like everything else in the park, I was surprised with what I found.

From the top of the tower, you can see the entire 16 miles across to the other side of Green Bay, dotted with the white spear tips of sailboats and the occasional barge looking like a minnow in the open water. Looking north, the sheet of rock lining Bay Shore road seems big enough to make out the few spray painted tags from rebellious teens tattooing the town. Looking down you see the several islands just off shore dotted with a few permanent residents and wonder whether that thirty-second boat ride just to get groceries ever gets old.

Though the tower was built decades ago, shortly after the founding of the park in 1928, I found the true history to be carved into every wooden board and rail on the climb to the top. Every step was marked with a name and date and it was not hard to see who has visited the tower year after year. The tower is an inscription of a relaxing vacation or the memory of a relationship written by children and adults alike. I may never meet “Meg and Andy ‘07” but I can’t help but wonder where they are now. The old wooden tower is a way to leave a true mark in a person’s life and it is something that hundreds of people now share.

Like any state park, there is a history behind it; an individual history that no other state park, no matter how close in proximity can share. Not only that, but there is a glimpse into someone’s life who you know that you will never meet. Yet for that certain place in time, you know you stood right where they did, running your fingers over the splintered wood that a new coat of paint cannot cover up.

Potawatomi State Park is located at 3740 Park Drive in Sturgeon Bay. For more information call 920.746.2890 or visit