Watershed for Gardens at Waters East
The easy definition of a watershed is: the area of land where all the water that is under it or drains off of it goes to a shared destination. In the case of Gardens at Waters East. Lake Michigan is that destination.
All gardens exist within a watershed. And, all gardeners know the vital importance of watershed areas. If the watershed is healthy, all life there stays a little more healthy. What is done on the surface in our gardens and surrounding areas can impact what ends up being in that final watershed destination. Gardeners know the importance of good stewardship for the patch of land where they live. They know too that what they do on their land will effect the health and well being of all who depend on the quality of the area’s watershed.
Gardens at Waters East is located in the state of Wisconsin where there exist more than 12,600 rivers and streams that travel a total of 44,000 miles. More than 32,000 of those miles are perennial streams. There are 2,700 trout streams covering 10,370 miles. There are more than 15,000 lakes, 5.3 million acres of wetlands, 1.2 guadrillion gallons of groundwater. All this forms two different watersheds which drain either into the Great Lakes (and for Gardens at Waters East specifically Lake Michigan), or the Mississippi River which itself eventually drains into the Gulf of Mexico. Wisconsin is blessed with such an abundance of water as a natural resource. The best of gardeners realize the responsibilities they have to care for the health and well being of the watershed where they live.
The photos in this posting are of some of the very near rivers and creeks that are part of the immediate watershed environment of Gardens at Waters East. The two large rivers ( The Kewaunee River and The Ahnapee River) and the two creeks (Three Mile Creek and Mashek Creek) are within walking distance of Gardens at Waters East. These all flow directly into Lake Michigan which itself is one of the five Great Lakes which together contained 20% of all the fresh water on Earth. Many past and future postings often showed and will continue to show Lake Michigan as a “backdrop” to garden pictures. This is done to remind all visitors to the gardens not only of the beauty here, but also of the importance that Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes have for all life in this area.
As they say - - “Come on in the water is fine”
This posting is of Toft Point in Door County
an hour north of the gardens.
This September I took a drive to Toft Point which is about one hour north of Gardens at Waters East. An absolutely quite and undeveloped area of natural beauty. As close as it is, I had never been there to hike the trail and marvel at the beauty of a “long ago” cherished piece of unspoiled land, a nature lover’s delight.
Toft Point contains several outstanding native plant communities concentrated on a 1-mile-wide peninsula along Door County’s Lake Michigan coast. The natural area is bordered on the north by Moonlight Bay, and on the south by Baileys Harbor. There are more than two miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, with areas of wave- cut dolomite cliffs. Stretches of limestone cobble beach, mixed with marl soil, are exposed during periods of low lake levels. The natural area provides habitat for more than 440 vascular plant species and one of the most diverse bryophyte (mosses and liverworts) floras in the state. Toft Point, along with the adjacent Ridges Sanctuary, contains many area- sensitive bird species including seventeen species of nesting warblers. The site is named for Kersten Toft who received the land as compensation for his work at a limestone quarry nearby. Remaining on site is an historic kiln, which is the state’s best intact example of the early circular kilns.
Thomas Jensen, and two of his brothers arrived in Racine from their home in Denmark in 1863, they discovered that their last name, Jensen, was very common. Wanting to stand out from the crowd, they changed it to Toft, a name common in the area from which they had come. The newly christened Thomas Kresten Toft was 19 years old. For two years, he and his brothers worked in the pineries near Racine. Next, they bought a farm in Minnesota, but by 1871, Tom had sold his interest in the farm and moved to Door County, where he worked as foreman for the Buckley and Wing Stone Company with a quarry at the Point on Mud Bay (now known as Toft Point).
When the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal opened in the 1880s, the Laurie Quarry in Sturgeon Bay became a less dangerous place to load stone, and the quarry at the Point was soon out of business. Thomas Toft acquired some of the land from the company in lieu of owed wages and purchased more at a sheriff’s sale and from individuals. Sam, Lucy and Emma Toft were born at the Point. They grew up in the woods and water with their older siblings, doing farm chores and walking two-and-a-half miles to school in Baileys Harbor. When it snowed, their Newfoundland dog pulled them to the village on a sled made by their father
The Toft children and grandchildren banded together to ensure that the unspoiled corner of Door County their family had protected for generations would forever remain in a pristine state. The property was sold to The Nature Conservancy in 1967, with life tenancy given to Emma. Today Toft Point is owned by the Wisconsin Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. The site is recognized by the National Park Service as a National Natural Landmark and was designated a State Natural Area in 1967.