Toft Point Natural Area
A Biodiversity Hotspot
Toft Point Natural Area is owned by the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and the Wisconsin Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. This 743-acre site was designated a State Natural Area in 1967, is recognized by the National Park Service as a National Natural Landmark. Toft Point was designated as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 2015.
Toft Point contains several outstanding native plant communities on a 0.8-mile-wide peninsula along Door County's Lake Michigan coast. The natural area is bordered on the north by Moonlight Bay, and on the south by Baileys Harbor. There are more than two miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, with areas of wave-cut dolomite cliffs (see photo above). Stretches of limestone cobble beach, mixed with marly soil, are exposed during periods of low lake levels. The vegetation of the eastern shoreline, influenced by the cooling effects of Lake Michigan, consists of a narrow strip of relict boreal forest dominated by balsam fir and white spruce.
The majority of the peninsula is wooded with a mesic forest of sugar maple, yellow birch, hemlock, balsam fir, and scattered white pine. To the north, along Moonlight Bay, is an extensive calcareous sedge meadow that grades into shrub-carr and wet-mesic forest dominated by white cedar with occasional paper birch and black ash. Pockets of tamarack swamp and alder thicket are imbedded in the wetland.
Extensive stands of hard-stemmed bulrush grow offshore in one to four feet of water offering cover and spawning sites for a variety of fish. The natural area provides habitat for more than 440 vascular plant species and one of the most diverse bryophyte (mosses and liverworts) floras in the state. Several orchid taxa and many rare plant species find refuge here. Toft Point, along with the adjacent Ridges Sanctuary, contains many area-sensitive bird species including seventeen species of nesting warblers.
The site is named for Kersten Toft who received the land as compensation for his work at the limestone quarry, previously located on this site. Remaining on site is an historic kiln, which is the state's best intact example of the early circular kilns that once dotted parts of the Niagara Escarpment. The natural area also hosts remnant structures of the summer resort that was ran between 1920 and the early 1970s. The structures, which are maintained by the Friends of Toft Point, include an ice house, four cottages, a boat house, and barn. A flag pole stands near the foundation of the former summer kitchen that has been torn down. The open meadow surrounding the former summer kitchen also hosts a plaque and a trail dedicated in Roy Lukes's memory. Roy Lukes was a beloved naturalist and dear friend of Emma Toft.
For additional history, we recommend reading Toft Point: A Legacy of People and Pines, by Roy Lukes.
UW-Green Bay's Toft Point natural area is managed with the goal of providing habitat and promoting ecological processes. This natural area is also vital to educational programming by providing a living laboratory not only for biological sciences, but also for art, english, physical education and more. UW-Green Bay natural areas are important for student and faculty research.
Application to conduct research on a UW-Green Bay natural area.
This is a pristine and fragile area with rare plants and biota. Because of this, please do not bring dogs or other pets, drive or park beyond the designated parking area, wander outside the trail, camp/picnic, smoke or have a campfire, and bike. Parking is very limited here so if the lot is full, please visit another time. If you are meeting others, please carpool from Baileys Harbor Ridges County Park at 2301 Ridges Rd or Baileys Harbor Town Hall at 2392 County F, as this will help minimize visitor impact to the site.
Directions: From The Ridges Nature Center on Hwy 57 in Bailey's Harbor, proceed east along Ridges Road for approximately 1.4 miles. The main entrance to the Toft Point Natural Area will be on your left (i.e., Toft Point Road).
For purposes of using GPS, the address of the main entrance of Toft Point is: 1982 Ridges Rd, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202.
There are no bathroom facilities onsite. The nearest bathrooms can be found at Bailey's Harbor Ridges County Park at 2301 Ridges Rd; or Baileys Harbor Town Hall at 2392 County F, Baileys Harbor
Please read our Visit page to learn about visitor etiquette, conducting research, hunting access, and other visitor questions.