Cana Island Lighthouse-classic Door County

It seems, these days, that every town is delving into the tourist market, whether it be a museum, multi-use arena, trendy refurbished ‘main street’, historical sight, renovated waterfront, adventurous park and- I’m sure you get the Idea.  Tourist dollars are added revenue for any area.  Why not capitalize?

Some places, however, were practically built on that industry.  Take Door County, for instance.  The northern Half of the county, from practically the moment settlers set foot on the peninsula, was considered a place travelers would enjoy.  It, with it’s 300 miles of rocky shoreline, a dozen or so lighthouses, dense forests, rolling farmland, cherry orchards and steep bluffs, has been dubbed the ‘Cape Cod of the Midwest’

Towns are buzzing with people and festivities these summer months, as there are so many draws that the county possesses. One, as I’ve already mentioned it, adorns a lot of Door County Memorabilia.  From T-shirts to Keychains, lighthouses seem to be a signature trait, well, that and cherries.  I’ll save the cherries for another blog.

I grew up in Door County, so you would think I would know all about lighthouses.  Actually, before today, I’ve never set foot in one.  I decided, after a fellow blogger posted a picture of a lighthouse kitchen, that it would be well worth an afternoon.  It was.

I am headed down, what is known, as a rustic road.  This narrow path curves through a thick cedar forest.  If it was not for the power lines, following the twists and turns, I would assume I was in a tranquil woodland void of man.   I am following markers along this paved trail, directing me to the Cana Island Lighthouse.

Finally the road ends, and I do mean ends, at a shore of Lake Michigan.  Before it does, off to my right, there is a compact parking lot full of cars.  I enter said lot, simmering with anticipation.

I hastily bound for the end of the road and have two choices.  I can board the wagon tugged by a small tractor, that at the moment is traversing the water covered causeway, or I could go at it by foot.

I came prepared with shorts and waterproof sandals. So I think, why not walk it? I stride the Icy waters and battle the mild waves of the rocky causeway.    The water line is just below the cell phone in my pocket, as I remind myself one misstep could be an expensive blunder.

I reach the shore of the small Island and find an admission shack.  I pay my twelve dollars and am off to explore.

The Island is absolutely beautiful and well maintained.  I follow a trail that winds through shrubs and trees, the Beacon looming in the distance.  Not only is the steel cylinder, which has cased the tower since the turn of the last century, standing  on the grounds, but other rustic buildings add an old world feel to this very quaint, and seemingly secluded, parcel.

I enter the house, which is attached to the light tower, that claims itself as a gift shop.  It’s much more than that, as many rooms of the house are filled with old artifacts and info. There’s chipped paint, bare plaster and worn wood everywhere.  I am free to read the info and inspect the rooms.  For its time, this would have made more than an adequate family living quarters.  The house is slated to be refinished, to the way it would have appeared circa 1910, in the next year.

After sauntering through the living quarters, I’m ready to climb the beacon.  As I enter, intimidated by the Iron spiral staircase that literally winds towards the top, I gather my courage.  I believe its 97 steps, as the lighthouse is 89 ft.

Being inside the light tower, I can tell that it is much older than the steel façade.  When it was built in 1869, one would have seen a brick exterior.  The worn interior seems to fit the living quarters and is proof of genuine antiquity.

After the daunting climb, I am greeted by a friendly man who recites information about the light itself.  The last source of light used in this beacon was a 250 watt lightbulb, which is fitted in the fixture today.  It could be seen from eighteen miles away.  When the tower was first lit in 1870, lard was the fuel for the lamp, later replaced with mineral oil.

After the information, I am invited to experience the exterior of the lighthouse.  I’m left to indulge in a panoramic view of the Island from atop the light house-absolutely spectacular!

After I descend the staircase, I get one more glimpse of the house.  I then investigate some of the rustic buildings a little closer.  There is an outhouse, made of brick, and a building where the fuel for the lamp in the tower was kept, plus a few more.

Today was enjoyable, as I’ve never been inside a lighthouse before.  It’s such an interesting and, at the time, very necessary structure.  Today, it’s a monument of a past Door County, built and lit around the same time many immigrants began settlement farms in Wisconsin.

Go see Cana Island lighthouse, It is a unique excursion.  My only regret is that I didn’t take a picture of the tractor and wagon that brought people across the causeway.  Darn it!

Cana Island lighthouse open 10-5 seven days a week, May thru October.

One response to “Cana Island Lighthouse-classic Door County”

  1. You got some great pictures, Chris! We visited Cana Island a couple of years ago and got there very near to closing time so felt a bit too rushed to take everything in. We were able to walk across to the island as the causeway wasn’t submerged. If I remember rightly, they were doing some restoration work and the place didn’t look quite as neat and tidy as it appears in these images.


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