Forestville Dam County Park
Location: 475 Mill Road in the town of Forestville.
The shallow millpond, one and one half miles long and an eighth of a mile wide, provides an easy paddle for canoes, kayaks and paddleboats as well as a relaxing ride for small-motorized boats. A one-lane boat launch is available at the park.
Below the dam is a shallow riverbed area that is thick with fish in the spring when the water is running high. Chinook salmon and rainbow trout are stocked in the river. The fish return to the area to spawn, the salmon in the fall and the trout in spring—starting in April. After spawning, the salmon’s life cycle is complete and thousands of salmon die at the foot of the dam. The trout, however, live four to six years; they spawn and return to the lake. The sight of the fish spawn is spectacular to view and photograph but fishing in the area 500 feet below the dam is against the law. The vulnerable fish are protected in the shallow waters; it is considered a fish sanctuary.
The millpond is literally filled to overflowing by the upper branch of the Ahnapee River, receiving water from a drainage basin near Tornado County Park as well as nearby springs. Taking a careful walk over the dam and viewing the spring waters rush over the spillway is an enjoyable activity for people of all ages.
The park is adjacent to the Ahnapee State Trail County Park and serves as a wayside for trail users.
In 1877, John Fetzer and G.W. Youngs built the original dam, an earthen works to provide power for a gristmill. The mill processed grain into flour for people from the Belgian district and all the way up to Baileys Harbor.
At the turn of the century, John Poh bought the mill, which was closed circa 1920 after the dam washed out. The dam was replaced as a Works Progress Administration project in 1934 and christened the Poh Community Dam and Lake a year later.
John Poh sold the dam and property to the town of Forestville in 1949 to be developed into a park. The town of Forestville contributed $3000 and the County of Door contributed $3000 to the project. In December 1963, the town gave the park and dam to the County of Door; it was then renamed.
The dam was replaced in 1982 with a modern spillway structure at a cost of $160,000. During the construction, the Department of Natural Resources drained the millpond, killed off the fish, refilled and restocked the pond in an effort to recreate a prime fishing habitat.
Catch and release fishing has been making a comeback on the millpond. Northern pike, rock bass, crappies, blue gills, and large mouth bass are found in the millpond’s tranquil waters and the area is one of the few places to catch large mouth bass.
In November 2008, Forestville Dam County Park was presented a plaque from the Door County Historical Society for the park’s significance to local history.