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Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest And Wetlands

No. 284


Photo by Thomas A. Meyer/DNR


Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands contains a unique and diverse landscape, influenced by the local climate along the northeastern coast of the Door Peninsula.  Cooler springs and summers, warmer falls and winters, and reduced evaporation rates have allowed northern species and a boreal forest to thrive here, far south of their normal range.  Balsam fir and white spruce dominate the forest, which grades into northern wet-mesic forests of white cedar, white pine, paper birch, and hemlock.  Many orchids and rare plants find refuge in the forest. The natural area protects over 1.5 miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline. An extensive alkaline rock shore, or bedrock beach, is exposed during periods of low lake levels. Uncommon plants thrive on the open dolomite flats.

The forested communities support a wide variety of birds associated with boreal habitats, including yellow-bellied flycatcher, Blackburnian warbler, and merlin. Migratory shorebirds and waterfowl are attracted to the undeveloped shoreline. This area is one of the few known nesting sites in Wisconsin for the common goldeneye, a diving duck that nests in forest tree cavities.  Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1995. In 2013, the DNR dedicated a new unit to honor Wisconsin conservationist and long-serving Natural Resources Board member, Jonathan Ela. The Jonathan P. Ela Unit will serve as a living reminder to current and future generations of Wisconsinites that the beautiful landscapes, plentiful fish and wildlife, clean air and fresh waters require informed and persistent action by each of us, working together, at every opportunity.

Very few State Natural Areas have public facilities, but nearly all are open for a variety of recreational activities as indicated below. Generally, there are no picnic areas, restrooms, or other developments. Parking lots or designated parking areas are noted on individual SNA pages and maps. If a developed trail is present, it will normally be noted on the SNA map and/or under the Maps tab. A compass and topographic map or a GPS unit are useful tools for exploring larger, isolated SNAs.

The good majority of SNAs are isolated and have few or no facilities. Some SNAs have vehicle access lanes or parking lots, but their accessibility may vary depending on weather conditions. Parking lots and lanes are not plowed during winter. Hiking trails may be nonexistent or consist of undeveloped footpaths. A GPS unit or compass and a detailed topographic map are useful tools for exploring larger SNAs.

Hunting and trapping

This SNA has multiple landowners: Opportunities for hunting and trapping depend on the landowner. In general, most DNR-owned land allows hunting and trapping. Partner-owned land may have other rules (for example, university-owned lands do not allow hunting or trapping). Please contact them directly to find out about their rules for hunting and trapping. You can find a link to other owner websites under the Resources tab.

Allowable activities: DNR-owned land

The activities listed below are generally allowed on all DNR-owned SNA lands. Exceptions to this list of public uses, such as SNAs closed to hunting, are noted above and posted with signs on the property site.

Prohibited activities: all SNAs

  • Camping and campfires
  • Collecting of animals (other than legally harvested species), non-edible fungi, rocks, minerals, fossils, archaeological artifacts, soil, downed wood, or any other natural material, alive or dead.
  • Collecting for scientific research requires a permit issued by the DNR
  • Collecting of plants including seeds, roots or other non-edible parts of herbaceous plants such as wildflowers or grasses
  • Geocaching
  • Horseback riding
  • Rock climbing
  • Vehicles, including bicycles, ATVs, aircraft, and snowmobiles except on trails and roadways designated for their use.

For rules governing state-owned SNAs and other state lands, please consult Chapter NR 45 Wis. Admin. Code [exit DNR].


Door County. T30N-R28E, Sections 2, 11, 14. T31N-R28E, Section 35. 846 acres.

Driving directions

From the intersection of State Highway 57 and County Highway Q north of Baileys Harbor, go northeast on Q for 3.4 miles, then south (right) on West Cana Island Road for 1 mile, then east on East Cana Island Road 0.9 miles to DNR parking lot north of the road. Undesignated footpaths lead north into the natural area. Or continue east on East Cana Island Road 0.24 miles, then north on Cana Cove Road 0.3 miles to a cul-de-sac.

Park and walk north into the natural area. High lake levels may make access from the cul-de-sac a challenge. Alternatively, from the Highway 57/County Q intersection, go northeast on Q 4.4 miles to a gated DNR access lane marked with a State Natural Area sign east of the road and just south of Birch Road (45.112916, -87.068457). Park along Birch Road, cross County Q and walk east into the natural area along the lane. Undesignated footpaths intersect the access lane in a few places.

There are two private residences at the end of the access lane; please do not trespass on private property. For water access, from Q and West Cana Island Road, go south on West Cana Island Road for 1 mile, then continue south on Bues Point Road 0.24 miles to a boat launch on Moonlight Bay.

The DNR's state natural areas program is comprised of lands owned by the state, private conservation organizations, municipalities, other governmental agencies, educational institutions and private individuals. While the majority of SNAs are open to the public, access may vary according to individual ownership policies. Public use restrictions may apply due to public safety, or to protect endangered or threatened species or unique natural features. Lands may be temporarily closed due to specific management activities.

Users are encouraged to contact the landowner for more specific details. The data shown on these maps have been obtained from various sources, and are of varying age, reliability, and resolution. The data may contain errors or omissions and should not be interpreted as a legal representation of legal ownership boundaries. To create your custom map where you can zoom to a specific location, please use the DNR's Mapping Application.

Property Map [PDF]

Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest And Wetlands are owned by: Private and the Wisconsin DNR

Management objectives and prescriptions

Read the Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest management plan [PDF] for details.