Located in the beautiful Ridges Sanctuary of Door County, Wisconsin, the Baileys Harbor Range Lights have been guiding mariners safely into Baileys Harbor for over 150 years. As one of the most important locations along Lake Michigan in the 1800s, Baileys Harbor was a bustling hub of activity, serving as the county seat, a safe harbor, and a port for shipping lumber. Today, the Baileys Harbor Range Lights remain an important part of Door County’s maritime heritage, and they are a popular destination for visitors who want to learn more about the history of this beautiful region. Join us as we explore the fascinating history, construction, and significance of the Baileys Harbor Range Lights.
Here is what we’ll cover in this post:
- Quick Facts
- Visiting the Baileys Harbor Range Lights
- Structure of the Baileys Harbor Range Lights
- What are range lights?
- Frequently Asked Questions
If you are interested in lighthouses, make sure to check out our hub post on Door County lighthouses to learn more about the 11 lighthouses of Door County.
- Built in 1869
- Automated in 1923
- Decommissioned in 1969
- On the grounds of the Ridges Sanctuary
- The grounds are accessible for a $5 fee, and limited tours are available.
Visiting the Baileys Harbor Range Lights
The Baileys Harbor Range Lights are located on the grounds of the Ridges Sanctuary, which operates them as a privately maintained navigational aid.
A $5 fee applies to visit the Range Lights. Tours are available from early June through mid-October. Check the Ridges website for more information.
Structure of the Baileys Harbor Range Lights
The construction of the Baileys Harbor Range Lights was a significant undertaking, given the critical role they played in guiding ships safely into the harbor. The Upper Range Light is a one-and-a-half story building with seven rooms, including a rectangular tower in the south gable that contains the lantern room. The original fifth-order Fresnel lens with a fixed white light was used to provide visibility to mariners, even in adverse weather conditions.
The Lower Range Light, situated 1,000 feet to the south of the Upper Range Light, played a complementary role in guiding ships. It had a steamer lens and a fixed red light, which was visible to mariners travelling toward the harbor. One window of the Lower Range Light faced toward Lake Michigan, while the other window faced toward the Upper Range Light, allowing the keeper to monitor the Lower Range Light from his dwelling in the Upper Range Light.
The heights of the two range lights were carefully calculated to ensure optimal visibility for mariners. The Upper Range Light is 39 feet above the water, while the Lower Range Light is situated 22 feet above the water.
The construction of the Baileys Harbor Range Lights required careful planning and engineering, as the lights needed to be positioned in such a way as to provide maximum visibility for mariners, while also withstanding the harsh weather conditions that are common in the Great Lakes region. The end result was a pair of range lights that provided critical guidance to countless ships over the years, helping to ensure the safe passage of goods and people to and from Baileys Harbor.
What Are Range Lights?
Range lights are a type of navigational aid that are commonly used to help mariners make safe passage past nautical hazards. They consist of two lights, a higher rear light and a lower front light, that are separated from each other by a distance. When these two lights are lined up, the mariner knows that they are traveling in a safe passage.
The Baileys Harbor Range Lights are a perfect example of this type of navigational aid. The upper and lower lights are located on separate structures, which are positioned in such a way that they form a line of sight that can be used to guide ships safely into the harbor. The upper light is located on a tower, while the lower light is situated on a shorter building.
One of the key benefits of range lights is that they are relatively easy to maintain and operate. Unlike other types of navigational aids, such as buoys or beacons, range lights require very little maintenance once they are installed. Additionally, they are relatively inexpensive to operate, making them a popular choice for many mariners.
Overall, range lights are an essential component of many navigational systems, and they have helped countless mariners safely navigate through hazardous waters. The Baileys Harbor Range Lights are a prime example of the important role that range lights have played in the development of the Great Lakes region, and they serve as a reminder of the rich maritime history of the area.
History of the Baileys Harbor Range Lights
The Baileys Harbor Range Lights are a historic landmark that have played an important role in the development of the area. The range lights were built in 1869 at a cost of $6,000, which was a significant sum at the time. The lights, along with the Cana Island Lighthouse, were built to replace the Old Baileys Harbor “Birdcage” Lighthouse.
At the time it was constructed, Baileys Harbor was one of the most important locations along Lake Michigan. It was the county seat, a safe harbor, and a port for shipping lumber. The range lights played a crucial role in guiding ships safely into the harbor and ensuring that the area remained prosperous.
The range lights were automated in 1923, which marked an important milestone in their history. This automation made the lights more efficient and reliable and also reduced cost, as it eliminated the need for a lighthouse keeper.
Interestingly, in 1930, the rear range light became the parsonage for the town’s Lutheran minister. It remained so until the 1950s.
In 1969, the range lights were superseded by a directional light, which marked the end of an era for the historic landmark. However, the range lights were not forgotten, and in 1993 they were restored at a cost of $70,000. This restoration breathed new life into the range lights, and they once again became a prominent feature of the Baileys Harbor landscape.
Further restorations occurred in 2012, including placing lights in the two buildings. These lights are a “privately maintained navigational aid.” Today, the Baileys Harbor Range Lights are a cherished part of the area’s history, and they continue to serve as a reminder of the important role that Baileys Harbor played in the development of the region.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, tours are available of the Range Lights in the summer months. Visitors explore the buildings’ history and exhibits.
The range lights were built to replace the Old Baileys Harbor “Birdcage” Lighthouse and aid in navigation for mariners passing nautical hazards near Baileys Harbor, an important port on Lake Michigan.
Yes, it costs $5 to access the entire grounds of the Ridges Sanctuary, including the Baileys Harbor Range Lights.
- Built in 1869 to replace the Old Baileys Harbor Lighthouse. Baileys Harbor was an important port on Lake Michigan.
- Range lights are navigational aids with an upper and lower light that line up when in a safe passage.
- Upper Range Light has 7 rooms and a lantern room, Lower Range Light has one window facing Lake Michigan and another facing the Upper Range Light. Upper is 39ft, Lower is 22ft above water.
- Automated in 1923 and restored in 1993 at a cost of $70,000. Further restorations occurred in 2012.
- Popular destination in Door County for visitors to learn about maritime history and enjoy scenery.