After a couple of articles celebrating my milestone of 100 blog posts, we are back to ordinary time. A little over a month ago while staying on Madeline Island in northern Wisconsin, we took the opportunity to participate in a tour to one of the many lighthouses in Lake Superior. These tours are only offered a couple times a year coordinated between the Apostle Islands Cruise Service and the National Park Service. This post describes our fun and educational trip to the Raspberry Island Light.
For us, the tour was a bit of logistics since we were staying on Madeline Island. First we drove our truck to LaPointe on the Island and then took the Madeline Island ferry over to Bayfield. Once landing in Bayfield, we had about an hour before the tour departed so we did some window shopping along Rittenhouse Avenue and had a drink overlooking the Bayfield harbor. The day was glorious, warm and sunny, one of the warmest during our two week stay in the area. It was at the point, we realized the sunscreen was in the truck on Madeline Island. We had the mosquito spray (didn’t need it!) so decided to take our chances with the sun. Since it had been so cool prior to this day, we were dressed for cooler weather (it’s usually cooler out on the Lake) and wished we had worn lighter clothes and left our jackets in the truck. At the scheduled departure time, we were at the beginning of the line to board the tour boat and scored a couple of seats on the upper deck for the one hour ride over to Raspberry Island.
There were lots of sailboats and other watercraft on the Lake making the journey go by quickly.
On the way, we made a brief stop at Oak Island to pick up four campers that needed a ride back to Bayfield. They’d been camping for two days and seemed ready to get back to the world (read phone service!).
A short while later we were nearing Raspberry Island. Here are a few photos from our approach to the dock and the lighthouse grounds.
Here are some views as we departed the tour boat and approached the Light grounds.
Raspberry Island is located in the west channel that takes boats from the Ashland and Bayfield area towards Duluth and Superior. The Island is about a mile off the coast of northern Bayfield County and the Red Cliff Indian Reservation. The Light Station was built in 1862 as one of the lights to mark the west channel. This Light is said to be one of the few surviving wood framed lighthouses on Lake Superior. The tower emerges from the light keepers quarters making it convenient for the head and assistant keepers to make sure the light could be seen by the passing boats and ships. It’s interesting to note that the original Fresnel lens from this Light is now housed in the Madeline Island Historical Museum operated by the Wisconsin State Historical Society. Lighthouse lenses have highly specialized optics designed to focus the light from a small lamp into a beam that can be seen for miles across the water. In addition to the lighthouse, the grounds included a fog signal building, a boathouse, a barn, an outhouse, a granary and a huge garden with all types of fruit trees. The early light keepers often brought their families to the island during the shipping season so needed a convenient source of food as supply boats only arrived periodically. Keepers often had chickens, ducks, a cow or two and maybe some goats. If they had time, they also hunted game.
The light on Raspberry Island was automated in 1947 and later transferred to the National Park Service as part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. In addition, it’s also a National Historic Site. Park Service rangers and volunteers staff the Light offering tours and assisting visitors to the Island. During our tour one of the rangers, reenacted how life may been at the Light during 1923.
Our tour guide told the little kids they might be see something if they peeked through the keyhole on the door to the lighthouse keepers quarters. One girl tried her best!
In small groups we were lead up the stairs to see the lantern room and the gallery surrounding the lantern room. The following are photos from our visit to the Lighthouse.
After a two-hour stay, an interesting tour of the lighthouse and quarters, and some time relaxing and enjoying the Island, it was time to head back to Bayfield. Here’s my last photo of the Light.
Because I lollygagged taking photos, the seats on the upper deck were taken so we had to be satisfied with the lower enclosed deck. That proved fortunate because we experienced this scene, two children on the tour completed their Junior Ranger assignments while on the Island. They turned in their books to the National Park Ranger on the tour boat and he swore them in as Junior Rangers. It was to cute for words so here’s the photos. I’ve titled the top photo “Four, Two, Three!”
As the tour boat was making it’s way back to Bayfield, a U.S. Coast Guard boat approached us. At first we wondered what was going on but learned they were out on training maneuvers. They were practicing approaching a boat going at full speed so the Coast Guard boat pilot guided their craft next to the tour boat until one of the sailors aboard could reach out and touch our boat. Here’s a few photos from that experience.
It was pleasant day, one I’d recommend if you have the opportunity. After arriving back in Bayfield we had dinner at one of our favorites in the area, Maggie’s, great food and an eclectic atmosphere. After dinner we headed to the ferry dock but I couldn’t resist stopping to take this photo, I call it “Moon over Bayfield” thus channeling my inner Ansel Adams and his Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. (Forgive me if you’ve seen this before, I can’t help myself, I like this photo!)
Until next week, travel safe.