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Coffey Swamp

No. 276


Photo by Door County Land Trust


Coffey Swamp occupies a former embayment of Lake Michigan along the northern coast of Washington Island. The natural area features a shallow, hard water seepage pond with a substrate of pure marl that nearly dries up in late summer and during years when the water level of Lake Michigan is low. Surrounding the pond is an open, treeless, boreal-rich fen dominated by wire-leaved sedges, sweet gale, and hoary willow. Boreal-rich fens are similar to their southern Wisconsin counterparts in having alkaline, saturated, peaty soils. They differ compositionally by having species more typical of nutrient-poor northern wetlands such as round-leaved sundew, pitcher plant, cotton-grass, bog-rosemary, Labrador-tea, and bogbean. The fen also supports many rare plants. Adjoining the fen is a northern wet-mesic forest dominated by white cedar situated on peat over gravel and sand ridges. Deer browse is heavy and some areas are lacking in cedar reproduction. Coffey Swamp is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1994.

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.

Entrance fees: Except for Parfrey's Glen, the Cambrian Outlook in the Dells of the Wisconsin River, SNAs within State Parks and some within State Forests, all other DNR-owned SNAs do not have any admission fees. For more information, see Wis. Admin. Code NR 45 [exit DNR]. For non-DNR-owned SNAs, we are unaware of any vehicle or admission fees. However, please contact the landowner for more information.

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

Although a handful of sites allow activities like primitive camping (e.g. Lower Chippewa River on sand bars) or horseback riding (e.g. S. Kettle Moraine), the activities listed below are generally prohibited on DNR-owned 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
  • Drones: Flying-related activities, including the use of drones, hang-gliders and model airplanes, are prohibited. Permission may be issued by the SNA Program for the use of drones for educational or research purposes
  • 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].


On Washington Island, Door County. T34N-R30E, Sections 29, 30. 189 acres.

Driving directions

From Detroit Harbor, go north and east on County W 5.8 miles. Park along the road and walk north into the natural area.

The DNR's state natural areas program comprises 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]

Coffey Swamp is owned by: Wisconsin DNR

Management objectives and prescriptions

Read the Coffey Swamp management plan [PDF] for details.