Adventures in Everyday Entertaining
When I was younger, my family used to sail to Rock Island State Park quite often and dock for a day or two to enjoy the island. Twenty-some years later, I returned as part of our recent vacation– this time to camp there with “L” (who had never been there before). The island is surrounded by Lake Michigan, roughly six miles around and only accessible by boat. Cars or bikes are not allowed, except an all-terrain 4-wheeler vehicle that the park ranger has. The park offers camping, hiking, a beautiful beach area, and dock space for boaters. Non-boaters take a foot ferry across from Washington Island for their day or overnight visits. For campers, any gear has to be carried over on the ferry and walked in to their site (not to be confused with a typical backpacking site).
Rock Island is rich with history. During the 1600s and 1700s it was largely inhabited by the Potawatomi Native American tribe. It was also part of several routes of French traders and explorers. You can still see some of the rock carvings along the cliffs from the Potawatomi. After that there are records of a fishing village –the oldest permanent European settlement on the Door County Peninsula– as well as the building of Wisconsin’s oldest lighthouse in 1836. (Stay tuned for a separate post about our tour through the Pottawatomie Lighthouse. –And yes, the spelling of the lighthouse and the indigenous tribe are supposed to be different).
And then in 1910, Icelandic inventor Charles Thordason purchased the majority of the island (pretty much everything but the land surrounding the lighthouse area) and began to build a summer estate. The majority of his structures still stand. The Wisconsin DNR purchased the island and buildings from the Thordason heirs in 1965 and turned it into a state park.
Some of Thordason’s buildings:
Our campsite and the view from it: