Winnebago Lighthouses, Pt. 1

Fond du Lac Lighthouse
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You know a lake is big when it has lighthouses to alert boaters to safe harbors.

Lake Winnebago is 30 miles long, ten miles wide. In most places, it's only 15 feet deep, so when the weather gets rough and those boats need a port in a storm.

Lighthouses showed the way before those boats had G.P.S. units to point the way.

Six remain on either side of Lake Winnebago.  Today's blog features three - at the southern tip and along the eastern shore.

In 1932, lumber man W. J. Nuss offered to build a 40 foot lighthouse in Fond du Lac's Lakeside park.  Six other men supported the project, which was built by out-of-work city residents, happy to get put to work.

It was built in 1932, topped with a beacon purchased by the local Yacht club.

By the mid-1960s, it had fallen into disrepair when a new set of city stewards stepped forward to save the city's iconic landmark.  It re-opened in 1968 for park visitors.

Lake Winnebago from Lakeside Park, Fond du Lac
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The lantern is gone.  Instead, the interior stairway climbs through a hatch in the top deck's floor for a 360-degree view of the park and lake.

It's a popular spot.

In the half-hour or so as we walked up and around the house dozens of visitors stopped to visit.

While the light is gone, it still attracts guests to shore.

Up the coast, a working beacon welcomes boaters back to shore.

Fisherman's Road Light
Notice the Heron in flight (left)
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The Fisherman's Road Fishing Club owns its own light which guards its own boat landing from the waves on the big lake.

It's a no frills, get the job done right, light.

Not every night light is a rustic reminder of the old days.

The fishermen and women just want to be able to get the boat back on land when its dark or storm clouds threaten.

It doesn't matter what the light stand looks like, just that you can see it from a long distance.  This applies to winter as well, since anglers drive on the ice in search of Lake Sturgeon.

I'm expecting to find a lot of lake lights in the years ahead and hope to find old and new alike.  The most interesting feature of this one was a beautiful Heron I spotted as I walked closer to frame a shot.

It took off after a couple clicks and circled into view and focus as I lined up the shot with the light.  Thanks, bird.

Calumet Lighthouse
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One of the most interesting and dramatic water lights sits on the shore in Pipe, Wisconsin.

The Calumet Lighthouse is actually serving its second role in the community after starting service as a water tower for the Fond du Lac Table Factory

In 1936, it was moved to Calumet Harbor to become an observation tower and navigation aid.  Its wood observation decks and stairs were weathered and worn by the 1980s and removed.

Again, volunteers sprang into action, restoring the tower and re-opening for guests in 1992.

75 feet high, it towers above the trees and rewards hearty souls ready to conquer the ten flights of metal, open stairs.

At the top, I met two couples.  One couple was from the state of Wyoming being entertained by hosts from Fond du Lac.  As they headed to the bottom, leaving me to look across the lake to the far shore, the top deck swayed slightly, enough to remind me of my lofty perch.

The High light on the Lake.
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After a few minutes at the top, I wondered where the light was, finally locating the small and powerful beam over my head.

The tower is slightly south of where Pipe Creek drains into the lake.  It also forms a harbor for boaters who use a sheltered boat launch, then make their way downstream to the lake.

Calumet County is heavily rural, with a growing population of folks happy to commute to work back in the city.

Original European settlers called it Calumet, a French term for an Indian Peace Pipe, presumably in honor of a Menominee village whose name meant Peace Pipe.

The current village name of Pipe is thought to carry on the tradition as does the county's official slogan, "We extend the Calumet to all mankind."

I wonder if the "Calumet" was extended to the Menominee?

Lake Winnebago from Columbia Park.  (dwm)
There is a peace felt in the surroundings.

From atop the observation tower or peering from the stairs through support cable, the sounds came from the lake and the light breeze.

Boaters rumble out with high hopes for a big catch or slow to no wake as they realize they have the night's dinner in hand or still need to stop by the store for fresh fish in cellophane.

I know there are quite a few more lighthouses to see around the Great Lakes, but I doubt any are as high and breath-taking as this one.

Looking up 75 feet to the observation deck.  (dwm)
Climbing down took a little longer than the climb up as I wanted to find each step.  One tread caught my eye with it's nearly 2-inch diameter hole inside what should have been a neat and tidy metal triangle.

It seemed to match a stiletto heel from a woman's shoe.  I wondered what happened. Did she fall forward and did she recover the shoe?  I'm glad I had on running shoes.

Then I was on the ground for a couple final shots and on the road for the lake's next lights.
July 1 is the next look at Winnebago lights.