• Keep an eye out on our trails for cicada, dragonflies, and so much more!

What’s Happening: Understanding Estuaries

Crossroads at Big Creek will host a special Fish Tales Lecture at 7:00pm on Thursday,  March 14 . Dr. Emily Tyner, Director of Freshwater Strategy – UWGBwill present “Research, monitoring, and outreach opportunities with a Bay of Green Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.” 

When Governor Evers requested the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) to establish a National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) on the bay of Green Bay in 2019, it started a designation process that now includes natural areas in Sturgeon Bay.

The properties of Crossroads at Big Creek, the Door County Land Trust Ship Canal Preserve, and the Strawberry Creek properties of the Wisconsin DNR combined as one of the four natural areas requested by the Governor to be included in a Green Bay NERR Natural Areas. The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has been the lead state agency coordinating the designation process.

What Are Estuaries?

So, what is an estuary and why does it merit protection? And why are we at Crossroads so committed to be good stewards of our Cove Estuary Preserve? 

Most people think of an estuary as “a dynamic ecosystem having a connection to the open sea through which the sea enters with the rhythm of the tides” and that definition is accurate for most of the coastal NERR sanctuaries. But The Great Lakes do not have salt water. Lake Michigan does not have tides.

Or do they? Studies have shown that the Great Lakes do experience a tidal pattern twice a day, during which the water level changes. But this change is really tiny- only several inches during the largest tide.  These minor height changes are often obliterated by water level fluctuations caused by weather related factors such as wind, rain, air pressure and water currents.  As a result, the Great Lakes are generally considered “non-tidal”.

The freshwater estuaries of the Great Lakes offer unique combinations of ground water, rivers or streams and lake water.  In these places,   waters meet and mix. Consequently,  estuaries  offer unique and varied habitats to countless creatures.

We at Crossroads knew that The Cove Estuary was special way back when we were still a school forest, but at that time did not have the funds to purchase the land. 

The Cove Estuary

Fortunately, in 2015, using individual donations and grant funding, we were able to purchase the 9- acre parcel that we now call The Cove Estuary Preserve. At that time, our goal was to protect the water of the estuary so pike, suckers and other fish could continue to spawn in Big Creek.

The Cove Estuary Preserve does not have a formalized trail network. It includes a variety of  of habitats including a sedge meadow, riparian forest, shrub car wetlands, and so much more. 

We knew that waterfowl used The Cove during migration and were pleased to learn that is was  designated as “a stopover of significance” in the Wisconsin DNR Migratory Bird Conservation Plan.

Bright Activities Ahead

Crossroads at Big Creek is now on the verge of receiving a national focus as part of the NERR system.  Please join us on March 14th at 7:00pm to hear Emily Tyner explain how these new federal programs will benefit The Cove Estuary which we steward, and of the additional community benefits it will bring.

With the recent warm up Crossroads is excited to announce another season of its wetland monitoring program. On Saturday, March 9, from 9:00 to 11:00,  Crossroads will offer a training session for volunteers who wish to help monitor the health of our wetlands. Please visit the Crossroads website for details.

Both the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society and the Crossroads Family Program:  Saturday Science will be looking at the Sun this week.  Wait—we all know better than to look at the Sun. (Don’t fry your eyes) . But during Science Saturday, families will explore how storms on the Sun (which are becoming more numerous) can result in Northern Lights. And the lecture at the DPAS monthly meeting on will be on safely “Observing the Sun through a Telescope” presented by Jim Gallt.

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, March 6

6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Unlocking the Mysteries of Migration with the Motus Wildlife Tracking System

For our migratory species, we must learn as much as we can to focus conservation where it’s needed most. Door County Land Trust hosts a Motus receiving station on the Domer-Neff Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary on Washington Island that collects data for research in partnership with the Lake Michigan Bird Observatory (LMBO).

LMBO’s project involves many partners in addition to the Land Trust, including The Ridges Sanctuary and Crossroads at Big Creek. Join DCLT’s Community Conservation Coordinator, Paige Witek, to learn more about the Motus Wildlife Tracking System and how it is unlocking mysteries about the lives of some of the smallest migratory animals.

Register with the Door County Land Trust here to get the zoom link

Saturday, March 9

9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Community Wetland Survey Team: Field Training

Join our team as we monitor the health of our wetlands to better inform our management practices and share the importance of wetlands with our community.

This field training day will cover the details of the surveys for new volunteers and serve as a refresher for volunteers who helped last year.

We will be discussing survey sites, protocols, equipment, and resources for volunteers as well as assigning teams to their sites.  If this is something that interests you, or you have questions about the project, please contact for more information.

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Science Saturdays: Auroras

This free family program is age-appropriate for elementary aged students, but learners of all ages are welcome to explore, through videos and hands-on demonstrations, how northern lights are created. Meet in the lab of the Collins Learning Center, Crossroads at Big Creek 2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay

Tuesday, March 12

7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Monthly Meeting of the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society

Visitors are always welcome at DPAS Meetings. The program will focus on safely “Observing the Sun with a Telescope”. Meetings are held at the Ray and Ruthie Stonecipher Astronomy Center, 2200 Utah Street, Sturgeon Bay.

Thursday, March 14

7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Fish Tales: Research, monitoring, and more with the Green Bay NERR

Dr. Emily Tyner, Director of Freshwater Science at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, will present “Research, monitoring, and outreach opportunities with a Bay of Green Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR).”

Join us in-person at Crossroads at Big Creek.  To participate via ZOOM or Facebook Live, go to to find the link. Collin Learning Center. Crossroads at Big Creek 2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay, WI, United States

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