Fern Trail

Fern Trail is one of the most beloved trails at Newport. It is a flat, relatively short, interpretive loop trail which makes it a great destination for families with children, park visitors with mobility challenges, or anyone who wants to learn more about northern Door forest habit.

The trail traverses a section of wetland which often floods in late spring/early summer…which would cut off accessibility to the trail for 2 to 3 months every year. In 2021, NWS decided to remedy this situation. We removed the ground-level boardwalk sections and constructed a 1,800-foot elevated boardwalk through this section of the trail. The bulk of this infrastructure project was completed by November 2023.

For more details about this project, see this page.

Many thanks to every NWS member, volunteer, donor, and friend who helped support and build the Fern Trail boardwalk.

Nov 2021: Deconstructing the old ground-level board sections
Oct 2022: installing decking on the first 600′ of new boardwalk
Oct 2023: placing the final deck board is celebrated

Fern Trail Through the Years

Fern Trail in summer (before construction of elevated boardwalk in 2022/2023)
Fern Trail; photo courtesy Melody Walsh

In September 2011, a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the installation of seven interpretive display stations along the 1.2-mile Fern Trail. It had been the long-time vision of then-Park Naturalist Julie Hein to expand the already accessible features of the trail…a 4 to 5-foot wide crushed limestone path with four ground-level sections of boardwalk.

The interpretive stations include visual, auditory and tactile displays. They describe elements of the various ecosystems along the trail: the microhabitat that supports the growth of Ostrich Ferns, the geologic history of the park forests, the importance of dark skies, the importance of snags and the natural decomposition of trees, facts about birds that reside in the park.

To enjoy the full experience of the interpretive displays, visitors can check out a Discovery Pen from the park’s Visitors Center. Each pen contains a microchip and a speaker. When touched to a green dot on a display, the visitor will hear the messages that are keyed to that individual station. All of the panels on the Fern Trail provide audio descriptions produced by a professional who works with the blind.

Because of repeated seasonal flooding issues along Fern Trail, Newport Wilderness Society is planning and fundraising for the installation of an elevated ADA-compliant boardwalk through the affected parts of the trail. (This project was completed in 2023.)

September 2011 ribbon-cutting ceremony for Fern Trail. (L-R) Tony Anheuser (Sister Bay Lions Club); Michelle Hefty (Park Manager); Dotti Krieger (former DNR accessibility coordinator); Andy Janicki (then-DNR accessibility coordinator); and Julie Hein (then-Park Naturalist). Photo courtesy Melody Walsh.
Nature Wastes Nothing; Interpretive Display along Fern Trail
Spring 2020: Gerry Swanson and flooding on Fern Trail