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7 Old Lighthouses On The Door Peninsula

Jun 10th, 2024

The Door Peninsula, jutting out into Lake Michigan like a great, green thumb, has a long and fascinating maritime history. 

For centuries, these waters provided a vital transportation route to Chicago, Green Bay and the many towns in-between — but it also presented dangers to ships navigating its strong currents and hidden hazards. The answer to safely crossing this crucial waterway was a series of lighthouses, each made to guide sailors safely through the fog, rain, snow and sleet to shore. 

We’ve already explored some of the more historic lighthouses on the Door Peninsula, ones which have stood the test of time and have become vital pieces of the area’s history. The ones on this list are no less important. 

If you're planning a trip to this scenic region, be sure to factor in some lighthouse exploration!

7 lighthouses on the Door Peninsula

Sherwood Point Lighthouse

Built: 1883

Active: yes

Can you visit: yes

The Sherwood Point Lighthouse was built on its sandy bluffs in 1883 after a lengthy battle between owners of the land and the Sturgeon Bay and Lake Michigan Ship Canal and Harbor Company. 

Though the lighthouse was riddled with mechanical issues, lighthouse keepers ran the lighthouse smoothly for a century and it was the last light on the Great Lakes to be automated in 1983.

Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Pierhead Light

Built: 1882 

Active: yes

Can you visit: no

The Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Pierhead Light stands guard at the southern mouth of the Sturgeon Bay Canal. Completed in 1882 and renovated in 1903, this lighthouse also featured a fog signal that ran on a whopping 50 tons of coal each year! Though it was automated in 1966 and has been privately owned since 2014, the all-red lighthouse is still an active navigational aid keeping ships on the straight and narrow both in the canal and around it.

Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Lighthouse

Built: 1989

Active: yes

Can you visit: no

The Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Lighthouse was built in 1898 to supplement the smaller light and foghorn on the Sturgeon Bay Canal Pier. This taller, brighter lighthouse was constructed on the canal shore and had a watch room, a keeper’s dwelling and several steel buttresses to keep the tower from shaking in the wind. It was automated in 1943 and, though it may not be open to the public, it remains a silent guardian of this crucial passage between Lake Michigan and Sturgeon Bay. 

Boyer Bluff Lighthouse

Built: 1933

Active: yes

Can you visit: no

Located at the northwestern tip of Washington Island, Boyer Bluff Lighthouse has been perched atop its sandy cliffs since 1933, safely guiding vessels around the treacherous reefs at the entrance of Green Bay. 

It’s not much to look at from the outside — its tall, skeletal metal structure is off-limits to visitors anyways, and it’s been automated since the day it was lit. Still, it’s been working hard for almost a century!

Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse

Built: 1912

Active: yes

Can you visit: yes

The Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse was built on the south pier of the entrance to Kewaunee in 1912 to accompany a set of existing range lights that were housed on the north pier. This new lighthouse had a fog house which operated a fog whistle and a fifth order Fresnel lens, which remained in operation until it was replaced by LED lights in 2019. 

Dunlap Reef Rear Range Lighthouse

Built: 1881

Active: no

Can you visit: no

A unique entry on this list is the Dunlap Reef Rear Range Lighthouse. Unlike traditional lighthouses with tall towers, this structure is a much shorter lighthouse built more like a house than a lighthouse. 

Constructed in 1881, the shore-bound lighthouse served in conjunction with the Dunlap Reef Front Range Light (located offshore and no longer standing) to create a range light system.  By aligning the two lights, ships could determine their position and navigate safely past the dangerous Dunlap Reef. 

The Dunlap Reef Rear Range Lighthouse was automated in 1943 and is not accessible to the public. However, it remains a fascinating example of a specialized navigational aid in the foggy conditions of Lake Michigan.

Algoma Pierhead Lighthouse

Built: 1893

Active: yes

Can you visit: yes

Built in 1893, the Algoma Pierhead Lighthouse was originally one of a set of range lights built to guide mariners to the mouth of the Ahnapee River. The red lighthouse on the pier today was established on the same spot in 1932 after repairs were made on the North Pier, and the light was automated in 1973. 

These beacons of light — some grand and imposing, others short and utilitarian — stand as testaments to human ingenuity and the enduring connection between humanity and the Great Lakes. 

Whether you're a history buff or simply enjoy a scenic adventure, the Door County lighthouses offer a glimpse into the past and a chance to appreciate the enduring power of these guardians of the Great Lakes.  So, the next time you find yourself exploring this beautiful peninsula from our luxury Chicago apartments, be sure to factor in some lighthouse sightseeing! You might just be surprised by the stories these historic structures have to tell.


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Featured photo by Keenan Davidson on Unsplash

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives on Oahu in Hawai'i. She loves to travel, camp, spearfish and hike. She's also part of a super cool canoe club and is pretty decent at it. Colleen enjoys Star Wars and also not being cold ever.

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