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Door County, Wisconsin facts for kids

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Door County
Door County Government Center in Sturgeon Bay
Door County Government Center in Sturgeon Bay
Map of Wisconsin highlighting Door County
Location within the U.S. state of Wisconsin
Map of the United States highlighting Wisconsin
Wisconsin's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Wisconsin
Founded 1851
Named for Porte des Morts
Seat Sturgeon Bay
Largest city Sturgeon Bay
 • Total 2,370 sq mi (6,100 km2)
 • Land 482 sq mi (1,250 km2)
 • Water 1,888 sq mi (4,890 km2)  80%
 • Total 30,066
 • Density 12.686/sq mi (4.898/km2)
Demonym(s) Door Countyite
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Area code 920
Congressional district 8th
Wisconsin county code 15
FIPS county code 55029

Door County is the easternmost county in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. As of the 2020 census, the population was 30,066. Its county seat is Sturgeon Bay, making it one of three Wisconsin counties on Lake Michigan not to have a county seat with the same name. Instead it is named after the strait between the Door Peninsula and Washington Island. The dangerous passage, known as Death's Door, contains shipwrecks and was known to Native Americans and early French explorers. The county was created in 1851 and organized in 1861. Door County is a popular Upper Midwest vacation destination. It is home to a small Walloon population.


The Door County peninsula has been inhabited for about 11,000 years. Artifacts from an ancient village site at Nicolet Bay Beach have been dated to about 400 BCE. This site was occupied by various cultures until about 1300 CE.

Door County's namesake came from "Porte des Morte", anglicized as "Death's Door", or the passage between the tip of the Door County Peninsula and Washington Island. It's a common misconception that the name "Death's Door", or "Porte des Morts", arose from the number of shipwrecks associated with the passage. It was instead the result of native-American tales, heard by early French Explorers, related to a failed raid by the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) tribe to capture Washington Island from the rival Pottawatomie tribe in the early 1600s. A storm arose as the war party was halfway across, capsizing and killing about a third of the Ho-Chunk tribe in the process.

The 18th and 19th centuries saw the immigration and settlement of pioneers, mariners, fishermen and farmers, with the first white settler being Increase Claflin. Economic sustenance came from lumbering and tourism.

During the 19th century, various groups of Native Americans occupied the area that would become Door County and its islands. Beginning in mid-century, these Indians, mostly Potawatomi, were removed from the peninsula by the federal government under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Later in the 19th century, a fairly large-scale immigration of Belgian Walloons populated a small region in the county.

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse
Eagle Bluff Lighthouse.
Nicolet Bay Aerial
An aerial photo of Nicolet Bay at Peninsula State Park

A Civilian Conservation Corps camp was established at Peninsula State Park during the Great Depression. In the summer of 1945, Fish Creek was the site of a German POW camp, under an affiliation with a base camp at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. The prisoners engaged in construction projects, cut wood, and picked cherries in Peninsula State Park and the surrounding area. Eagle Bluff Lighthouse was constructed in Peninsula State Park in 1868 on orders from President Andrew Johnson, at a cost of $12,000. It was restored by the Door County Historical Society in 1964, and opened to the public.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,370 square miles (6,100 km2), of which 482 square miles (1,250 km2) is land and 1,888 square miles (4,890 km2) (80%) is water. It is the largest county in Wisconsin by total area. The county also has 298 miles of shoreline. Locals and tourists alike refer to the area as the "Cape Cod of the Midwest". The county covers the majority of the Door Peninsula. With the completion of the Sturgeon Bay Shipping Canal in 1881, the northern half of the peninsula, technically became an island.

Limestone outcroppings of the Niagara Escarpment are visible on both shores of the peninsula, but are larger and more prominent on the Green Bay side as seen at the Bayshore Blufflands. Progressions of dunes have created much of the rest of the shoreline, especially on the easterly side. Flora along the shore provides clear evidence of plant succession. The middle of the peninsula is mostly flat or rolling cultivated land. Soils overlaying the dolomite bedrock are very thin in the northern half of the county; 39% of the County is mapped as having less than three feet (about a meter) to bedrock. Beyond the northern tip of the peninsula, the partially submerged ridge forms a number of islands that stretch to the Garden Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The largest of these islands is Washington Island. Most of these islands form the Town of Washington.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

  • Gravel Island National Wildlife Refuge
  • Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 2,948
1870 4,919 66.9%
1880 11,645 136.7%
1890 15,082 29.5%
1900 17,583 16.6%
1910 18,711 6.4%
1920 19,073 1.9%
1930 18,182 −4.7%
1940 19,095 5.0%
1950 20,870 9.3%
1960 20,685 −0.9%
1970 20,106 −2.8%
1980 25,029 24.5%
1990 25,690 2.6%
2000 27,961 8.8%
2010 27,785 −0.6%
2015 (est.) 27,554 −0.8%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2014
USA Door County, Wisconsin age pyramid
2000 Census Age Pyramid for Door County.

As of the census of 2000, there were 27,961 people, 11,828 households, and 7,995 families residing in the county. The population density was 58 people per square mile (22/km²). There were 19,587 housing units at an average density of 41 per square mile (16/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.84% White, 0.19% Black or African American, 0.65% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.33% from other races, and 0.69% from two or more races. 0.95% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 39.4% were of German and 10.3% Belgian ancestry. A small pocket of Walloon speakers forms the only Walloon-language region outside of Wallonia and its immediate neighbors. Out of a total of 11,828 households, 26.90% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.10% were married couples living together, 6.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.40% were non-families. 28.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.70% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 2.84.

In the county, the population was spread out with 22.10% under the age of 18, 6.10% from 18 to 24, 25.40% from 25 to 44, 27.70% from 45 to 64, and 18.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 97.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.50 males.


Door County Fairgrounds.
Cherry tree.
DoorCountyWI FishBoilPlatter
Fish Boil platter.

Although Door County has a year-round population of about 28,000, it experiences a tourist explosion each summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Most businesses are targeted to visitors and close during the off-season. In the summer, the population of Door County can reach as high as 250,000. The majority of tourists and summer residents come from the metropolitan areas of Milwaukee, Chicago, Madison, Green Bay, and the Twin Cities. The area has been called "the Cape Cod of the Midwest".

Door County is home to five state parks: Newport State Park, northeast of Ellison Bay; Peninsula State Park, along more than 6 miles (10 km) of the Green Bay shoreline; Potawatomi State Park, along Sturgeon Bay; Rock Island State Park, off the tip of the Door Peninsula; and Whitefish Dunes State Park, along Lake Michigan.

Door County has 10 lighthouses. Most were built during the 19th century and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places: Baileys Harbor Range Lights; Cana Island Lighthouse; Chambers Island Lighthouse; Eagle Bluff Lighthouse; Pilot Island Lighthouse; Plum Island Range Lights; Pottawatomie Lighthouse; and Sturgeon Bay Canal Lighthouse. The other lighthouses in the county are: Baileys Harbor Lighthouse; Sherwood Point Lighthouse; and the Sturgeon Bay Canal North Pierhead Light.

Fish boils, offered at many Door County restaurants, are a popular meal for tourists.

Door County has a history of cherry growing that dates back to the 19th century. Many of the cherry orchards offer "pick your own cherries", along with more traditional pre-picked containers. Cherry and apple stands can be found along many of Door County's country roads when in season.

Door County has eight wineries, Tasting rooms, three microbreweries, a distillery, and a French-style cider house.



According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), in 2021 Door County had 1,270 miles (2,040 km) of roadways. In county figures for 2007 there were 1,455 named roads in the county. In 2013 there were 588 lane miles (946 lane km) of county trunk highways, 1,743 lane miles (2,805 lane km) of local roads, and 268 lane miles (431 lane km) of state highways. In WisDOT figures for 2018, there were 102 miles (164 km) of state highways, 296 miles (476 km) of county highways, and 872 miles (1,403 km) of local roads.

Altogether, the county's roadways account for 1.10% of Wisconsin's 115,751 miles of public roadway. The county's roadways saw 501 million miles of vehicle travel in 2019, which was 0.43% of the 115.7 billion miles driven statewide that year. The highest volumes of traffic in the county occur on WIS 42/WIS 57 from the junction of the separated highways in Nasewaupee to the bridge over the bay. From 2014 through 2017, fatalities and serious injuries especially occurred on the western side of the peninsula between the bay of Sturgeon Bay and Egg Harbor. From 2018 through 2020, crashes involving injuries or fatalities peaked in the month of July, on Saturdays, and between 3:00 PM and 4:00 PM.

WIS 57 in March (here concurrent with the Door County National Scenic Byway)
WIS 42 near Gills Rock in October

The combined WIS 42/WIS 57 separates again at a junction in Sevastapol. Following this separation, WIS 42 continues along the western side of the peninsula and sees more traffic than WIS 57, which continues along the eastern side. The two highways combine again at a junction in Liberty Grove.

  • Wisconsin Highway 42 (WIS 42)
  • Wisconsin Highway 57 (WIS 57)
  • Door County Coastal Byway (WIS 42 and WIS 57) north of Sturgeon Bay to Northport is classified as a Wisconsin Scenic Byway and National Scenic Byway.

There are five rustic roads in the county. In addition to state-recognized rustic roads, Liberty Grove manages a heritage roads program. As of 2019 there were 12 heritage roads in the town.

There are 230.8 miles (371.4 km) of snowmobile trails, which are opened as trails are groomed.


  • The Ahnapee State Trail connects Sturgeon Bay to Kewaunee, winter snowmobile access is dependent on weather and trail grooming. Although the Ice Age Trail coincides with most of the Ahnapee State Trail, the Ice Age Trail forks away in the City of Sturgeon Bay and reaches its northern terminus at Potawatomi State Park. Mountain bike trails are located in three of the state parks.
  • WIS 42 and WIS 57 are part of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour.
  • Egg Harbor operates a free public bicycle-sharing system, limited to daylight hours within the village during the tourist season.

Bridges across Sturgeon Bay

  • Sturgeon Bay Bridge, (also called Michigan Street Bridge) (11.5 feet [3.5 m] clearance, overhead-truss, Scherzer-type, double-leaf, rolling-lift bascule)
  • Oregon Street Bridge (reinforced concrete slab, rolling lift bascule girder with mechanical driven center locks)
  • Bayview Bridge (monolithic concrete placed on structural deck with steel girder superstructure, open grating on deck, bascule)

Ground transportation

A daily private shuttle service operates between Green Bay–Austin Straubel International Airport and Sturgeon Bay. The nearest intercity bus stop with regular service is in Green Bay. There are multiple private and public ground transportation services within the county, but none with regularly scheduled stops for the general public.


There are eleven airports in the county, including private or semi-public airports.

  • Door County Cherryland Airport (KSUE), medium general aviation, public use, three miles (4.8 km) west of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
  • Ephraim–Gibraltar Airport (3D2), small general aviation, public use, one mile (1.6 km) southwest of Ephraim, Wisconsin
  • Washington Island Airport (2P2), small general aviation, public use
  • Crispy Cedars Airport, Brussels (7WI8), private, but open to visitors with advance notice
  • Door County Memorial Hospital Heliport, allows for air ambulance service to the hospital from remote areas of the county and for flying patients to Green Bay.
  • Chambers Island Airport, private
  • Five other small airports
Ferry Robert Noble serving Washington Island and Northport



  • Washington Island is served by two ferry routes operating between the Door Peninsula and Detroit Harbor. One route is a 30-minute ride on a freight, automobile, and passenger ferry that departs from the Northport Pier at the northern terminus of WIS 42. This ferry makes approximately 225,000 trips per year. Another route is a 20- minute ride on a passenger-only ferry which departs from the unincorporated community of Gills Rock.
  • Rock Island State Park is reachable by the passenger ferry Karfi from Washington Island. During winter Rock Island is potentially accessible via snowmobile and foot traffic.
  • Although Chambers Island has no regularly scheduled ferry, there are boat operators which transport people to the island on call from Fish Creek.

Boat ramps and marinas

  • There are 30 public boat access sites in the county. The Lake Michigan State Water Trail follows most county shorelines.


Door county, wisconsin, 1895
Door County, Wisconsin from the 1895 U.S. Atlas.




Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities


Door County's economy is considered a "forestry-related tourism"-based economy. In 2020, the total gross domestic product (GDP) of the county was $1.39 billion, with the $274 million manufacturing industry overtaking real estate and rental and leasing that year to become the leading industry in the county at 19.7% of the overall GDP.

Notable people

  • Robert C. Bassett (1911–2000), U.S. presidential advisor
  • Jule Berndt (1924–1997), pastor
  • Norbert Blei (1935–2013), writer
  • Gene Brabender (1941–1996), baseball player
  • Hans Christian (born 1960), musician
  • Jessie Kalmbach Chase (1879–1970), painter
  • Eddie Cochems (1877–1953), "Father of the Forward Pass"
  • Erik Cordier (born 1986), baseball player
  • Katherine Whitney Curtis (1897–1980), originator of synchronized swimming
  • Mary Maples Dunn (1931–2017), historian
  • John Fetzer (1840–1900), mill owner, Wisconsin State Senator
  • Jim Flanigan (born 1971), football player
  • Lou Goss (born 1987), racecar driver
  • Chris Greisen (born 1976), Milwaukee Iron quarterback (AFL)
  • Nick Greisen (born 1979), Denver Broncos linebacker (NFL)
  • Stuart Hagmann (born 1942), film and television director
  • Bernard Hahn (1860–1931), Wisconsin State Representative, hotel and opera house owner, arsonist
  • Arthur G. Hansen (1925–2010), engineer, university president and chancellor.
  • Hjalmar Holand (1872–1963), historian
  • Jens Jensen (1860–1951), landscape architect
  • M. J. Jischke (born 1885), butcher, postmaster
  • Al Johnson, (born 1979), football player
  • Ben Johnson (born 1980), football player
  • Bill Jorgenson (1930 – 2007), bluegrass musician
  • Al C. Kalmbach (1910–1981), publisher
  • Henry Killilea (1863–1929), helped found American League
  • Curly Lambeau (1898–1965), football player and coach
  • Doug Larson (1926–2017), newspaper writer
  • Lester Leitl (1899–1980), football player and coach
  • Pat MacDonald (born 1952), once part of Timbuk 3, runs Steel Bridge Songfest
  • Amy McKenzie (born 1959), producer/director
  • Edward S. Minor (1840–1924), U.S. Representative
  • Alex Meunier (1897–1983), teacher, orchardist, Wisconsin State Senator
  • Conrad P. Olson (1882–1952), Oregon Supreme Court justice
  • Sigurd F. Olson (1899–1982), wilderness guide
  • Alexander Noble (1829–1905), town official in Fish Creek
  • Charles L. Peterson, (born 1927), painter
  • Casey Rabach (born 1977), Washington Redskins center (NFL)
  • David M. Raup (1933–2015), paleontologist
  • Hugh M. Raup (1901–1995), ecologist
  • Dennis A. Reed (born 1822), Wisconsin State Representative, Civil War lieutenant
  • Charles Reynolds (1839–1914), Wisconsin State Representative, Civil War captain
  • Thomas Reynolds (1840–1919), Wisconsin State Representative, patriarch of Wisconsin political dynasty
  • Jack Ritchie (1922–1983), writer of detective fiction
  • Hallie H. Rowe (1896–1992), sheriff, Wisconsin State Assemblyman
  • Paul J. Schlise (born 1966), U.S. Navy admiral
  • John Shinners (born 1947), football player
  • Paul Sills (1927–2008), director, improvisation teacher
  • Allen Thiele (1940–2017), Coast Guard officer
  • Chester Thordarson (1867–1945), inventor, erected buildings on Rock Island
  • Emma Toft (1891–1982), resort owner
  • Madeline Tourtelot (1915–2002), artist, founder of the Peninsula School of Art
  • James Valcq (born 1963), writer of musicals
  • Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929), economist
  • Richard Warch (1939–2013), president of Lawrence University
  • Lloyd Wasserbach (1921–1949), football player
  • Charles Mitchell Whiteside (1854–1924), helped merge Sawyer and Sturgeon Bay
  • Randy Wright (born 1961), Green Bay Packers quarterback (NFL)
  • Albert Zahn (1894–1953), folk artist known as the birdman

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