PENINSULA STATE PARK
Peninsula State Park, established in 1909, is a 3,776-acre state treasure on Wisconsin's Door County peninsula. Nearly seven miles of Lake Michigan's Green Bay shoreline wrap around a landscape of forests, meadows and wetlands. Rocky bluffs ascend over 150 feet while deer graze contentedly in abandoned farm fields. Considered Wisconsin's most complete park, Peninsula is also its most popular camping destination.
Recreational opportunities are boundless. Visitors can hike, bike, boat, golf and swim during spring, summer and fall. Winter offers cross country skiing, snoeshoeing, sledding and snowmobiling. Camping, nature programs, and sightseeing are offered year-round.
Please take a tour of Peninsula from the comforts of your home. Be sure to visit us in person though, for Peninsula State Park truly is a magnificent destination. You will not be disappointed.
Look for gulls, terns, cormorants, waterfowl and shorebirds along shorelines. Spot pileated woodpeckers, redstarts, and ruffed grouse in Peninsula's forest.
Deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, grey squirrels, red squirrels, red and gey foxes, coyotes and porcupines (one is pictured at right) also call Peninsula home. On very rare occasions, black bears have been seen inside park boundaries.
Fox snakes, garter snakes, and ring-necked snakes live here too. None are poisonous, but visitors sometimes mistake the fox snake for a rattler. Frogs, toads, and salamanders are occassionally seen, as are snapping and painted turtles.
A black-capped chickadee (with Naturalist Kathleen Harris, above), and red-breasted nuthatch (right) are among visitors to the bird feeders outside the Nature Center. (Photos by Kathleen Hutter)
Diverse limestone soils of Peninsula's rolling highlands, steep slopes, sheer limestone cliffs, marshes, sandy areas and shorelines support hundreds of plant species. Upland forests contain sugar maple, basswood, beech, white birch, hemlock, red oak and other trees. The forested areas along the shorelines often have pure stands of white cedar. Cliffs hold bulblet and marginal wood ferns. Flowers like yellow lady's-slippers, trilliums, and dwarf lake iris grow in some locations.
The low, sandy areas in the southwest corner of the park support dwarf junipers, blueberries, harebells, and many other unique plants.
Peninsula has two State Scientific Areas, the White Cedar Forest and the Beech Maple Forest. The State Natural Areas Council set both aside because they possess unique attributes of native plant communities, typical of the way things looked in pre-European settlement times.
Stop by Park Headquarters to view a plant identification guide specific to Peninsula. Or hike the Sentinal Trail, along with the mapped trail guide, for a self-guided tree identification tour.
1909: Peninsula State Park land purchased for less than $20 per acre.
1910: The Wisconsin legislature officially establishes the park.
1913: Albert E. Doolittle becomes Peninsula's first manager. He builds towers and campgrounds and raises funds for future park development.
1909-1960: Some park visitor build semi-permanent shelters and summer at Shanty Bay (Nicolet Bay) through the entire summer. The park manager routinely delivers groceries, milk, meat, bread and mail to the "summer community." Evenings, campers gather for minstrel shows, bonfires and social events, drawing audiences of as many as 1,500 people.
1914: Towers built at Sven's Bluff and Eagle Bluff. Both original towers are constructed from logs cut in the park and without the use of machinery.
1916-1948: Two young widows from St. Louis establish and operate Camp Meenahga for girls near today's Tennis Court Road. The girls live in tents and spend the summer taking instruction in horseback riding, swimming, dancing, drama, and "personality."
1920-1961: The park operates a sawmill near Middle Road. Dead, diseased, and wind-downed trees are cut into lumber that is used throughout the state park system.
1920s-1930s: Wisconsin's first game farm operates at Peninsula. Pheasants are raised at South Nicolet Bay campground. Visitors can also visit a small petting zoo at the game farm.
1921: Manager Doolittle lays out a park nine-hole sand green golf course.
1927: The Door County Historical Society builds a 40-foot Memorial Pole at Peninsula Golf Course and dedicates it to the Potawatomi nation.
1930s: A Civilian Conservation Corps Camp of 208 men completes projects like rebuilding Eagle Tower, constructing stone fences, clearing hiking trails and roads, planting trees, and refurbishing the ski jump and toboggan run near today's Nature Center.
1931: Chief Simon Kahquados, the last hereditary chief of the Potawatomi nation, is buried near the Memorial Pole.
1940s: Near the end of World War II, a small contingent of prisoners-of-war are assigned to work in Peninsula Park and nearby orchards. The German POWs are remembered for their industriousness and for singing while they constructed buildings, cut wood and picked cherries.
1947: Park staff remove Sven's Tower due to dry rot. White Cedar Forest (53 acres) and Beech Maple Forest (80 acres) State Natural Areas established in Peninsula.
1960s: Modern facilities, including flush toilets, sinks and showers, added to campgrounds.
1964: Winter warming house on Bluff Road converted to theWhite Cedar Nature Center.
1970: Heritage Ensemble, now known as American Folklore Theatre, first performs in Peninsula State Park. Rebuilt Memorial Pole replaces original pole.
1981: Peninsula Golf Association assumes management of clubhouse and grounds.
1982: Sunset Bike Trail surfaced. Irrigation system installed on golf course. Computers first used for camping reservations.
Peninsula is Wisconsin?s most popular camping destination.
Reservations are strongly recommended. You can reserve a site 48 hours to 11 months before the date of arrival. For availability and rates, including reservation fees, call toll free at (888) WI-PARKS ((888) 947-2757). Call center hours vary. You also may make reservations via the Internet (exit DNR) 24 hours a day.
Admission stickers are required on all vehicles. Purchase vehicle stickers at Park Headquarters or state park contact stations. Camping fees help support campground maintenance.
Peninsula?s four campgrounds (Weborg Point, Tennison Bay, Welcker's, Nicolet Bay) have a total of 469 family sites; 101 are electric. Peninsula also has three reservable group areas for tent camping. Only 25 sites, all in Nicolet Bay, are non-reservable.
Information and assistance to campers is available from camp hosts who are assigned to Peninsula campgrounds throughout the season. Locate hosts at sites 323, 525, 619 or 783. To volunteer as a camp host in the Wisconsin State Park System use the volunteer application form, also available at Peninsula Headquarters.
Camp hosts report problems to Peninsula Rangers (law enforcement officers). Rangers are fully certified and trained in emergency first aid. They patrol Peninsula seven days a week, enforcing safety rules and responding to accidents. Rangers are knowledgeable about Peninsula history and nature; feel free to approach them with your questions and concerns.
Nicolet Bay's natural sand beach provides scenic swimming and sunbathing. No lifeguards are provided. Beach hours are 6 a.m. - 11p.m. daily. A bathhouse with showers is provided. The water tends to be the warmest in early July through late August. Pets are not allowed on the beach or in adjacent picnic areas.
Launch ramps are located at Nicolet and Tennison Bays. Tennison Bay has a shallow draft where only small water craft may be launched. With low water conditions, Tennison Bay launch is inaccessible for the launching of trailered watercraft.
Sailboats and other non-motorized watercraft may be rented in season from a concessionaire near Nicolet Bay Beach. Overnight, offshore anchoring is allowed at Horseshoe Island and in Nicolet Bay, outside of the designated swimming area and boat launch. Tie-up to ramp piers is prohibited except for launching and take-out. Long term vehicle and trailer parking is available at the amphitheater lot.
Weborg pier is a hotspot for shore fishing action on Green Bay during spring, summer and fall. Brown trout are often caught through the spring and fall. During the summer shallower water warms and provides habitat for smallmouth and rock bass. Perch populations are currently low in Green Bay waters but both yellow and white have been hooked at Weborg. Nicolet Bay also harbors moderate fishing opportunities along the cobblestone shoreline. Anglers 16 years or older must have a valid Wisconsin fishing license. A Wisconsin Great Lakes Trout stamp is required for trout fishing. Fishing licenses and Great Lakes stamps can be purchased online or at local sporting goods stores. Fishing poles are available for free loan at the Nature Center.