Patrick O’Connell of Sturgeon Bay paddles in the Mink River estuary. Submitted.
A green lesson or three accompanies this guide’s hike or kayak
Patrick O’Connell of Sturgeon Bay combines a hobby and passion with rewarding work, and while there he shares lessons about the environment and nature with visitors and outdoor enthusiasts.
When leading treks in his informal group Door County Outside, or guiding kayakers for the Peninsula Kayak Company, he shares lessons from his natural science training so that hikers and paddlers can help protect natural treasures. County of Door and prevent the spread of non-native plants.
“I run hikes for exercise, but I usually give people some basic information about what they’re looking at – mostly geology and plants, not much about birds or animals,” O ‘said Connell.
For example, on several hikes on the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula, he talks to hikers about the boreal forests of Door County, which are some of the southernmost in the United States. Lake Michigan keeps summers cool enough to suit the white pine, spruce, and balsam fir that thrive in these areas, as well as larch and white cedar in lowlands and wetlands. These patches of forest are also suitable for migratory birds that are not normally common in Wisconsin.
O’Connell said his two favorite places to visit and hike are the Ahnapee Trail and the Logan Creek area, where he has seen otters, waterfowl, green herons, great blue herons, Cedar waxwings, the endangered emerald green dragonfly and more.
He said that while the Ahnapee Trail is not surrounded by pristine forests and wetlands, he appreciates the scenery and the variety of things he sees along the way. This includes many sandhill cranes, occasional otters in water-filled ditches and, he says, a rare whooping crane. He said that upon seeing the large whooping crane, he called the International Crane Foundation in the Baraboo area to check for identification marks and ask if it was possible to travel to Door County. He was told it was certainly possible.
O’Connell and other guides from the Peninsula Kayak Company often depart from Mr. G’s home to lead groups along Logan Creek to Clark Lake. He recently expressed concern about the threat of an aquatic feathered weed, Eurasian Watermilfoil (EWM), spreading from Clark Lake to Logan Creek. Boaters are reminded of the importance of thoroughly cleaning their boats, canoes and kayaks before moving them from one body of water to another to prevent the spread of invasive species such as EWM.
Door County Invasive Species Team Leader Samantha Koyen also expressed concern about EWM, but said two native types of Eurasian Watermilfoil growing in the creek are helping to prevent the spread. upstream of the invasive aquatic plant.
“Logan Creek has native (Eurasian watermilfoil), non-native (Eurasian watermilfoil) and hybrid milfoil,” Koyen wrote in an email. There is also “a lot of very beautiful vegetation. There are prehistoric macroalgae, water celery (an important submerged plant for ducks), several types of pond weeds, and several different types of emergent vegetation. All of this seems to thrive in the area where Clark Lake and Logan Creek meet (based on observations from a recent site visit in July 2021). “
Koyen said native species perform important ecological functions as fish habitat or waterfowl food, but they also grow so densely that canoeing or kayaking is difficult. Yet it also means that the natives make it difficult for the invaders to take control.
“One of the best ways to control Eurasian Watermilfoil is to allow native vegetation to remain established,” she said.
In addition to nature and recreational kayaking tours, O’Connell provides kayaking instruction and leadership for a historic tour of Ephraim Historical Society every other Friday.
O’Connell lived in the San Francisco area before moving to Door County a few years ago.
“My mother already lived here [Sturgeon Bay], and coming to Door County was a chance to remake me, ”O’Connell wrote in an email. “It’s full of charm, friendly people and outdoor recreation opportunities. It was a landscape that I knew and there was water everywhere.