Rock Island State Park
Rock Island State Park provides a variety of recreation opportunities.
Boating, canoeing and kayaking
Visitors may take their boats to Rock Island, but caution is urged as Lake Michigan can be hazardous due to reefs and storms. There is a nightly fee of $1 per foot of boat length for all boats mooring on the dock overnight at Rock Island. Dock space is limited and cannot be reserved.
Canoes and Kayaks are popular around the island, but lake conditions can change rapidly, resulting in dangerous wind and waves. Early season (May and June) cold water conditions pose a special hypothermia hazard. The passenger ferry, Karfi, may transport canoes and kayaks for a nominal fee as space and safety conditions permit (that decision is up to the captain of the ferry). Kayaks and canoes can be pulled up on the shore near campsites. All campers must register at the visitor contact station for campsites.
A fishing license is required for fishing at Rock Island State Park. No live bait is sold on the island, so you need to bring your own or use artificial lures. Smallmouth bass and gobies are the most often caught fish. Bass season opens July 1 in the waters surrounding the islands.
There are about ten miles of trails with six miles of shoreline for hiking.
All trails on Rock Island are open to hiking. There are about 10 miles of hiking trails on the island. Several shorter trails connect the walk-in campsites and the day-use area near the ferry landing and boathouse.
Algonquin nature trail (1.0 mile)
This trail is a 1.0-mile nature trail loop that begins near the campground.
Fernwood trail (1.2 miles)
This 1.2-mile trail travels through the middle of Rock Island, connecting to the east and west shores
Havamal trail (1.0 miles)
This 1.0-mile trail begins near the large field area and travels through the southern part of the island.
Thordarson loop trail (5.2 miles)
The Thordarson trail follows the circumference of the island for 5.2 miles. The trail is named for Chester Thordarson and his family, who owned the island from 1910 to 1964. Highlights include the Pottawatomie Lighthouse, historic cemeteries, scenic overlooks and a historic water tower.
Hunting and trapping
Hunting and trapping are allowed in the open areas of the park during the Wisconsin state parks hunting and trapping time frame. Trapping is not permitted in closed areas as noted on the park hunting map or within 100 yards of any designated use area, including trails. Certain trap types are restricted on state park properties. For more information, please see:
Tours are given of the historic Pottawatomie Lighthouse daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. During tours, visitors are permitted to climb to the lantern room. Donations are accepted but not required as this service is provided by the Friends of Rock Island State Park.
Near the boathouse, there is a large playfield/picnic area with tables and grills. No playground equipment is provided however, some games, puzzles, balls and outside play toys are available in the Greenhouse shelter building nearby.
Rock Island has one of the most beautiful sand beaches in Door County. The water is tested regularly for safety. Swimming is permitted anywhere along the coast except near the boat dock. Many people swim from the cobble shores near their campsites.
Ice conditions on Lake Michigan vary significantly during winter. The ferry does not run during winter and travel to the island over the ice is not recommended.