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The Ridges Sanctuary

No. 17


Photo by R. Queen


The Ridges Sanctuary encompasses a diversity of unusual habitats, resulting in one of the greatest concentrations of rare plants in the Midwest. The preserve, recognized as a National Natural Landmark, was established in 1937 as Wisconsin's first area set aside to protect native flora. The natural area consists of about 30 narrow, crescent-shaped sandy ridges and recent research has correlated the ridge formation with the cyclical changes in Lake Michigan water levels which have occurred during the past 1400-1500 years.

Each ridge represents a former beach line of Lake Michigan and took an average of 30-50 years to form. The narrow ridges are forested with black spruce, white spruce, balsam fir, and white pine with wet swales between the ridges. Swamp conifers occupy some of the swales; others are filled with marsh and bog flora. Sections of the forest can be classified as boreal and are similar to, but far disjunct from the northwestern Wisconsin boreal forests near Lake Superior. The cool waters of Lake Michigan heavily influence the local climate, allowing many northern species to thrive. Some areas of the ridges are open, wet, and calcareous. The list of rare species found at The Ridges is long and includes 25 species of orchids. The Ridges Sanctuary is owned by the private conservation organization The Ridges Sanctuary, Inc. and was designated a State Natural Area in 1953.

Very few State Natural Areas have public facilities, but nearly all are open for various 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.

Non-DNR lands

Entrance fees: For non-DNR-owned SNAs, we are unaware of any vehicle or admission fees. However, please contact the landowner for more information.

Hunting and trapping

This is a non-DNR-owned SNA: Opportunities for hunting and trapping depend on the landowner. 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.

Other activities

Other allowable activities such as - but not limited to camping, geocaching and bicycling are determined by the landowner. Please contact them directly or visit their websites for details.


Door County. T30N-R28E, Sections 5, 8, 9, 10, 16, 17, 20. 1,468 acres.

Driving directions

From the junction of State Highway 57 and County Highway Q on the north side of Baileys Harbor, go northeast on Q 0.1 miles and follow the signs to The Ridges Sanctuary entrance east of the road. Several hiking trails wind through the natural area. Detailed maps are available at the office. A donation is requested for the use of the trails.

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]

The Ridges Sanctuary is owned by: The Ridges Sanctuary