Kayaking in Door County: Garrett Bay

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Garrett Bay lies at the northern tip of the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin (the thumb of the mitten, jutting out into Lake Michigan) just west of where the ferry departs for Washington Island and thus west of “Death’s Door” the passage between that island and the mainland. That passage is also the connection between Lake Michigan and Green Bay. The much smaller Garrett Bay faces north and offers some shelter from winds that might otherwise ruin a day for paddling. The main attraction here is the exposed rock of Door Bluff Headlands County Park. The park/bluff makes of the west side of the bay and is set between Garrett and Ephraim Bays.

The stone we see is the edge of the Niagara Escarpment, an exposed rock layer stretching from New York through Ontario and Lake Huron and all the way down past Door County almost to Chicago.

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Niagara Falls is pounding over the edge at the other end. This dolomite limestone began as layers of sediment over 400 million years ago during the Silurian Age when this area was under the warm Silurian Sea. Hard to imagine that now as we paddle through some rather cold lake water.

The bluff is covered by a healthy forest of cedars and the tenacious roots manage to hang on even as the bluff slowly crumbles beneath them.

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You can also see a shipwreck of a schooner — the 1867 Fleetwing which hit bottom here in 1888 — close to shore at the public put-in point, marked by two white plastic jug-buoys.

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We ditched the canoe for this trip and the folks at Bayshore Outfitters were kind enough to take us out. Canoes are fine out here, but the higher profile can be annoying in the wind. Sea kayaks make a smoother trip. Some trips start over in Ephraim Bay but that’s a longer paddle without much of a gain in scenery. We put in at Garrett Bay and did this as an out-and-back.

Map of Garrett Bay

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