Gravel Island (4 acres) and Spider Island (23 acres) comprise Gravel Island National Wildlife Refuge. These islands are located in Lake Michigan, approximately one mile to the east of the Door County Peninsula of Wisconsin. Gravel and Spider islands were initially protected in 1913 by an Executive Order with the intent to preserve native bird breeding habitat. Herring gulls and double-crested cormorants nest on these islands. Gravel Island also supports a large nesting population of Caspian terns, historically the largest colony in the Great Lakes region.
In 1970, the United States Congress designated Gravel, Spider and Hog (part of Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge) islands as the Wisconsin Islands Wilderness Area which at 29 acres, is one of the smallest wilderness areas in the country. The prime management consideration of the wilderness status was the continued protection of nesting birds by limiting access to the islands during the breeding seasons. For this reason, the wilderness islands are closed to public visitation consistent with the conservation purpose of the refuge. The wilderness designation provides an additional level of protection on the islands and boaters are asked to stay at least a quarter mile offshore so as not to endanger the nesting areas.
The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.
Everywas created for a special purpose. Some were created to protect migratory birds, others to protect threatened or endangered species or unique habitats, while others fulfill another special purpose. All activities allowed on refuges must be evaluated to make sure each activity will not conflict with the reason the refuge was founded.
Gravel and Spider islands were protected in 1913 by an Executive Order with the intent to preserve breeding habitat for colonial nesting birds such as herring gulls, double-crested cormorants and Caspian terns.
January 9, 1913 - Gravel Island National Wildlife Refuge was established by Executive Order 1678.
October 23, 1970 - Public Law 91-504 designated the Gravel Island National Wildlife Refuge along with Hog Island (Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge) as the Wisconsin Islands Wilderness Area.