The White Cliff Fen and Forest Nature Preserve, Egg Harbor

Photo by Zak LaCrosse.

The Door County Land Trust’s White Cliff Fen and Forest Nature Preserve is one of Door County’s hidden ecological jewels, a quiet 100-acre oasis located within walking distance of the bustling village of Egg Harbor. In the heat of summer, the shaded preserve is a perfect place to while away an hour or two. Tucked into the base of the Niagara Escarpment, the preserve features a unique wetland complex and an old-growth forest. The centerpiece of the preserve is a 30-acre fen fed by alkaline-rich groundwater that passes through the dolomitic limestone that underlies much of Door County.

An impressive number of plant species are present in the fen including Swamp Milkweed, Yellow Lady’s Slipper, Marsh Marigold, Small-flowered Gerardia, Kalm’s Lobelia, Swamp Goldenrod, and Northern Bog Aster. A one and one-half mile easy, looped trail traverses a magnificent upland forest composed primarily of old-growth White Cedar, Hemlock, Red Oak, American Beech, and Sugar Maple.

The White Cliff Nature Preserve was once part of the landholdings of Chicago jewelry designer, Ferdinand Hotz. Hotz owned more land in Door County at the turn of the 20th century than any one single person ever has or likely will again. In addition to lands owned near the preserve, he owned all of what is now Newport State Park and much of the orchard and bluff lands near Fish Creek. Many of the current landowners along White Cliff Road purchased lots from the Hotz estate. Land donations from some of these generous landowners, including the Hotz family, helped establish the White Cliff Fen and Forest Nature Preserve.

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 Land Trust challenges explorers to visit all of the places featured in this column and email [email protected] when the feat has been accomplished. Their name will be 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. For more information on the Land Trust and to download preserve trail maps, visit

Photo by Jeff Davis.

Just the Facts: The White Cliff Fen and Forest Nature Preserve

Acres protected: 100

Miles of trails: 1.5 miles of easy, looped trails through old-growth cedar forest

Directions: North of downtown Egg Harbor, turn west off of Highway 42 on Harbor Heights Road. Follow it about ½ mile to White Cliff Road. Turn north on White Cliff for approximately 1 mile. Preserve entrance is located on the south side of the road between the intersections of Harbor Heights Road and Juddville Road. Off-road parking is available at the public boat launch located just north of White Cliff Road and east of the preserve entrance.

Did you know? Door County’s wetlands are working hard for you. One of them, the White Cliff Fen, lies at the base of the Niagara Escarpment where springs bubble year-round as surface water from above travels through the fractures of the bluff and down into the groundwater and water table below. The wetlands along Door County’s shorelines work like sponges to absorb and filter contaminants from the water before it drains into Green Bay and Lake Michigan.

Partnering Organizations: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and donations from many generous individuals