Woodland Dunes State Natural Area
The Cattail Trail at Woodland Dunes Nature Center
Woodland Dunes features a low area of ridge and swale topography near Lake Michigan, similar to that at Point Beach State Forest a few miles to the north. The series of narrow, parallel sand ridges represent former beach lines of Lake Michigan as water levels fell during post-glacial times. The ridges are separated by perennially wet swales. About two-thirds of the ridges are timbered with aspen, white birch, and red maple; the remaining third support a mature forest of yellow birch, beech, hemlock, and white pine. The understory contains elements typical of northern mesic forest, including shining club-moss, spinulose wood fern, American starfower, naked miterwort, and yellow-blue-bead-lily. Ash, elm, and alder dominate the swales with occasional patches of dogwood, willow, and sedges. White cedar, with occasional tamarack, is also found in the swales and on the ridge edges. Sweet coltís-foot (Petasites sagittatus), a threatened plant species, is found here in small numbers. Woodland Dunes, with its variety of habitats and proximity to Lake Michigan, is used by a great diversity of birds. Shorebirds utilize a nearby river marsh and often forage in adjacent farm fields. Songbirds, especially warblers and thrushes, make use of the forested portions of the dunes during migration. Southern bird species such as hooded warbler, blue-gray gnatcatcher, and white-eyed vireo are at the northern edge of their range here. The natural area is an excellent place to view all of Wisconsinís raptors during their fall migration down the lakeshore. Woodland Dunes is owned and managed by Woodland Dunes Nature Center and was designated a State Natural Area in 1992.
Woodland Dunes offers six trails that allow visitors to explore the 1,200 acre preserve that includes woodlands, meadows and marshes. All trails are relatively level and easily hiked.; they range from 1/4 to 1 1/2 miles long. Two of the trails, Cattail and Yellow Birch, are wheelchair accessible boardwalks. In winter, trails are open for cross- country skiing, although not groomed. Trails are open from sunrise to sunset.
Trail guides can be picked up at the Nature Center office. They are also stocked in the metal mailbox on the wall by the entrance. On the orientation sign near the red barn you will find a large map showing the preserve and the trails.
Trails beginning at the Nature Center:
Willow Trail 0.9 mile--- (Photo: entrance to Willow Trail) This trail passes through diverse habitats, starting with a shady shrub carr. After emerging from the cool shrub carr, you come out into an open meadow, which is a prairie restoration. It is particularly breathtaking from mid-summer to late fall. The Goldenrod Loop takes you around Todd's Pond (photo), where you can pause to enjoy the peace and serenity of this wetland dedicated to a very special young man.
Continue along Willow Trail through meadows and shrubland, then take the Horsetail Loop to visit the largest tree in Manitowoc County- a huge Cottonwood tree (photo). The final part of the trail, about a quarter of a mile, takes you to the bank of the West Twin River (photo), and an observation deck with an informative sign.
Cattail Trail- 0.3 mile (photo): The whole family will enjoy this boardwalk that meanders through a shrub swamp, a sedge meadow and a cattail marsh where birds and wetland animals live or visit. Signs along this trail introduce you to the plants and animals found there. The trail is currently being extended; soon it will reach an branch of the West Twin River.
A trail beginning near the Nature Center:
Conifer Trail 0.5 mile---Conifer Trail starts about two blocks from the Nature Center, on Columbus Street. Signs on the west side of the road identify the trailhead. This unique trail follows two ancient beach ridges, crossing a swale in between. You will walk through a mixed hardwood forest. A special guide describing the habitats and trees found along the trail is available at the Nature Center. Signs along the trail provide information as well.
Trails beginning on Goodwin Road:
Yellow Birch Trail 0.3 mile---This wheelchair accessible boardwalk takes visitors through woods and wetland where many unusual birds, amphibians and plants can be seen.
Black Cherry Trail 0.8 mile, Trillium Trail 1.5 miles--- (photo: entrance to Trillium Trail) A pair of wooded walks (photo) through the swales (photo) and ridges of an ancient beach. You'll pass though upland mixed hardwoods and a wooded swamp, and may see amphibians, birds and Canandian Carpet plants in summer. Several small bridges cross seasonally wet swales. Open for skiing in winter.
Directions: From the junction of State Highways 42 and 310 in Two Rivers, go west on 310 about 1.2 miles to Woodland Dunes Nature Center on the north side of the road. Trailheads are located at the nature center and off Goodwin Road. Pick up a trail guide at the office.
Telephone: 920-793-4007. Website: www.woodlanddunes.com. Email: email@example.com.
Along the Trillium Trail at Woodland Dunes