Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve
“An ecological jewel”
Just a tad south of Port Washington is the Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve, technically in Grafton, but on the lake shore. It represents one of the last stretches of undeveloped bluff land along the Lake Michigan shoreline. It boasts over 0.5 miles of 90- to 100- foot bluffs looking out at Lake Michigan.
Kenneth Casper describes the Lion’s Den this way:
“Lion's Den, as it is now called, is a 73 acre natural area set along the slumping bluffs of Lake Michigan. It features pristine wetlands, monumental bluffs and cliffsides, a pond, a salmon spawning stream, a deep and verdant ravine, cedar groves, a few miles of shallow beach front, and about 3 miles of wide and groomed hiking trails.”
Ozaukee County describes the Lion’s Den this way:
“Diverse grassland, wet meadow, woodland, wetland, and bluff habitats, along with a spectacular Lake Michigan view and public access to the Lake Michigan shoreline, make this 73-acre county property ideal for passive recreational use and birding.
During peak spring migration, over 20 species of warblers can be found within a short walk from the parking lot. The boardwalks offer views of species such as Rails, Least Bittern, Green Heron, Piedbilled Grebe, Ring-necked and Wood Duck.
“The 100-foot bluff-top and approximately one mile of shoreline provide a great vantage point for viewing loons, herons, and other waterfowl, as well as spring and fall raptor migration. Lion’s Den Gorge offers visitors the opportunity to experience the true natural beauty of the area. The park is a prototype for the planning and implementation of “nature preserves” within the County Park System that respects local ecology. In order to maintain the diverse native vegetation representing a more northern affinity forest, deer hunting is allowed by permit in the fall.”
I did not take this photo from the lake. It was presented by Wisconsin Public Radio and was courtesy to it by Luke Zoet of University of Wisconsin–Madison. It told a story about how high water levels are eroding the shoreline and steepening the bluff.
So much of Wisconsin’s landscape was formed by the Wisconsin Glaciation. So too the Lion’s Den. The retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier left hills of glacial deposits which in some cases rise to 300 ft. The continuous pounding of the shore then carved out the bluffs found at the Lion’s Den. Inland just a bit you will find wetlands.