A “Crash Course” in Door County Geological History at Cave Point County Park

Door County, Wisconsin is often called the “Cape Cod of the Midwest.” Famous for its stunning views, numerous state parks, and story-book small towns, it is no wonder this peninsula is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Midwest. I am fortunate to have grown up in Door County and visit it often when I return from college. I look forward to sharing the many natural and historical wonders of this special place.

One of the most popular destinations for tourists and residents alike is Cave Point County Park, which is just south of Jacksonport. A favorite spot for picnics and photo ops, Cave Point seems to be first on every travelers’ Door County bucket list.


picture: Michaela Kraft


In our technology-fueled times, sometimes it is difficult to comprehend how old popular natural wonders can be. In fact, the history of Cave Point can be traced back millions of years (410-440 million to be exact), to a period when the waters of Door County were not freshwater lakes but a large tropical sea near what was then the equator, a time known as the Silurian period. Even though time has changed the climate and geological features, there is still evidence to be found of this ancient ocean- even at Cave Point one may find fossils of organisms that roamed the Earth long ago. Standing on the shore, one is free to imagine what it may have looked like during warmer times.

Today, the Door Peninsula has morphed into what is called a “Cuesta”, or a unique geographical feature with a sharp cliff on one side and a soft slope on the other. Cave Point is an example of the cliff, though the signature underwater caves and large inlet are results of the millions of years of erosion by the waves constantly crashing into the thick limestone, wearing it away into silt. The waves can spray up to thirty feet in the air, and in the winter leave stunning ice formations on the rocks and cedar trees above. (Some of these trees are over 1,000 years old!)

Cave Point is also a part of the famous Niagara Escarpment, which runs all the way from the state of New York, through Wisconsin, and into northern Illinois. By viewing the cliffs here you are gazing back millions of years into the formation of that escarpment, a history that is ever-evolving as the waves continuously batter the rocks.

Fun Fact: The Niagara Escarpment is best known (and most photographed) as the cliff which forms Niagara Falls. So if you aren’t able to make the trip out east, you’ll be able to see part of the same formation right here in the Midwest.


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By visiting Cave Point, you are able watch history in the making!

Another fascinating geological feature of Cave Point is the dense dolomite shelf that extends outwards under the water, for over a quarter mile. Much of it is visible and visitors are able to walk on it along the shore. In the common world, dolomite is taken as a calcium and magnesium supplement.

The area surrounding Cave Point has been inhabited by humans for nearly the past 14,000 years.  It has long been favorable for settlement due to its abundance of fishing opportunities and access to the possibilities for travel that Lake Michigan provides. There is evidence of eight separate human occupations in the area that range from 600 BC to the late 1800s. Thousands of human stories have played out beside the waves.

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Though Cave Point is one of the most picture-worthy places in the County, visitors often miss out because as the title indicates, it is neither a state or national park, but a county park. It was established in 1943 as the fifth county park in Door County (the county now has 19), and boasts picnic tables, grills, a gazebo, public bathrooms, and numerous trails for visitors to enjoy. Though it may cover a smaller area and have fewer amenities than its state park neighbor Whitefish Dunes, Cave Point has one very valuable advantage over other parks in the area- it’s completely free! Families can hike, enjoy a picnic, or travel the rocky beach, without purchasing an admission ticket.


A popular activity at Cave Point that has gained momentum in recent years is the construction of carins, or piles of stones to mark an important place, along the rocky coast at the park. Often during the peak of summer one may be able to see hundreds of these traditional place markers. Making a carin is an unique way to spend time with family and enjoy the natural beauty of the park, while creating something that does not disturb the natural habitat.

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Cave Point has also been a favorite spot for adventure-seekers for decades. However, take a lesson from the stormy waves and the example of the many shipwrecks in the area that encourage you not to cliff jump. If you don’t want to miss out on an in-depth experience of the site and choose to kayak the area, be sure to go with a cautious, trusted guide.

If you’re looking for some quiet time alone in nature, find a secluded spot along the shore and listen to the water lapping at the rocks while enjoying a book, a snack, or some good company. Cave Point has become an increasingly popular spot among the younger population, and has become known as one of the best places to see the sunset in the county.

Become a part of Door County history and take a hike along the shore at Cave Point County Park! I encourage you to share your stories and pictures in the comments below!

Cave Point County Park: 5360 Schauer Rd, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235. Open most days 6am-11pm. (920) 746-9959

If you’re looking to learn more about the Niagara Escarpment in Door County, I encourage you to read the article below from prominent Door County geologist Roger Kuhns. It provides tons of interesting information and is definitely worth a look.

The Story in the Rocks

*I only own the rights to the first photo. All others are from Google.




Fun and Food From the Past: The Roaring Twenties

JAZZ! SPEAKEASIES! WILD PARTIES! (Welcome to America in the 1920’s)

e1d43f75ebfdac24da0fea4058a94773--berber-anitaThe most surefire way to spark a lifelong interest in a subject is by finding and enjoying that subject as early as possible. History is something that can be incredibly hands on and engaging, but is often encountered for the first time through stuffy textbooks or dry lectures. It had always perplexed me that children were encouraged to experiment and “get their hands dirty” in subjects like the sciences when history was always seen as something to be worked on alone with nothing more than a book and a piece of paper.

But as we all know, history is an ongoing story. It’s passionate and exciting, and is most definitely meant to be hands on. So I had an idea- what if we grabbed all that fun from the past, and brought it into today’s classrooms? This is how I got the idea for the educational initiative “Food and Fun From the Past.”

Often, we only learn the “big” stuff from a particular epoch in human history. Names; dates; major events; battles. But what about leisure time? What about board games? What about snacks? What about dances? I wanted to show the kids what THEY would have been doing at this time, not their parents.

“Fun and Food From the Past” focuses on a particular decade by highlighting FOOD, MUSIC/DANCE, GAMES, and PHOTOS. These topics are explored through stations that allow kids to discover these subjects in a hands on way.

For our very first FAFFTP day, we decided on the 1920’s. With all of the popularity of The Great Gatsby and flapper/jazz culture, the kids would have a wonderful time connecting with this fun and groundbreaking time in American History. This decade also had the added benefit of being nearly 100 years ago.

Since this event was held during the summer months, we brought our activities to our local Boys and Girls Club. And it went wonderfully! Please enjoy some fun facts and pictures from our stations!


The 1920’s were a fun time for food in America! We had just been victorious in WW1, and the rationing of war-time had come to an end. Families decided it was time to celebrate- so they began experimenting in the kitchen. This included ethnic foods, new American recipes, and lots and lots of dishes that included sugar- an American staple denied during the years of the war. You could say Americans developed a serious sweet tooth!

To pay homage to the newfound love of baked goods in America, I decided on a homemade pineapple upside down cake for the food station. I called my great-aunt and got ahold of our family recipe, which happened to date back to the 20’s!

* Note on pineapple upside down cake- originally called a “skillet cake”, pineapple upside down cake has been around far longer than the 1920’s. However, this was when the desert gained popularity. The famous pineaple company Dole (then known as The Hawaiian Pineapple Company) hosted a nationwide competition to encourage the use of their product in American’s recipes. After receiving thousands of entries, the winner was a tasty recipe for none other than pineaple upside down cake. The rest was history!

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Above is my friend Shannon. She goes to school with me and has just spent the summer teaching about the environment to kids at a summer camp near campus. The kids at the Boys and Girls Club LOVED the cake. (This station was definitely a crowd favorite)


Since the war’s end and the advantages in technology, Americans found they had much more idle time in the 1920’s, and became bored quite quickly. They searched for things to fill their time, and turned to fun and games!

The 1920’s is known as the time of American Baseball; games popped up everywhere and anywhere. You could find a pickup game in a farmer’s field on a summer afternoon, or could participate in a rousing game of stickball in the city. Icons like Babe Ruth were household names, and a “trip to the ballgame” was a popular American pastime. We would have loved to play baseball with the kids, but we were given space in a church basement, which was not an ideal place to play such an active game that required so much space.

What we did do was teach the kids another wildly popular American pastime- marbles. Marbles would have been played in nearly every schoolyard, and are still a favorite among collectors of antique items. Marbles were an engaging and exciting way for kids to spend an afternoon, and were versatile. They could be played on any hard surface, and could be played either quietly or with noisy groups of friends. The kids loved learning first hand what someone their age would have done with their spare time. (We even heard some kids planning a game as they left!)


Connor teaches a group of kids how to play marbles.


I had the honor of teaching this station. Since there was no television and radio was just beginning to gain momentum, music was a vital part of people’s lives. Music began a transition from the classical tones of the early 1900’s to the new, wild , and soulful tones of JAZZ. This music was new, exciting, and a little sinful. Louis Armstrong’s “West End Blues” revolutionized the way people thought about music. (Check the bottom of this page for a recording of West End Blues!) Dances like the Charlston were popular, with its message of freedom and improvisational movements. The tempo of America was reaching a fever pitch, and the music of the time definitely reflected that.

Kids who came to this station discussed personal perceptions and characteristics of music in the 1920’s, and were invited to dance to a modern popular song in order to show me their “modern moves.” Afterwards, we all learned the Charlston and had a dance off. The kids were encouraged not to worry over accuracy and focus on letting loose and feeling the tempo of the music.  They were surprised how easy it was once they stopped worrying about the steps!



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Here I am with some of the kids from the FAFFTP day. These three were especially gifted at dancing the Charlston!

*Stay tuned for my post about KIDS RECREATING ICONIC 1920’S PHOTOS!*

West End Blues- Louis Armstrong


(I reserve all rights to Food and Fun From the Past. However, if you would like us to bring it to a place near you, or have suggestions or stories to share, please don’t hesitate to contact me!)

Photo credit- Google Images for historical photos. All photos for FAFFTP were taken by myself or members of my group.