A place with towns called Fish Creek, Egg Harbor, Sister Bay, or Gills Rock has to have character. Such a place is Door County, Wisconsin, my favorite photography location. It is a peninsula that sticks out seventy-five miles into Lake Michigan from the city of Green Bay. The peninsula forms a bay in the only Great Lake entirely in the U.S. The protected Green Bay provides much of the outdoor recreation available in Door County.
Description of Door County
Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula has over three hundred miles of shoreline and encompasses some thirty islands, which amounts to plenty of boating destinations. There are five state parks, ten lighthouses, nature preserves and conservation areas, and many county parks. For outdoor people there is boating and fishing, hiking, bicycling, canoeing, kayaking, wildlife watching, birding, and in the winter, snowmobiling. And of course, photography!
Lighthouses of Door County
Peninsula State Park, Wisconsin’s most visited state park, has the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse. Other lighthouses on the peninsula include the Cana Island, Baileys Harbor Range Lights, Old Baileys, Canal Station, Pilot Island, Plum Island Range Lights, Sherwood Point, and Chambers Island. Many are not open to the public or are accessible only by boat. The Cana Island Lighthouse, north of the town of Bailey’s Harbor on the Lake Michigan side, serves as one branch of the Door County Maritime Museum, the other two being in Sturgeon Bay and Gills Rock. The Canal Station Lighthouse or Pierhead Light is located at the Lake Michigan end of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Channel. Bailey’s Harbor Range Lights are located in the 100-acre Ridges Sanctuary. It is designated as a state natural area and is an important birding area.
Colorfully Named Communities
Many small communities n Door County have distinctive names that remind visitors of their colorful history. Towns like Bailey’s Harbor, which sits in a protected cove, was named for a Captain Justice Bailey, who happened upon the cove during a fierce storm in 1848. Egg Harbor, by historical accounts, was named when a “friendly” confrontation in 1825 by two parties ended in a large egg-throwing fight. Ephraim on the Green Bay side of Door was founded in 1853 as a religious community and since its founding, has prohibited alcohol sales and is still the only dry town in Wisconsin.
Gills Rock, situated at the end of the Door Peninsula, is the point of departure for the Washington Island Ferry. Washington island is only accessible by ferry, or by private boat. From Washington Island another ferry takes passengers, no cars, to Rock Island.
Fish boils are common in Door County. This is an entertaining way to sample the regional fare, usually white fish from Lake Michigan. Many credit Scandinavian immigrants for bringing the fish boil to Door County. Fish boils were originally used to feed large crowds of lumberjacks and fishermen economically. As the area grew as a tourist destination, it became a popular attraction at local restaurants.
With so many opportunities for outdoor recreation in Wisconsin’s Door County from its hiking, biking, skiing, and water activities, and with its many attractions to visit, especially its lighthouses, the Peninsula called Door would be an excellent place to visit.