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Enjoying Point Beach State Forest!

March 15, 2023  |  Topics: Articles

Story and photos by Christel Maass

I was looking for a place to hike between snow events—one with sandier terrain and minimal mud.  I settled on Point Beach State Forest, located along the Lake Michigan shore north of Manitowoc and Two Rivers.

I sure was glad we went.  The last time my husband and I stopped for a hike, a large gathering of mosquitoes joined us.  

Visiting in winter was truly a delight.  Temperatures during our trek were in the forties, and the remaining touches of snow were the perfect consistency to showcase animal footprints.

Raccoon tracks across a log.
Raccoon tracks across a log.

Many of the trails at Point Beach lead along parallel sandy ridges interspersed with swales—hence the blood-thirsty mosquito population in warmer months. 

Similar to The Ridges Sanctuary in Door County, this landscape was formed over thousands of years as the level of Lake Michigan changed and dropped.  The forest’s pines, cedars, and clubmosses drew me in.

A beautiful wetland swale.
A beautiful wetland swale.

With trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding, and biking as well, there’s plenty to do here for outdoor enthusiasts.

The Rawley Point Bicycle Trail skirts the swales.
The Rawley Point Bicycle Trail skirts the swales.

A beautiful segment of the Ice Age Trail, Wisconsin’s thousand-mile footpath, passes through Point Beach State Forest.  It’s a narrower trail, providing more solitude and a more intimate experience with nature—the reason I love it so.

A yellow blaze marks the Ice Age Trail.
A yellow blaze marks the Ice Age Trail.

Point Beach has beautiful dunes and over six miles of shoreline. 

Stunning dunes line the Lake Michigan shore (above and below).

Sturdy dune grasses.
Sturdy dune grasses.
Wind-sculpted sand.
Wind-sculpted sand.

For many, the draw may be the historic lighthouse—though it can only be viewed from a distance.

Rawley Point Lighthouse.
Rawley Point Lighthouse.

If you’re looking to plan a winter outing, I highly recommend a visit to Point Beach State Forest.

I’m adding a long stroll on the beach for a warmer month to my bucket list—assuming the mosquitoes won’t find me at the edge of the shore—and a ride on the bicycle trail—where I hope I can generate enough tailwind to keep those buggers from catching up with me.

For more information about Point Beach State Forest:

For more information about the Ice Age Trail:

Christel Maass, a Wisconsin Master Naturalist, feels fortunate to live in a state with so much diversity.

One thought on "Enjoying Point Beach State Forest!"

  1. Jim. Maurer says:

    This is a very beautiful place with many threatened species. It was the first purchase in what was known as the Kettle Moraine Park Development which was paid for with funds provided by Milwaukee County in 1937 and 1938 by of an extra $250,000.00 paid into the “Forestation Mill Tax”.

    “September 14, 1938
    Milwaukee County alone had paid an additional $125,000.00 annually, or $250,000.00 in all, by reason of the increased forestation mill tax in 1938 and 1939 which provided funds for the Kettle Moraine Park development.” Excerpt from a MC 1037 Resolution.

    In his 1940 letter to Governor Heil, Mr. MacKenzie, Conservation Director states,
    “The nature of this area that is to be acquired and known as the KM Forest will be very similar in character to what has been acquired by New York in the Adirondacks and Catskill preserves (1895 ratified state’s highest level of protection), the city of Boston in the Blue Hills and the city of Chicago in the Cook County Forest Preserves.” ”

    Point Beach is not located adjacent to the “Kettle Moraine Park Development” area that was outlined in the “December 1936 Wisconsin State Planning Board Bulletin # 3, A Conservation and Recreation Plan for Southeastern Wisconsin”. This Bulletin has a map in color, unusual for the time, which details the KMPD which extends into Sheboygan County but does not extend into Manitowoc County where Point Beach is located.

    A few years ago I visited and the forested area West of the road (O) and it was marked for timber harvest. The DNR ignored the colonies of threatened Forked Aster which were growing in part shade where they thrive and had trees marked for harvest that provided the shade for these species. In my extensive experience the DNR is talks a good game but rarely follows through with legitimate habitat protection. I can provide many examples.

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