Lighthouses of Western Lake Michigan

Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana
May 17-22, 2007


This trip started out like most of our more past trips….with a lot of planning. My wife and I found out in December of 2006 that we were expecting our first child. Knowing that we would have limited travel options once the child was born, we decided to get a lighthouse trip in before the birth later that year.

I started researching areas to visit in early January. It was a close tie between the Western Great Lakes and the Atlantic Coast of New Jersey and New York. I decided that the Western Great Lakes made more sense as it was a farther drive, and that we could travel to New Jersey and New York another time when our child was a little older.

I learned that Door County Wisconsin had their Lighthouse Walk going on right around the time that we were planning to visit. This event would open up several lighthouses that are typically closed to the public.

May 17, 2007

We left our house in Western New York and traveled to our first stop, which was in Toledo, Ohio. There we visited the Manhattan Front and Rear Range Lighthouses. When we arrived at the first lighthouse, my Canon AE-1 camera would not advance. I used my Pentax K10D DSLR to take some pictures while my wife looked through the owner's manual. When I returned to the truck, she informed me that the battery was dead. Luckily, we found a Ritz Camera store in town that had the battery in stock.

With that, we made our way back to Interstate 80/90 and continued westward. On the other side of Gary, Indiana, we followed Interstate 90 towards Chicago. Our trip continued through Chicago where we picked up Interstate 94. This led us northward towards Milwaukee. Just before Milwaukee, we took Interstate 894 which led us to the US-45 and ultimately to US-41. We ended up stopping in Germantown, Wisconsin for the night.

May 18, 2007

The next morning, we got up and were back on the road. We continued on US-41 into Fond du Lac. While in Fond du Lac, we visited the Fond du Lac Lighthouse. After that, we traveled up the eastern side of Lake Winnebago to the Calumet Harbor and Fisherman’s Road Lighthouses. After visiting those two lighthouses, we came back through Fond du Lac and headed northwards into Oshkosh. While in Oshkosh, we visited the Bray’s Point Lighthouse before heading north to Asylum Point Park and the Asylum Point Lighthouse. After photographing the Asylum Point Lighthouse, we continued north into Neenah to Kimberly Point Park where we visited the Neenah Lighthouse.

After leaving Neenah, we followed US-41 north into Green Bay. In Green Bay, we visited the Grassy Island Front and Rear Range Lighthouses. After leaving there, we followed Interstate 43 south to WI-29, which is Kewaunee Road. We followed WI-29 east for several miles into Kewaunee, where we photographed the Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse.  From here, we followed WI-42 north into Algoma where we photographed the Algoma Pierhead Lighthouse. After leaving there, we followed WI-42 north into Sturgeon Bay.

Once in Sturgeon Bay, we stopped by the old Dunlap Reef Lighthouse to take some pictures. After that, we headed out of Sturgeon Bay and up to Baileys Harbor. Once in Baileys Harbor, we stopped by the Baileys Harbor Front and Rear Range Lighthouses, which are located on Ridges Drive. After that, we drove to the end of Ridges Drive to get some photos of the Baileys Harbor Lighthouse. The lighthouse is located on an island offshore, so the photos make use of the telephoto lens. The best way to photograph this lighthouse is via one of the boat trips that travel past the island.

After that, we headed back to WI-57, which led us to County Road Q. From County Road Q, we followed Cana Island Road to the end. I was trying to get some photos of the Cana Island Lighthouse before the crowds arrived the next day. However, as I walked across the natural causeway, I was greeted with a no trespassing sign. Therefore, I decided to head back to the truck and just wait until the following day. From here, we headed over to the Peninsula State Park to visit the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse. After that, we headed to the motel for the night to check in, and to find some place for dinner.

May 19, 2007

The next morning we got up and checked out of the motel. We headed back to the restaurant to get breakfast and a boxed lunch to take with us on the boat trip. It was a terrible morning, chilly and pouring rain. We arrived at the boat dock early as the brochure requested, and it was already bustling. We parked, grabbed the items that we needed for the day, and headed over to the boat.

The boat had two areas, a covered area, which was below, and an uncovered area, which was the top deck. Due to the rain, there were no seats in the covered area; there was standing room only. My wife and I were not looking forward to sharing the top of a cooler for the whole day. Therefore, I made the decision to blow off the boat trip, and we left.

From here, we drove to the tip of peninsula to get some distant shots of the Plum Island and Pilot Island Lighthouses. After that, we drove back down to Baileys Harbor Fire Station so that we could catch the bus over to the Cana Island Lighthouse. The reason that you need to take the bus is that during the Door County Lighthouse Walk, there are not enough parking places at the end of Cana Island Road for the number of cars. So the bus is used to transport people to and from the lighthouse as there is plenty of parking at the fire station.

After climbing the Cana Island Lighthouse, and taking many pictures, we made our way back to the fire station via the bus, and left Baileys Harbor. From Baileys Harbor, we made our way back south to the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Lightstation. At the station, we visited both the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal and the North Pierhead Lighthouses.

After this, we made our way back into the City of Sturgeon Bay to get some lunch. Leaving Sturgeon Bay, we headed to the Sherwood Point Lighthouse. Since we visited during the Lighthouse Walk, the lighthouse dwelling was open to the public. After walking through it, and getting pictures of the lighthouse, we left the site.

Our next lighthouse, Rawley Point Lighthouse, was almost 50 miles to the south; therefore, it took some time for us to arrive there. The lighthouse sits on the grounds of Point Beach State Park, and therefore, there is an entrance fee. After paying the fee at the ranger station, the lighthouse stands almost right in front of you. It is still an active aid to navigation, so access to the site is limited. However, the lighthouse is clearly visible from the beach, so I took pictures from there.

After leaving the park, we drove a short distance south to the Town of Two Rivers. The Two Rivers Lighthouse stands on the grounds of the Rogers Street Fishing Village. It was closed at the time we visited. Since it was starting to rain harder than it already was, I snapped pictures as quick as I could before we headed off to the next lighthouse.

When we arrived at the Mantiwoc, the rain had stopped, but the threat was still lingering. As it was windy, I made the walk out to the breakwater by myself. I didn’t walk the full distance to the Mantiwoc Breakwater Lighthouse, but far enough that I could bring the lighthouse in closer with my telephoto lens. After snapping off several photos, I packed my gear back into the bag, and jogged back to the truck.

As the next lighthouse was almost 23 miles to the south in Sheboygan, we made our way to Interstate 43. When we arrived at the Sheboygan, dusk was settling in. Not relishing the long walk out on the breakwater, I opted to use the telephoto lens to photograph the Sheboygan Breakwater Lighthouse. This let us get back onto Interstate 43 and drive the 25 miles down to Port Washington.

Once in Port Washington, we decided that it was time for dinner. We found an Italian restaurant and ate. After dinner, we found the Port Washington and Port Washington Breakwater Lighthouses. I took a few nighttime shots of the lighthouses before heading to the Holiday Inn, only to find out that they had no vacancy. The person behind the counter did call another hotel in the next town over to confirm their vacancy for us.

May 20, 2007

We stayed the night in Saukville, and then drove back to Port Washington the next morning. It was a chilly and windy morning. The waves were breaking over the break wall, which made for some great photos of the Port Washington Breakwater Lighthouse. After that, we made our way back to the Port Washington Lighthouse. We happened to visit at the right time, as the lighthouse was open for tours. We paid our admission and were given a guided tour of the lighthouse. After the tour, we headed south out of town.

The next lighthouse, the Kevich Lighthouse, was not too far south, and was quick to visit. As it is a private residence, I snapped a few photos from the street, and we were on our way. This time, we were heading to Lake Park in Milwaukee to see the North Point Lighthouse. At the time when we visited, the keeper’s dwelling was ripped apart undergoing a renovation. As chain link fences surrounded everything, getting different shots were hard or outright just impossible. Overall, I was able to get some great shots, and then we made our way to Downtown Milwaukee.

Downtown Milwaukee has two lighthouses, the Milwaukee Breakwater and Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouses. The best place to view both is behind the amphitheater on the waterfront. Again, it was terribly windy and cold, so I took pictures as fast as I could to get back to the warmth of the truck.
From here, our next stop was at the Wind Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse dwelling also serves as the Wind Point Courthouse and Police Station. After photographing all the buildings on the grounds, we were back on our way to the next lighthouse, which was about 4 miles to the south in Racine.

Once in Racine, there are two lighthouses to view. The first one is the Racine Harbor Lighthouse, which is just north of the Root River. The second lighthouse is the Racine North Breakwater Lighthouse which is best viewed from Racine Harbor Park, which is just south of the Root River. After getting the shots of the lighthouses, we followed WI-32 south to Kenosha.

By the time we arrived in Kenosha, it was raining. In fact, many of the Kenosha Lighthouse pictures that I shot you can see the rain coming down. After getting a few photos of the Kenosha Lighthouse, I headed back to the truck to dry both the cameras and myself. We then headed around the corner to the Kenosha Pierhead Lighthouse. Again, since it was raining and waves were crashing against the pier, I shot the lighthouse from the truck.

Upon leaving Kenosha, we headed south into Illinois. Once inside Illinois, the first lighthouse we came to was Waukegan Harbor Lighthouse. The weather was much better now, but this lighthouse sat at the end of a very long pier. Therefore, I opted to use the telephoto lens from the opposite side of the harbor for pictures. By now, it was close to dinnertime. Using the GPS, we were quickly able to locate many restaurants in the area, and decided on a pizza place.

After dinner, our next stop was the Grosse Point Lighthouse in Evanston. I really wish that this lighthouse had been open when we visited, as I would have loved to see the inside of the keeper’s dwelling. However, it does not open until June, so we were a few weeks too early. I took pictures from many different vantage points, including the beach, and the yard. After this, it was time to find a place to stay for the night. We found a hotel right in Evanston that was reasonable, so we chose to stay there.

May 21, 2007

The next morning had us driving into Chicago. We slept in a little as to avoid any traffic heading into Downtown Chicago. Our first stop was at Navy Pier. It was from this vantage point that we would have views of both the Chicago Harbor and the Chicago Harbor Southeast Guidewall Lighthouses. We also spent several hours enjoying all of the shops and attractions at the pier.

After the pier, our next stop was one of the tallest points in Chicago, the Sears Tower. We made our way through the maze of roads to get over to the parking ramp for the tower. After walking over, paying our fare, we were quickly whisked to the observation deck. Although it was a hazy day, the view was still amazing. However, one of the sites visible was the traffic building on the Interstate. Therefore, we opted to start working our way out of Chicago to beat the rush hour.

We made our way south into Indiana to our next stop of the day, the Calumet Harbor Lighthouse. From what I have read, walking out to the lighthouse is impossible since it connects to the shore on private property. Therefore, the best spot that I found to view the lighthouse is from Calumet Park, and then to use a telephoto lens.

Our next lighthouse on the list to visit was in Buffington. Most of the Indiana coastline is private property; therefore, the best way to view the Buffington Harbor Breakwater Lighthouse is from the parking garage of the Majestic Star Casino. We went to the top floor, which puts the lighthouse directly in front of you.

We next visited Marquette Park in Gary, Indiana. This is the best spot from shore to view the Gary Harbor Breakwater Lighthouse. It sits at the end of a breakwater far out into the lake.  Even using a 1000mm telephoto lens really did nothing to get me much closer to the lighthouse. I took a few shots anyways, and we were back on our way.

This time, we headed to Michigan City, Indiana. The town has two lighthouses, both of which are in Washington Park. Once in the park, the Old Michigan City Lighthouse sits near the front, whereas the Michigan City East Pierhead Lighthouse sits on a pierhead that juts out into the lake.  We visited both lighthouses just as the sun was beginning to set, so the lighting was perfect. This made for some great photos. After this, it was time to make our way down to Interstate 80/90 and start heading towards home. That night, we drove to Fremont, Ohio before stopping that evening.

May 22, 2007

The next morning, we had breakfast and began the drive back to Buffalo.  However, instead of heading directly back to Buffalo, we made one more stop at a lighthouse. We visited the Huron Harbor Pierhead Lighthouse in Huron, Ohio.

I had previously photographed this lighthouse back in 2000. The pictures were distant, and, in my opinion, not very good. Huron Ohio sits just a short distance off Interstate 80/90; therefore, it was not too far out of the way. Altogether, it probably took less than 45 minutes or so to get to Huron, walk out to the lighthouse, and get back to the interstate. The rest of the trip was an uneventful drive back to Buffalo. We arrived back in town around dinnertime.

The whole trip consisted of visiting / photographing 47 lighthouses over the course of six days. We actually finished a day sooner than planned since we had skipped the boat trip portion of the Door County Lighthouse Walk. On paper, the trip was 1851 miles, but realistically it was probably closer to 2100 miles as we made a few stops that were not on the map.

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