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In May 2003, we went to the Door County Lighthouse Walk in Wisconsin. Door County has ten lighthouses, more than any other county in the United States. Our tour included seven of them, and two others nearby in Michigan.

Bailey's Harbor is home to three of the lights: Cana Island Light, the Range Lights, and the Bailey's Harbor Light.

We started at the range lights. These are located in the Ridges wildlife sanctuary, which we had visited previously. Range lights are useful in navigation: when they appear to be lined up, you're in the right spot. If there's a straight-line channel dredged along the line of the ranges, so much the better.

This is the front range, which is nearer to the channel. The front range is a smaller, simpler structure than the rear range. It has just enough room to put the light in the right place, and to allow elbow room for the keeper while he's maintaining the light. The rear range can be seen in the background, just to the right of the front range.

The rear range is a private residence, and is not normally open to the public. It is open for limited touring during the Lighthouse Walk weekend, once a year. Here are a couple of views toward the front range.

Although the lights have been preserved, the Bailey's Harbor range lights are no longer in service. They've been supplanted by a modern range in the same place, which is much more visible and easier to maintain.
There is more information about the range lights at the web site of the Door County Maritime Museum.

The original Bailey's Harbor Light has been inactive for a long time, and is not maintained. There is no access by road - the best way to get there is by boat or by wading. The Door County Maritime Museum is trying to raise some funds for maintenance, because this light is a rare example of the old "bird cage" style.
There is more information at Terry Pepper's web site.

This may have been a gatepost. Whatever it is, it's on the road to Cana Island, and it's about eight feet high.

We visited Cana Island on a much nicer day, on another trip the previous summer. So we didn't spend a lot of time there, this time around. Cana Island is only a few hundred feet from the peninsula, joined to it by a rock causeway. Depending on the level of Lake Michigan, the causeway is often submerged, making a wet trip of an outing to Cana Island. The lone rock is on the south side of that causeway. This lighthouse, photographed more than any other in Wisconsin, has been in service since 1870. The Coast Guard does not allow access to the light itself.
There is more information at the web site of the Door County Maritime Museum.

We took a guided tour of the lighthouse at Eagle Bluff in Peninsula State Park. Our guide was quite knowledgeable, and also very entertaining.
The 1000-pound anchor in the first photo is from the schooner Oak Leaf. She was launched 14 April 1866, and sank in Sturgeon Bay in 1926. The building in the third photo is the oil house. The outhouse, also of brick, is behind our tour guide's left shoulder in the second photo.

Unlike at Cana Island, we were allowed to get close to the old light. This is probably because it's no longer in use. The duty light is seen in the first photo, on the back left corner of the railing.

Keeper's quarters, Eagle Bluff Light.

This chair (left) is called a Kubbestol and was made out of a single piece of wood, a tree trunk. This tree grew very near the lighthouse.

William and Julia Duclon are the best-known keepers of the Eagle Bluff Light, having served there for 35 years (1883-1918). Their seven children shared the two small bedrooms we just saw. William Duclon's appointment as keeper probably had as much to do with his service in the Civil War as any other qualification. He was very proud of his service in the Union Army, and his discharge papers are still displayed at the lighthouse.
There is more information about the Duclons, and about the lighthouse, at the web site of the Door County Maritime Museum.

We saw five lighthouses by boat. For the Lighthouse Walk weekend, the Island Clipper runs a special cruise. The cruise uses Green Bay and Lake Michigan, with a lunch stop at Rock Island State Park. Our cruise was narrated by Steve Karges, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin. He also wrote a very informative book about the lighthouses in the area. He really knows his stuff and is a very good speaker, too.

We would get a much closer look later in the day, but the cruise started by passing Plum Island. Plum Island is one of the two islands guarding the passage that gave Door County its name: Porte des Morts, or Death's Door. This passage was used as a shortcut between Lake Michigan and Green Bay, but not all the sailors made it through alive.

Then we passed Washington Island, getting a view that residents can't see without a kayak or canoe. The last photo shows the light on Washington Island. It's an excellent navigational aid, but it just doesn't have any romance for lighthouse buffs.

After giving us a leisurely look at Door County's northernmost islands, the Captain sped ahead to Michigan.

The lighthouse on St. Martin Island is on the northeast part of the island. We approached from the Southwest.

There is a dangerous shoal southeast of St. Martin Island. Mariners need to avoid that part of the island by over two miles. The light there was completed in 1904 and entered service the following year. Its iron construction is very unusual, maybe unique. The other buildings are Milwaukee cream brick. The entire island is private, with the land around the lighthouse controlled by Chippewa Indians.
Terry Pepper's web site has more information about this and other Great Lakes lighthouses.

The Gull Islands are three small islands in the passage between St. Martin and Poverty Islands. As we were passing the Gulls, we saw huge swarms of midges (don't look for them in the photo). Midges migrate with the seasons, and birds follow them for the abundant source of food. The swarms are about the size of a small cloud, but right down on the surface. Like a black cloud that moves very fast. There isn't much on the Gull Islands except... well, gulls.

Poverty Island Light entered service in 1875. It's on the southern tip of the island, and guides mariners away from the shallow water near the Gull Islands. The light was automated in 1957, which contributes to the tower's odd appearance. The original fourth-order Fresnel lens was removed to Escanaba, where it now serves another lighthouse.
There is more information at Terry Pepper's web site.

Leaving Poverty behind.

We're on our way to Rock Island State Park for a lunch stop. There are two sets of buildings on the island, and one of them is a lighthouse.

Built in 1836, Pottawatomie is Door County's oldest lighthouse. It sits high over the strait between St. Martin and Rock Islands, on the north end of Rock Island. The light was automated in 1956 - the new light is on top of the steel tower.

Rock Island's harbor is about a mile from Pottawatomie Light, on the southeast part of the island. We walked from there, past the ranger station and some ruins, up the long hill to the lighthouse, where we had lunch.

This gate is about halfway up the trail. If it has a purpose, it's not obvious. The sign to its left offers no clue.

About 45 minutes after docking, we see Pottawatomie Light again, from the other side. The Department of Natural Resources is slowly restoring the keeper's house, and will not allow visitors inside until the work is done. Meanwhile, there are ranger/docents who are available on the grounds to answer questions and tell stories.
There is more information at the web site of the Door County Maritime Museum.

The view from the front steps of the keeper's house is across the strait to St. Martin Island.

This lady became fascinated with lighthouses because her mother was born in one. Her mother probably also was familiar with the brick outhouses, although I wouldn't want to spend much time in this one after walking all the way around it.

We returned to the harbor by a slightly different path. Except for the park service, no vehicles are allowed on the island, so it was a very tranquil walk back down the hill.

Rock Island State Park was the property of Chester (Hjörtur) Thórdarson, who emigrated with his family from Reykjavik in 1873, when he was five years old. Thórdarson lived his early life in poverty, but he read a lot. He taught himself about electricity and invented a million-volt transformer. He built these in a Chicago factory for sale to electric companies, and by 1904 was a very wealthy man.
One of the places Thórdarson had lived was an Icelandic community on Washington Island, where he learned about Rock Island. He bought most of the land on the island in 1910, eventually acquiring all of it except for a small area around the lighthouse. He set about to create a living space that would evoke memories of Iceland and Vikings, constructing 14 buildings of native rock.

The previous photo is the land-side of his longboat house and the Great Hall above it. The island's only dock is attached to the boathouse, so this is the structure that welcomes visitors to Rock Island. Although there is room for two large boats inside, the only tenants seem to be a few dozen swallows who nest in the eaves.

Icelandic artist Halldor Einarson spent three years carving the 24 straight-back oak chairs in the Great Hall. Each one illustrates a different Icelandic myth. The fireplace opening in the second photo is eight feet high. The detail is from the center panel of the long bench at lower left in the second photo. Thórdarson's heirs sold the furniture when they decided to dispose of the island in the 1960s. Most of the pieces in the Great Hall were donated back to the Park Service.

Thórdarson also had a substantial library of several thousand scientific and rare books, but it isn't here. It was acquired by the Memorial Library's Department of Special Collections at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Back on the boat, we headed for Plum Island. Supposedly this island got its name because it is "plumb in the middle" of Porte des Morts Passage, between Northport and the southern end of Washington Island. This passage is also called by its English name, Death's Door. The picture shows a Coast Guard station on the north side of the island. Our real objective here was to see the range lights on the other side.

We already knew from the lights at Bailey's Harbor how range lights operate. This map helps to explain a little better. If you're on a straight line that goes through both lights, you're on course. Or at least you know where you are. The Plum Island ranges are oriented toward the center of the channel south of tiny Pilot Island, and mark part of a safe route through Death's Door.
There is more information at the web site of the Door County Maritime Museum.

Coming around the island, we get a look at the rear range and the original keeper's house.

Close views of the rear (upper) and front (lower) ranges at Plum Island.

This series shows how the ranges look as we pass through the course from left to right.

Pilot Island Light is also known as Porte des Morts Light Station, after the original name of this small island. Although the light has been automated and the buildings are not used, it is still necessary to get the Coast Guard's permission to land on Pilot Island. Birds don't care about this, and the island is frequented by cormorants and gulls. Cormorant droppings kill trees. These birds frequent the north part of the island. Gulls stay mainly to the south part, where the trees still have leaves.
There is more information at the web site of the Door County Maritime Museum.

A secondary goal of this trip was geological sightseeing and fossil-hunting, inspired partly by a guide for a field trip that was part of the curriculum at Northern Illinois University. Barbara is looking for fossils at Tennison Bay in Peninsula State Park. Adventure and Little Strawberry Islands are in the background.

While we were on Eagle Bluff looking toward Horseshoe Island, we saw the reason for the bluff's name (second photo, center).


What these birds lack in size, they make up in numbers. The Strawberry Islands are in mid-field, with Chambers Island in the far background. The Strawberries, left to right: Adventure, Little Strawberry, and Jack Island. Pirate Island, the fourth Strawberry, is out of sight to the right of this shot.

Halfway to the North Pole, near Jacksonport. The rock is Silurian Dolomite.


Liberty Grove Drumlin Fields, near Rowleys Bay A drumlin is a teardrop-shaped hill that was formed by a retreating glacier. The root of the word is Old Irish, meaning "little ridge." Northern Door County has some excellent examples at Liberty Grove. At first glance, they don't look like much, but a second look reveals the unique shape of a drumlin - look at the distant stand of trees in the second photo.

The county cut right through a drumlin to build Hill Road, allowing us to get a look at its structure. These formations are a rock hound's paradise. The person and the car in the photos give an idea of their size.

This is the same drumlin, on the other side of the road.

Ephraim Wetlands Preserve
In 1990 a developer purchased this 7½-acre piece of property and attempted to build a 50-unit condo motel on the site. He removed over 400 trees, starting at the rear of the property, before villagers realized what was happening. The developer was sued by the community for trying to develop this wetland tract, claiming it was an "ideal" building site. The village won the case and ended up purchasing the property at its assessed value. The Village Board then set out to make the tract a wetland preserve for everyone to enjoy.

These pictures are from Whitefish Dunes State Park, near Jacksonport. These are mature dunes, with abundant trees where one would expect only grass. These trees are in a pine wood at the west end of the park. The sand here contains iron - you can pick it up with a magnet.

The dominant landmark in this part of the park is Old Baldy, the king of the dunes.

Here's the hollow north of Old Baldy, and the trail leading to its top.

The view at the top was worth the climb

The minerals in the sand give the beach an unusual quality. It makes a peculiar noise when you scuff along, giving it the name "singing sand."

Next to a shady path through the woods.

The Brachiopod Trail crosses a tiny pond and some swamp on its way to Clark Lake. This goose seemed to think he owned the bridge.


Cave Point County Park is within the borders of Whitefish Dunes State Park, just around the bend from the no-swimming area at the eastern end. (Swimming is forbidden in that one area because of riptides.)