Places We Protect

Shivering Sands


Trees with fall foliage
Shivering Sands Preserve in the Fall, Wisconsin © Robert A. Kleppin

The wetlands at Shivering Sands are rich in rare plant life and home to a host of wildlife.




The 3,400-acre Shivering Sands wetland complex encompasses three lakes, several streams and springs, forested sand dunes, lowland conifer forest, sedge meadows and fens. It is rich in rare plant life and is home to many birds, mammals, frogs and other wildlife.


Located on Lake Michigan just north of Sturgeon Bay, the variety of plant communities at Shivering Sands Preserve provides excellent habitat for several rare plants and myriad wildlife and is exceptional in both size and diversity.

The three lakes of the preserve—Dunes, Schwartz and Arbter—set in a dense white cedar swamp are shallow and fringed with cattails, rushes, sedges and scattered tamaracks. Many of the plants in the lake associated wetlands and elsewhere on the preserve are typical of alkaline fens, an uncommon wetland type in Wisconsin.

The largest of the lakes at 81 acres, Dunes Lake receives the majority of its water from Geisel Creek, a slow, ground and surface water fed stream that drains land to the north. This shallow lake drains to Lake Michigan by the narrower, more swiftly flowing Shivering Sands Creek.

Having no fish barriers, the Geisel Creek, Dunes Lake, Shivering Sands waterway provides important access to spawning habitat for Lake Michigan tributary spawning fish such as northern pike and a variety of sucker species. Springs, which discharge from the dolomite bedrock that underlies the Shivering Sands area, feed the streams and lakes of the preserve.

Shivering Sands is one of four preserves owned and managed by TNC in Door County that is home to the rare Hine's emerald dragonfly. Door County hosts the greatest abundance of this federally-endangered dragonfly in the world, and TNC is working with scientists and other partners to learn more about the dragonfly and protect its habitat.


TNC began its work in the Shivering Sands area in 1984, with the first bird and plant inventories. We began to protect land at Shivering Sands in 1992, and have helped protect more than 1,161 acres. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources also owns land at Shivering Sands. TNC continues to work with local landowners, land trusts and property owners associations to protect this nationally significant wetland area.




Open year-round, dawn to dusk


678 acres

Explore our work in this region


The large central white cedar swamp surrounding the three undeveloped lakes is rich in rare plants. Orchids flower amidst the mosses and downed trees. The fen-like communities found on the lake edges harbor such rare plants as tussock bulrush and coast sedge. Dwarf lake iris, a state- and federally-threatened species, blooms in the upland conifer forest adjacent to the cedar swamp.

Forests of beech, red maple, hemlock and white pine are found on higher ground at Shivering Sands. Yellow birch, balsam fir, white pine and white spruce are common on the remnant beach ridges near Glidden Drive at the eastern edge of the complex.


The diversity of plant communities at Shivering Sands supports an impressive suite of mammals, including short-tailed and masked shrews, fisher, otter, red fox, black bear, snowshoe hare, mink and possibly bobcat. More than 110 different bird species also use the site. American bittern, sora and Virginia rails, numerous puddle ducks as well as sandhill cranes are regular breeders on Dunes Lake, and the forest is home to woodpeckers, vireos, thrushes and many warbler species. Spring peepers, leopard frogs, wood frogs, and red-backed and blue-spotted salamanders are just a few of the amphibians that thrive at Shivering Sands.


There is a relatively flat, 1-mile loop walking trail, which can sometimes be wet in spots so wear appropriate footwear. Mosquitoes can be abundant in early summer, so repellent and long pants/sleeves are a good idea.

For more information contact TNC's office at 342 Louisiana St., Sturgeon Bay or call the number above.


For more information about visiting the preserve, please follow the links below:

All of our preserve maps are now georeferenced. You can download an app on your Apple or Android device, and it will allow you to view your location, record GPS tracks, add placemarks and find places.