Peninsula State Park

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Peninsula State Park is a Wisconsin State Park located in Door County. It is the 3rd largest park in the state, and as you can imagine, it is a very popular park. The park was established in 1909 and has 3,776 acres. Some people describe the park as a visual paradise. Thousands of people come to the park year-round to enjoy a number of recreational activities. Other things people can enjoy are golf, an outdoor musical theater, camping and the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, among other attractions. [1] This area, the Door Peninsula, is well known for its scenic beauty. It has a combination of rugged shorelines, bays, sand beaches, woodlands and small towns that makes the area very appealing to many people of all ages. All of these activities and events, along with the culture, makes the area one of the most attractive vacation spots in the Midwest.[2] Everything was not always perfect for the park. In the beginning, people had complaints about some things. In fact, there were several columns written that referred to conditions at Peninsula State Park. In “The State Parks of Wisconsin,” it was written that, “Our state parks do not serve their true purpose and their responsibility to humanity….tourist money was being “used to destroy our parks and sanctuaries with roads and more roads…” [3] Clearly some people were not big fans of roads being built throughout the park because, according to them, roads were destroying the land.

Early Days

The Legislature of 1907 created Wisconsin’s first State Park Board. This Board talked to landscape architect John Nolen in order to get recommended areas of Wisconsin for inclusion in a State park system. Nolen's recommendation to that Board included, the Dells of the Wisconsin River, the Devil’s Lake region, the lands in Grant County near Wyalusing and the lands in Door County near Fish Creek. The Board reported to Governor Davidson in favor of establishing a State park system. After all the hard work, in 1910, Peninsula State Park was established and acquired by the State. Development of the park started soon after the purchase of the park and then camping areas were designated for the people to enjoy. Camping was originally free, but later a 50 cents per day or $5.00 per year fee was established. The park golf course was constructed soon after the park was established. It was started by a group of businessmen as a nine-hole course only. Later the course was expanded to eighteen holes. During the 1920s and 30s, Peninsula State Park was actually the location of the State’s first game farm. During the depression years, a Civilian Conservation Corps camp was established at the park. These CCC men built a lot of things for the park, some of which were hiking trails, stone fences, towers and many of the stone buildings found in the park today. During the summer of 1945, a German prisoner of war camp was located in Fish Creek. Prisoners did many different jobs, most of them not exactly fun. Some of these jobs were wood cutting, cherry picking in the park and construction jobs. A Private girl’s camp, known as Camp Meenahga, was open and operating in the park in the 1920s and 30s as well. Girls came from all over the country for a fun summer. Some of the activities the girls participated in included ballet, canoeing and horseback riding. A sawmill was also located in the park from about 1920 to 1961. Dead and diseased trees, as well as trees blown down by the wind, were cut up and then that lumber was used in many Wisconsin State Parks.[4] Park use has grew steadily over the years. In 1935, when records were first kept, the park had 66,579 visitors. By 1965, the attendance had grown to 597,794. This jump was massive, and it only got bigger from there. By 1979, the annual attendance was 1,226,774, making Peninsula the second most heavily used State park.[5]

Present Day

Considered Wisconsin's most complete park, Peninsula State Park has a lot to offer its visitors. To begin with, the Park offers 468 campsites as well as three group camps. There is plenty more to do though than just camping. There is a summer theater to watch movies, a sand beach, bike trails, a lighthouse, and eight miles of Door County shoreline. Finally, the park even has an 18-hole golf course. To further emphasize the popularity of the park, there was a poll about parks in Wisconsin. During the centennial celebration of Wisconsin's state parks, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel polled its readers regarding their favorite park. It came as no surprise that Peninsula was chosen by an overwhelming margin.[6]

Present Day Details

In the early 1980s, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources decided to change things up. The DNR turned over course operations to a nonprofit corporation, the Peninsula Golf Association (PGA). The PGA hired the course’s first professional greens keeper, which helped keep the golf course in great shape. The PGA also continued the long tradition of annual improvements to the golf course. Thanks to their dedication and financial management, Peninsula State Park remains one of Wisconsin’s most scenic and popular golf courses.[7] The premier cultural icon in Peninsula Park is the lighthouse. The lighthouse has been on its high bluff-top setting since 1868. The lighthouse measures out to be twenty six by thirty feet. It has a roof with decorative ties at its peak; vertical posts extended through its roof, which results in peakes above the ridge. [8] Peninsula State Park has a movie theater that people can enjoy in the summertime as well. Campers at the park receive a 30 percent discount to all Northern Sky summer shows. The people only receive the discount when they check in at the park office. This discount card obviously means that the prices for everybody is low. For example, prices for kids 3 through 12 is only $4.00, $8.00 for students and $15.00 for adults.

Future Plans(Eagle Tower)

Eagle Tower is an observation tower at Peninsula State Park, but there are some issues with it. Due to the length of time the tower has been up, it's structure has begun to fail. In fact, it is currently closed to the public for safety reasons. For decades the Eagle Tower has stood in Peninsula State Park. People who made the 75-foot climb ended up with beautiful and incredible views of the Bay of Green Bay. "It basically outlines the fact the structural integrity of the structure has failed and we need to close it for safety concerns and take it down," said Missy Vanlanduyt, DNR capital development coordinator. "That it's not worth rebuilding.” Vanlanduyt was not the only one who had comments about the tower. "It's over 80-years old, worn out at the end of its life expectancy," said Jerry Leiterman, a DNR supervisor with the Bureau of Parks and Recreation. [9] These statements have created a lot of discussion about the tower and whether or not it should be fixed or if it should be torn down.


  1. Lysa Allman-Baldwin, “Door County Wisconsin,” New Amsterdam News, Jan. 2010, 24.
  2. “Peninsula State Park: Master Plan Concept Elements,” (Wisconsin: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 1980), 1.
  3. William H. Tishler, Door County’s Emerald Treasure: A History of Peninsula State Park (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006), 192.
  4. Peninsula State Park 2.
  5. Peninsula State Park, 3.
  6. Tishler, Door County, xiii.
  7. Tishler, Door County, 140.
  8. Tishler, Door County, 45.
  9. Kris Schuller, “Engineer’s Report: Tear Down Eagle Tower in Peninsula State Park,” WFRV News, June 2015.

External Links

1. (Park website)

2. (Park Map)

Article History