This post is the last of my installments on Door County Wisconsin for 2018 and I’ll feature a potpourri of stories and photos from around the county.
Let’s start at the very tip of the peninsula at Gill’s Rock. The drive from our campsite in Potawatomi State Park to Gill’s Rock is about 45 miles and takes a bit over an hour to complete, depending on the traffic and how many fun things we stop to check out on the journey. At any rate, it’s a commitment to make the trip especially if there are plans to catch the ferry over to Washington Island. On our scenic drive north, we pass through the villages of Carlsville, Egg Harbor, Fish Creek, Ephraim, Sister Bay, Ellison Bay before arriving at Gill’s Rock. This small fishing village was named after a local landowner. There are a few tourist oriented shops, a restaurant with a motel, and of course a marina for the many boats that populate this area. I should mention here that during our stay in Door County, the township where Gill’s Rock is located agreed to purchase three parcels of waterfront property in Gill’s Rock for future development. So watch for some big changes in the future.
The ferry landing is actually just down the road a couple of miles from the village of Gill’s Rock in the tiny unincorporated village of Northport. To get there from Gill’s Rock, drivers traverse a squiggly, meandering road containing 15 curves for no obvious reason. It has become one of the best known roads in the Midwest especially for photographers. My photo below doesn’t do it justice as the heavy shadows are a distraction from the scenic road. I talked to another photographer who said she drove five hours out of her way to experience and photograph this road. The story of who is behind this road is interesting. One story suggests that the road was built to weave around the original utility poles. The more likely story is that well known landscape architect Jens Jensen influenced the design of the road. He believed in the power of nature to impact people so to get them to slow down, to keep nature in view and to appreciate their surroundings, he created the idea for this road. I’ve seen some very stunning photos of this road most of which were taken in the fall or winter. It’s very common to see people pulled over to the side of the road shooting photos of this iconic scene.
Arriving at the ferry landing at Northport, visitors waiting for the ferry can admire the wide, sandy beach. On one of our visits, it was cold, windy and misty so not much exploring. But we did watch the ferry coming back from Washington Island with a full load of cars.
After leaving the Gill’s Rock area, we headed down the east side of the peninsula past the Newport State Park (Wisconsin’s only wilderness park) through Bailey’s Harbor and Jacksonport to Cave Point County Park and Whitefish Dunes State Park. Cave Point is a favorite stopping off point for many Door County visitors. During peak hours and times, the parking lots are often full of vehicles so sightseers can take in the beautiful limestone cliffs and caves. When the wind whips up the water, the waves come crashing onto the cliffs creating a stunning natural site. Sunrises are particularly stunning from this view, I had plans to shoot a sunrise shoot at Cave Point but when I woke the clouds were in the way, so back to bed I went!
Just down the road from Cave Point is the Whitefish Dunes State Park. We have visited here a few times and learned that the first access point to the beach is closed due to high water and erosion of the shoreline. There are access points further down on the interior trail through the park. Here are a couple of photos from our stop.
Sticking with the water and boat theme, as we traveled around Door County, we often made stops near marinas, docks and boats. Here are a few photos from those stops.
I found humor in this photo, hope you do too!
Visitors to Door County should learn more about the Door County Land Trust. Created in 1986 to preserve lands that contribute to scenic beauty, recreation, and a healthy ecosystem, the Trust has protected (by donation, purchase or easement agreements) over 8000 acres of land that were formerly marginal fields, forest, wetlands and fragile shoreline. The Land Trust is a non-profit, nongovernmental organization supported by over 2200 members with lots of volunteers to help maintain their properties. Those properties are located all over Door County, many of them developed for hiking and communing with nature. One afternoon, we headed south and east of Sturgeon Bay to the Clay Banks Preserve after reading about it in a local publication. From the parking lot, the one mile well maintained hiking trail meandered through the tall grass prairie, groves of trees and down to the Lake Michigan shoreline and back again. So next time you are in Door County ask about the Land Trust properties as a way to enjoy the natural world.
In our travels around the county, I’m always on the look out for some unusual things to photograph. Usually, we are driving down the road when I spot something, slam on the brakes, pull off to the side of the road and jump out (often without regard for my safety) for some photos. My traveling partner is quite used to this but sometimes my actions scare the heck out of her! The photos below are examples of such actions.
I’m going to end this post with the saga of the traveling grain elevator. Built in 1903, this elevator has stood on the west side of the Sturgeon Bay waterfront until this past spring when it was moved across the bridge to the east side of the waterfront. It has been the source of a lot of conflict between the City Council, the Waterfront Development Commission and the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society for a few years. Regarding the grain elevator, the Historical Society finally prevailed in its plan to restore the elevator after an anonymous donor pledged $1.25 million for renovation. So here sits the elevator in it’s new location after it’s move without much progress on the rehabilitation. As I write this post, there is proposal being floated to move the elevator back across the bridge to it’s original location! You see the proposal to redevelop the original site fell through due to some disagreement over the high water mark. That disagreement led the City Council to disband the Waterfront Development Commission and replace it with a new group. So if you think these are sleepy little towns where not much happens, think again, it has all the intrigue of Chicago, a few hundred miles due south! To be continued, I’m sure.
Thus ends our 2018 adventures in Door County. Hope you enjoyed as much as we did.
Until next week, travel safe.