Donges Bay Gorge Natural Area: Ablaze in the Golden Season
November 29, 2022 | Topics: Places
Story and photos by Christel Maass
Somewhat secreted away, I heard about Donges Bay Gorge over the years before I finally set out to find and explore it for myself. I went for my second visit on a late fall day when the property was lit gold and copper.
The preserve is tucked between stately Mequon homes on Wildwood Court, just southeast of Donges Bay Road off of Lake Shore Drive. Behind the parking area for five cars, a trailhead leads into the property.
Now owned by the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, the 23-acre property was once part of a larger estate belonging to the Herbert Kurth Family. Jens Jensen, renowned landscape architect and conservationist, created the landscape plans for the property.
On the north side, a long drive leads to the former bathhouse, designed by prominent Milwaukee architect Thomas Van Alyea in the 1930s, and to the Lake Michigan bluff where the main residence once stood.
A more rustic loop trail, Wendy’s Way, skirts the Lake Michigan bluff and meanders through towering white pines and maples, as well as beech and a few other species. The maples glowed golden and the beech beamed like burnished copper as I wandered, taking in their warmth.
Bald eagles have nested above, while songbirds twitter in the understory. With the lakeside location, these woodlands serve as an important stopover for migratory birds.
The woodland trail passes over humble footbridges and along deep ravines against the southern portion of the property.
I took a few laps, dillydallied, taking in and enjoying the season’s offerings—not wanting it to end.
The light changed and the lake added a bit of mystery before I departed that Halloween weekend.
It’s a gorge-ous property—and that’s a bad pun indeed.
For more information about Donges Bay Gorge go to our Find-a-Park page:
Christel Maass, a Wisconsin Master Naturalist, loves exploring Wisconsin’s special places, especially discovering surprises not too far from home. Ozaukee Washington Land Trust is a project partner of A Wealth of Nature.