In 1937, The Ridges Sanctuary became Wisconsin’s first land trust. For nearly 80 years, it has been an integral part of the rich, natural setting of the Baileys Harbor community and the Door County Peninsula. Founded to preserve the original 40 acre parcel, The Ridges has grown thoughtfully and strategically to ensure the protection of the most biologically diverse ecosystem in Wisconsin. Between 1938 and 1946, the Sanctuary grew to 520 acres through land acquisitions from its membership. By our 50th anniversary in 1987, the membership had acquired an additional 480 acres, bringing the Sanctuary to a total of 1000 acres. Beginning in 1989, a combination of stewardship funds, grants and purchased or donated member land, resulted in the acquisition of critical areas affecting The Ridges and Logan Creek watersheds. In cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources and through Fish & Wildlife grants, we continue to identify and acquire small parcels of land within our designated project area. Today, with the support of over 1700 members in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and the hard work of our staff and more than 200 committed volunteers, The Ridges permanently protects over 1600 acres of the most critical lands in our community.
The Sanctuary is named for its distinctive topography – a series of 30 ridges and swales formed by the movement of Lake Michigan over the past 1400 years. This ridge-swale complex provides a wide range of environmental conditions, from open beach to densely shaded conifer forest. Nearly 500 different species of plants, including 25 species of native orchids, populate these varied habitats which are also home to over 60 species of breeding birds and 12 threatened or endangered species, including the federally endangered Hine’s Emerald dragonfly. Each year, we welcome thousands of visitors to these pristine acres where orchids continue to thrive along trails and boardwalks much as they did when these paths were first cleared by our founding members in 1938.
In recognition of its rich diversity, The Ridges Sanctuary has been designated as a Wisconsin State Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service, a National Audubon Important Bird Area and a Wisconsin Wetland Gem.