By Coggin Heeringa, Director, Crossroads at Big Creek
Last weekend at Crossroads, between Leadership Landing (our kayak launch) and the Utah Street Bridge, an otter was fishing in The Cove Estuary. This was hardly surprising. We’ve been seeing these sleek mammals ever since we acquired The Cove Preserve. There, where the water from Big Creek spreads out before flowing into the bay of Sturgeon Bay, is the perfect “fishing hole” for an otter…or for the Great Blue Heron which also was perched beside the bridge.
The Cove Estuary acts like a giant funnel. Any fish entering or leaving Big Creek must pass through the narrow pinch point under the Utah Street Bridge. A predator can just hang out and ambush any fish coming or going.
Muskrats frequent the estuary too, but they are primarily vegetarians. Muskrats have scaly, hairless (rat-like) tails and they sort of “dog-paddle” through the water. In contrast, otters have long, thick furry tales, easily seen as these lithe creatures spring from the water to pounce on their prey.
Back in 2018, when the Leadership Door County class met near the Utah Street Bridge to decide where they would place “Leadership Landing,” I was telling them that it would be more than a kayak launch. It would be an education platform for wildlife watching and I described the thrill of watching fish come in to spawn or hundreds of waterbirds drop in during migration. Almost as an afterthought, I added, “We often see mammals.”
“Like that?” someone asked. We all turned to see several muskrats chewing a path through the cattails.
“No…I think that’s an opossum down there,” the spotter said. And sure enough, there was a possum coming down for a drink. And the group was convinced. It is a great place for wildlife watching.
We are grateful to the Leadership Door County class of 2018 and landing donors for the kayak landing and education platform, which now is easy to access thanks to The Cove’s newly completed driveway and parking lot project.
Sincere thanks for the driveway and parking area improvements go to Cellcom Green Gifts; the Dwight and Linda Davis Foundation; the Green Bay Packers Foundation; the Patrick and Beatrice Haggerty Foundation; the Raibrook Foundation; and the following
funds of the Door County Community Foundation: John and Nell Herlache Community Impact Fund; the Tom and Bev Lisle Fund; the John and Nancy Munch Charitable Fund; and the Green Fund.
A new sign on Utah Street marks the entrance to The Cove Preserve. We encourage visitors to watch wildlife and enjoy the ever changing beauty of The Cove. We can’t guarantee otters or bald eagles or salmon on every visit, but you will undoubtedly see some wildlife.
Part of Crossroads at Big Creek, The Cove Preserve is easy to reach (on Utah Street, just east of the highway in the city of Sturgeon Bay) and admission is free. Visit soon and often.
In response to the recent Door County Public Health Emergency Alert, Crossroads is doing our part to stop community spread by offering only virtual programs or individualized outdoor experiences. Until further notice, the buildings at Crossroads at Big Creek are closed, but the restrooms, trails and our kayak launch (a.k.a. Wildlife Viewing Platform) are open every day, all day. We encourage the community to use our preserves, as always, free of charge, for recreation, for learning and for the physical and mental health benefits of outdoor exercise. Please put on masks when approaching others.
Crossroads at Big Creek Learning Center and Nature Preserve is located at 2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Crossroads is a 501(c)3 organization committed to offering education, conducting research and providing outdoor experiences to inspire environmental stewardship in learners of all ages. We welcome your support! Become a member of Crossroads by mailing your support to P.O. Box 608, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235, or donate online at www.crossroadsatbigcreek.org.