The shallow, 24-acre Little Lake is the only inland lake located on Washington Island. Located within 250 feet of Lake Michigan, it is primarily fed by groundwater springs and surface water. The small, landlocked lake was created thousands of years ago through deposition of wave-washed gravel across a shallow bay mouth of glacial Lake Nippising. As the glacial waters receded, a 250-foot wide cobblestone ridge was formed that helped create Little Lake. The present lake level is just three feet above that of Lake Michigan. On the north end of the lake is a coastal fen that supports many calcareous-loving plants such as buckbean, marsh bellflower, and marsh cinquefoil. Other species include swamp rose, grass pink, elliptic spike-rush, swamp loosestrife, bulblet water-hemlock, and numerous sedges. Older stands of white cedar and hemlock surround the lake.
The wetlands and unfragmented forests provide critical foraging and nesting habitat for a host of migratory and resident birds including the red-shouldered hawk and black-throated blue warbler. The area was once home to a large village of Native Americans and hosts a Native American burial ground. Numerous artifacts dating back 3,000 years have been found here. Little Lake is owned by the Door County Land Trust and was designated a State Natural Area in 2007.
Help us continue to protect Door County’s special places. Door County Land Trust nature preserves were established to protect fragile ecological resources and provide habitat for plants and wildlife. You can help maintain the health of the forest, meadows, and wetlands by respecting the nature preserves in the following ways:
Stay on the trails. Hiking off-trail disturbs vegetation and wildlife, and increases your chances of encountering poison-ivy, other natural hazards, or trespassing outside of preserve boundaries.
Clean your boots or shoes. You can reduce the spread of invasive plants by brushing your boots or shoes where a boot brush station is provided.
Pets are welcome. Please keep your pets on a leash at all times and pick up after your pets.
Collecting is not allowed. Collecting of any vegetation, wildlife, or other material is not allowed.
Leave no trace. Please carry out everything that you carry in, including garbage.
Some activities are not allowed. Horseback riding, ATVs, bicycles, snowmobiles and other motorized recreational equipment is not allowed on the preserves.
Wear brightly colored clothing during hunting seasons. Hunting, trapping, and fishing may be allowed at some Door County Land Trust nature preserves. For more detailed information about hunting on Door County Land Trust preserves, please visit our Hunting Program page.