|Peshtigo Reef, WI|
Description: Peshtigo River empties into Green Bay at a point eight miles south of Marinette, Wisconsin. From the north side of the river, a shoal or reef projects into the bay roughly four miles and presented a significant obstacle for mariners. This submerged obstruction was not easy to mark, and over the years a day beacon, a lightship, and the current lighthouse have all served for lengthy periods to alert mariners of the dangerous reef.
In 1865, a special committee of the Lighthouse Board was dispatched to the Great Lakes to ascertain the needs of commerce, with a charge to pay particular attention to Green Bay. As a result, a lighthouse for Chambers Island, range lights at the entrance to the Fox River, and a beacon for Peshtigo Reef were recommended. On July 28, 1866, Congress approved $25,000 for “additional aids to navigation in Green Bay, including a light-house on Chambers’s island and a beacon on Peshtigo shoal.”
In 1892, the Lighthouse Board noted that the “large and important commerce of the vicinity” had for many years been inconvenienced by the lack of a reliable mark on Peshtigo Reef and recommended that $10,000 be allocated for a light and fog signal. An act in February 1893 authorized the light and fog signal but made no appropriation, and after requesting funds in 1893 and 1894, the Board apparently reconsidered the project. In 1898, the Lighthouse Board stated that marking the reef with a buoy was difficult as the water deepened rapidly at the twelve-foot line and acknowledged that establishing a lighthouse on the reef “would be a dangerous experiment, due to the tremendous push of floating ice in the vicinity.” Instead, the Board requested $15,000 for a lightship.
After the Lighthouse Board repeated its request for a lightship for Peshtigo Reef each year, Congress finally appropriated $15,000 for the vessel on June 28, 1902. Johnson Boiler Co. built lightship No. 77, a steel-hulled vessel with a length of seventy-five feet and beam of twenty-one-and-a-half feet, at Ferrysburg, Michigan in 1905 under a contract for $13,950. The lightship was delivered by the contractors to Sturgeon Bay in November 1905 and was placed on station on April 28, 1906.
Lightship No. 77 had four staterooms, a bathroom, and a galley and was equipped with a hollow steel mast from which a light was shown from three oil lens lanterns. In times of low visibility, the crew would ring a fog bell by hand.
In 1923, the Commissioner of Lighthouses noted that Peshtigo Reef was in the direct line of the heavy coal traffic, amounting to 850,000 tons, making its way to and from Green Bay City. As the lightship was unable to mark the reef in early spring and late fall due to ice conditions, the commissioner stated that the coal traffic “fully warrants the construction of a fixed station on crib at this point, replacing the vessel.”
This station constructed near the outer end of Peshtigo Reef in 10-foot depth and placed in full commission on May 6, 1936, replaces Peshtigo Reef Lightship which has been discontinued, resulting in a material decrease in maintenance cost as well as providing a more effective aid to navigation.
Conrad Stram was keeper of Sherwood Point Lighthouse when Peshtigo Reef Lighthouse commenced operation in 1936. Interestingly, Keeper Stram was Captain of the Peshtigo Reef Lightship from 1908 to 1913, and then served at Cana Island Lighthouse, Lansing Shoal Lightship, and Sturgeon Bay Canal Lighthouse before being appointed keeper at Sherwood Point. Keeper Stram used a tuning fork to transmit a tone to Peshtigo Reef where a reed, tuned to the same frequency, picked up the vibrations and tripped a relay to activate the fog signal. Until his retirement in 1945, Keeper Stram would take a boat out to Peshtigo Reef each week to service the light.
Located just under four miles southeast of where the Peshtigo River
empties into Green Bay. The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard. Tower closed.
The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard. Tower closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.