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If you've ever had a yearning for the traditional Door County summer, Kangaroo Lake is what your dreams are made of. White birch, sandy-bottom swimming and trophy walleye are what the north woods and water are famous for. Sailing, wind-surfing, kayaking or bicycling-all have a place at Kangaroo Lake.
Door County, the uncommon peninsula that is home to Kangaroo Lake, is a very special place. This narrow strip of land separates Green Bay from the main body of Lake Michigan in the north eastern section of Wisconsin. Often called the Cape Cod of the Midwest, Door County's name comes from French Voyageurs who called the rough passage between the tip of the peninsula and Washington Island 'Porte des Mort'-or 'Door of the Dead.' In 1851, the Wisconsin Legislature settled on the name Door County for the entire peninsula.
No one seems to be sure how Kangaroo Lake got its name. As early as 1825, Lake Michigan nautical maps showed Cangaroo Lake-it may be a corruption of a local Native American place name. Less than one half mile inland from the shore of Lake Michigan, 1,123-acre Kangaroo Lake was settled early in the 1800s by Scandinavian, Irish and German immigrants who labored at farming and logging. Ice was harvested for sale off the lake in winter. The climate was ideal for orchards, still grown today in the area. Farmers on the west side built a causeway across the northern bay of the lake to shorten their trip to nearby Bailey's Harbor. This causeway is now County Road E.
By the early 1900s, doctors and professionals from the St. Louis area were bringing their families to Kangaroo Lake for the summer. Small summer homes and cottages sprang up around the southern bay of the lake, often to be used only in the summer months. Some of the small resort cottages built early in the century are still standing today, updated and available for rent by the week or the summer. Most development is pleasantly spaced at a distance from other cottages, avoiding the densely-packed lakeshore so common farther south. Echo Island, mid-lake, is in private hands. Recently, timeshare condos have been developed with luxury amenities that bring in a more affluent summer crowd.
Because of the large amount of wetland acreage, substantial areas of the Kangaroo Lake shore have never been developed, leaving vast areas for wildlife, including deer, fox, coyotes and birds of all varieties. The entire shallow north bay around the inlet of Piel Creek is under the protection of the Nature Conservancy. At the south end of the lake near the Heins Creek outlet dam, the Lyle Harter-Matter Sanctuary is a 40-acre natural area that adjoins the Judy Abert Meissner Memorial Wetlands Preserve, a roadless undeveloped wetland. Access is only by foot and provides a fine day trip for bird watching, wildflowers and wetland exploration. An additional six sections of the shoreline are considered protected, no-wake areas to preserve native reeds and aquatic plants. Nearby country roads and trails are available for bicycling and snowmobiling. There is truly space to roam at Kangaroo Lake.
Excellent walleye fishing is an early spring draw to Kangaroo Lake. Several trophy fish have been pulled from the clear spring-fed waters. Northern Pike, Bluegill, Crappie, Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass are also caught, and ice fishing makes Kangaroo Lake a popular winter destination. Most resort cottages are heated and open for business all four seasons. Wisconsin Department of Natural Reseources (DNR) maintains a public launch site on the east side of the lake that will accommodate small and medium-sized boats. Most rental cottages have watercraft provided as there is no local commercial boat rental.
Unlike so many other popular resort lakes, Kangaroo Lake has no commercial development other than rental cottages, and thus maintains its peaceful atmosphere. One restaurant is located on County Road E, and many cottagers meet there for breakfast with friends. The town of Bailey's Harbor is less than five miles to the east by local road and everything a vacationer should want can be had there. Bailey's Harbor works hard at providing seasonal visitors with a varied schedule year-round of festivals,
fairs and local events.
Bailey's Harbor is a popular destination for more adventurous Great Lakes sailors; the marina is well- equipped. Daytrips in the area around Kangaroo Lake abound, from wineries, orchards, campgrounds, nature trails, and even a state-owned golf course at Peninsula State Park ten miles from the lake. As an added special treat, indulge your nostalgia with an evening at the 1950s-style drive-in theater near the State Park entrance. A visit to Bjorklunden, part of Lawrence University, is an interesting side-trip. Bjorklunden is a 435-acre estate which contains a small wooden chapel, Boynton, built between 1939 and 1947 that contains 41 hand painted frescoes. The Door County Visitors Guide, available on-line, contains maps and schedules for a huge number of attractions in Door County, including biking paths, lighthouses and orchards.
Few year-round residents brave the winter at Kangaroo Lake on a regular basis except for the resort cottage owners who are always glad to provide you lodging for hunting, ice fishing and winter sports. Properties are available for sale at surprisingly reasonable price, and local realtors can connect you with either rentals or year-round homes.
So, come to Kangaroo Lake and indulge your childhood dreams of a traditional Door County summer.
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