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  • Trails are clear. There are some icy and muddy patches, please use caution when utilizing trails. Ski For Free is closed.

What’s Happening: Icy Harvests

Ice Harvest Demonstration at Crossroads

In Door County, Destination Sturgeon Bay’s Fire & Ice Festival is always a highlight of winter, and we at Crossroads at Big Creek are thrilled to again host the kick-off event, a Luminary Lit Hike on our beautiful preserve. Also during the Fire & Ice weekend, we are offering a special Science Saturday family program, “The Sturgeon Bay Ice Harvest,” with hands-on demonstrations provided by the crew from the Madden Tool Museum.

Fire & Ice at Crossroads

On Friday, February 16, join us for an after-dark walk on one of our trails marked by the enchanting glow of luminaries. Once the luminaries guide you back to the nature center, take some time to warm up around a toasty campfire with a cup of hot chocolate and the warm company of fellow nature enthusiasts.

Our historical reenactment of a Sturgeon Bay Ice Harvest is scheduled from 2:00-4:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 17, in front of the Collins Learning Center. 

It’s hard to imagine, especially this warm year, but back in the 1880s, before the advent of refrigeration, huge blocks of ice were harvested from the Bay of Sturgeon Bay. Ice was a valuable commodity and one of Door County’s most lucrative export products.

In those years, Chicago was the Midwest center for meat packing, requiring lots of ice. But in those days, the City of Chicago disposed of raw sewage into the Chicago River which flowed right into Lake Michigan. Ice from the Chicago Lakeshore? Yuck!

Milwaukee, a city made famous for brewing beer, also needed ice. Cities needed unpolluted ice for their industries and also for residents’ home use in ice boxes. The demand for ice was so great that as many as 700 local men—mostly farmers—sawed and extracted literally acres of ice from the bay. (Historians tell us that they did leave an ice bridge so the people of Northern Door were not totally cut off from the rest of the world.)

The shore of the Sturgeon Bay’s westside (then called Sawyer) was lined with huge warehouses where the ice blocks were stored between insulating layers of sawdust provided by Sturgeon Bay’s three sawmills.

I had read about the ice harvest for years, but I just couldn’t picture it until retired teacher Mike Madden agreed to present a demonstration at Crossroads. And now in its third year, Ice Harvest has become a favorite winter tradition.

The Science of Simple Machines

But how is this a Science Saturday activity? Well, the tools used for harvesting ice are “simple machines.” (Remember that unit from elementary school science class? Maybe when Mr. Madden was your teacher?) Using tools, kids will more easily grasp how pulleys, inclined planes, and wedges work. Plus, they will have a blast!

And speaking of using tools, otters are among the very few mammals that use tools and thrive in winter. Otters living in The Cove Preserve are out and about whether or not the estuary is ice-covered. Science Saturday the week before Fire & Ice will feature these active animals. Activities will include a short video, games and, if conditions allow, participants can use kicksleds to learn how otters travel over snow and ice.

Trail conditions change with the weather, so watch Crossroads’ website for updates on conditions and open hours for our Ski-for-Free program.

As always, our trails are open all day every day, free of charge. Check the Crossroads website calendar for upcoming events and details.


Upcoming Activities

Wednesday, February 7

6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Webinar: How to Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count

Bird and nature lovers everywhere unite to tally as many of the world’s bird species as possible in a four-day event known as the Great Backyard Bird Count. GBBC takes place Friday, February 16, through Monday, February 19. Join us for an online presentation to learn more about this global effort and how you can participate. Register through the Door County Land Trust website. This program is in partnership with Door County Land Trust, Crossroads at Big Creek, and The Ridges Sanctuary.


Thursday, February 8

7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Fish Tales: Elevating Optimism on the Menominee River

The February 8 lecture title, “Elevating Optimism of the Menominee River,” is a play on words. Dr. Patrick Forsythe, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, will discuss the fish elevator project on the Menominee River and discuss genetic research on sturgeon reproduction and dispersal, and share his optimism that the sturgeon population in Lake Michigan might increase. Join us in-person at Crossroads, 2041 Michigan St., Sturgeon Bay, or to participate via ZOOM or Facebook Live, go to https://www.doorcountylibrary.org/event.html


Saturday, February 10

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Science Saturdays: Meet the Otter

Otters are among the very few mammals the use tools, and otters living in The Cove Preserve thrive whether or not the estuary is ice-covered. Our Science Saturday on February 10 will be “Meet the Otter,” a program for families (and learners of all ages) which will include videos, games and, if conditions allow, the use of kicksleds to demonstrate how otters travel over snow and ice.


Monday, February 12

6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Webinar: Basics of Bird Identification

Wait! What was that? Interested in learning how to identify those wonderfully winged creatures we call birds? Join us for an online presentation on the basics of how to identify them. We will cover the best tools to use, how to think taxonomically, and, if there is time, tips to identify some of our most common birds by sight and sound. This webinar is intended to be used in tandem with DCLT’s earlier webinar on how to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).

Register online with the Door County Land Trust to receive the Zoom Link.


Tuesday, February 13

7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. DPAS Monthly Meeting: Amateur Astrophotography

The community is invited to the monthly meetings of the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society. DPAS member Cory Gorski will present “Amateur Astrophotography,” encouraging members and visitors to discover the delights, intricacies, and challenges of astrophotography. His program will feature numerous images captured with a setup in a Sturgeon Bay backyard. Programs are free and open to the public. Meet at the Stonecipher Astronomy Center, 2200 Utah St., Sturgeon Bay.


Friday, February 16

5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Fire & Ice Weekend Luminary-lit Hike

Help kick-off Sturgeon Bay’s Fire & Ice Weekend with a candle-lit walk. Join us for a walk on one of our trails marked by the enchanting glow of luminaries. Once the luminaries guide you back to the nature center, take some time to warm up around a campfire with a cup of hot chocolate and the warm company of fellow nature enthusiasts. Free and open the public. Meet at the Collins Learning Center, Crossroads, 2041 Michigan St., Sturgeon Bay.


Saturday, February 17

2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Science Saturdays: Ice Harvest

As a part of the Fire & Ice Weekend, Pat Madden, Mike Madden and Dan Hanson will revisit the Sturgeon Bay Ice Harvest using authentic period tools to show how ice was cut and transported. Kids might get a chance to cut ice and to move ice cakes like the ice cutters of yore. Fun and informative for all ages. Dress for the weather. Meet in front of the Collins Learning Center, 2041 Michigan St. Free and open to the public.

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