Dusk at Rock Island is spectacular. An hour before sunset, the water is magnificently filled with hues of gold, pink and blue. Just as the sun recedes over the western water, the color seems to drain from the water leaving it a glacial blue and turning the sky vibrant. It’s unlike any location I’ve ever visited.
Rock Island itself is a magical. Dense forest, sheer rock faces falling into a deep blue lake, millions of rocks worn smooth by the impact of water and time. Now a state park with no major large sources of light pollution nearby, and no electricity on the island; time is measured by the hourly ferry coming to and from Washington Island. The night skies here feature thousands of stars viewable to the naked eye.
No larger than 6 miles in circumference, the island teems with wildlife and history. Coyotes, deer, raccoons, snakes, and even a purported bear wander the island while hundreds of diverse birds for fish hunt off the shore.
Rock Island is located past the tip of Door County, beyond the treacherous shallow straights between the peninsula and Washington Island. The water beyond this island drops to some of the deepest in Lake Michigan. It was this location at the edge of the only navigable point from Green Bay for deep hulled ships that led to the building of the first lighthouse on Lake Michigan in 1836 on the northern part of the island. It is also rumored that the first building in Door County is the outhouse near the lighthouse.
This island was where the first settlers of Wisconsin first settled. Prior to these settlers, the island had been used by Native Americans for thousands of years as a trading post and safe haven from weather and other hostile tribes. In the late 1600’s the first explorers visited the island and in the 1700’s trading posts were established. The island saw continued settlement until the early 1800’s, when a harbor on Washington Island was created that allowed for bigger fishing vessels.