The Lighthouses of Lake Winnebago

The Lighthouses of Lake Winnebago

I love lighthouses. There is something about the lore of the lighthouse industry that strikes a cord within me. I’ve been to many of the lighthouses in Wisconsin both on Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, but there is another lake in Wisconsin that boosts lights. Lake Winnebago is the largest lake completely in Wisconsin at 10 miles across and 30 miles long and has several small lighthouses on its shores.

I was in the small town of New London, northwest of the lake, and decided on my way back south to Madison, to visit a few of these lighthouses. It was late in the day and I only had a few hours before the sunset, so I knew I would have to work quickly to see all I wanted to see.

Kimberly Point Light, Neenah, WI

My trip began with a driving east to Neenah, which sits at the northern tip of Lake Winnebago about half an hour south of Green Bay. I was headed to Kimberly Point Park, where my first lighthouse sits. This park is surrounded by an old and beautiful neighborhood with many houses with lake front access. These houses were large and entirely unique. This is the type of  place that people would drive through just to take a look at the houses.

This neighborhood is built where the Fox River exits Lake Winnebago. At this point is Kimberly Point Park which boosts the Kimberly Point Lighthouse. It was built in 1945 to mark the confluence and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a 49-foot, octagonal tower that, strangely, has a public bathroom in its base, which was closed for the season when I was there.

I got out of my car and took a few pictures of the light. I noticed that it has a weather vane with a ship on top of it. This struck me as funny, since Lake Winnebago isn’t exactly known as a place that had a lot of large boat traffic. On the way back to my car, I noticed that there were a lot of running cars parked along the road that goes through the park. A man, who I think was trying to unsuccessfully use the bathrooms, walked by me and remarked, “I think we’re the only two people here that aren’t playing Pokemon Go.” I suppose he was probably right.

Asylum Point Light, Oshkosh, WI

From there I drove south along the western shore of Lake Winnebago to the city of Oshkosh. I was looking for Asylum Point Park. Foolishly, I only put Asylum Point in my phone and learned why this area is called “asylum.” Back in the late 1800s, the Northern Asylum for the Insane was built on a piece of land abutting Lake Winnebago. Since then, it’s name has been changed to the Winnebago Mental Health Institute (which is a much better name) and I inadvertently drove through its campus looking for my next lighthouse.

After I realized that the lighthouse was not there, I changed my querie in my phone and drove about a mile to Asylum Point Park. Sitting on it’s own island is Asylum Point Lighthouse, probably the cutest lighthouse I have ever seen. I literally did a little dance outside of my car because this lighthouse delights me. It was built in 1937 as a project of the Works Progress Administration, but it was rejected as an aid to navigation and never lit. Sadly, when I was there, the bridge out to the island was closed, as it was leaning quite heavily.

Bray Point Light, Oshkosh, WI

I once again got back in my car and drove south. I only had to drive a short ways into the city of Oshkosh to see my next light. This one is unique in that it sits on private property and is privately maintained. I parked on the corner of Bay Shore Drive and Lake Street and did a cursory look around. Next to me was a wall that enclosed one of the houses on the point, which got me worried that I would not be able to see the light from the street as promised. I looked a bit to my right and, through the trees, stood Bray Point Lighthouse, plainly in view.

This light was built in 1910 by the first owner of the land, William Bray. Since then it has passed through many hands and underwent a restoration in the late ’80s. I left the light quickly, as I felt a little weird standing the street gawking into someone else’s yard. Even so, it was a neat little light to see, I especially enjoy the green iron atop it. .

Fond du Lac Light, Fond du Lac, WI

As I left Oshkosh, the sun began to set. I knew when I set out that I would not be able to see all the lights around Lake Winnebago, but I was hopeful I would get at least four in before it got completely dark. I ended up at the southernmost city on Lake Winnebago: Fond du Lac (which literally means “bottom of the lake” in French.) Here they have a large waterfront park called Lakeside Park that houses a bunch of different attractions. Just on my ride in, I noticed a monument to the Spanish-American War, an old steam engine, and a merry-go-round. The jewel of this park is the Fond du Lac Lighthouse.

It was built in 1933 by donation and quickly became a symbol to the surrounding community. The lighthouse is featured in the seal of the city and adorned on businesses and bridges in Fond du Lac. In the warmer months, visitors are allowed to climb the 40-foot tower. Unfortunately, I was there in March, so I could only look in the windows longingly.

At this time, it was dusk and it was another half hour to the fifth lighthouse on the lake, Calumet Harbor Light. I decided that I would turn for home and visit this lighthouse at a later date. Though there was never serious shipping on this lake and many of the lighthouses were never official aides to navigation, it was still fascinating to visit these lights and learn about their history. Overall, I have to say that these lights were some of the cutest I have ever seen and were worth the trip.

Historical Source: Lighthouse Friends

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