Raspberry Island Light
By Colt Edin

This is one of the few surviving wood framed lighthouses left on Lake Superior. It was built in 1863 to mark the west channel through the Apostle Islands.

The lighthouse complex consists of the square tower rising up from the front of the large attached keeper's quarters. Other structures on the site include a brick fog signal building, two storage buildings, frame barn, brick oil house, boathouse, two outhouses and a dock.

The light was extinguished in 1957 but has been maintained since then by the National Park Service who keeps the station open for tours.

The original fifth order Fresnel lens has been removed and is on display on Madeline Island at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin Museum.


The following is part of an article that originally appeared in Great Laker magazine. www.greatlaker.com. By Dave Wobser.

The Apostle Islands are located in Lake Superior off the north end of the Bayfield Peninsula, which juts out in a northeasterly direction from the north shore of Wisconsin between Duluth-Superior and Ashland, Wisconsin. The archipelago consists of twenty-two individual islands, 21 of which are part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, a branch of the US National Park Service which was created by Congress in 1970. The National Lakeshore also includes some 2500 acres along the shore of the peninsula. Only Madeline Island is not under federal care and has a number of summer homes located on the island.

All six Apostle Island lighthouses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service has made a commitment to stabilize and preserve these stations. During the summer season, NPS rangers or volunteers carry on the lighthouse keeping tradition and are on hand to welcome visitors, conduct tours and help with maintenance while protecting the structures from vandalism.

In addition to lighthouses, the Apostle Island National Lakeshore offers many other recreational opportunities. These include camping on eight of the islands, kayaking, hiking, picnicking and exploring abandoned quarries and farms on the islands.

The Apostle's originally received their name because early French explorers mapped only twelve islands. The French had established a major fur trading post in the islands from about 1660 to 1840. Much of their trading was with the Chippewa (Ojibway) Indians who had lived in the area since the 1400ís.

Tourism and trips to summer homes of the wealthy had been established by steamers in the early 1800ís, and commercial fishing had begun in the 1830ís. All of these ventures generated increased vessel traffic in the area.

The Apostle Islands represented a series of navigation hazards to Great Lakes shipping following the opening of the State Lock at Sault Ste. Marie on May 31, 1855. With the opening of the Soo, vessels could travel between four of the five Great Lakes, and the lumber, quarrying and ore industries began to boom. The increased vessel traffic needed guidance around the islands, particularly when traveling the length of Lake Superior.

About the same time, the towns of Bayfield, Washburn and Ashland were developing into shipping ports. The first sawmill began operation in Bayfield in 1856. Logging on the islands continued for nearly a hundred years. Quarrying of brownstone started in 1869 on Basswood Island. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 created a greater demand for lumber and brownstone, and the island economy boomed. The increased economy brought more vessels to the area, and with them the need for more aids to navigation. A total of six light stations were established on the Apostle Islands between 1857 and 1891. They are Michigan Island (1857), La Pointe (1858), Raspberry Island (1863), Chequamegon Point (1868) Outer Island (1874), Sand Island (1881) and Devils Island (1891).

The best place to start your tour of the Apostle Islands is at the National Lakeshore  headquarters located in the former Bayfield County courthouse in Bayfield. The headquarters is located on Washington Street, between North 4th and North 5th Streets, one block north of Wisconsin Route 13. The staff here is ready to answer all your questions and provide an armful of helpful brochures about the islands.

When you visit the headquarters building, notice the buildings construction of a reddish-brown sandstone known as 'brownstone'. For more than 25 years, beginning in 1868, the quarrying of brownstone was a major industry employing as many as 1200 men on several of the islands and the surrounding mainland. Many buildings in the area and major cities of the US were constructed of brownstone before the introduction of steel-framed buildings in 1893 turned the heads of contemporary architects.

Located on the southwest side of Raspberry Island, this light marks the entrance to the west channel from Lake Superior, along the Wisconsin shoreline to the towns of Bayfield, Washburn and Ashland.

The Raspberry Island Lighthouse may well be the crown jewel of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. A total of seven structures have been, or are undergoing, restoration to the replicate the look of the 1920's. The station sits on a red clay bluff some 40 feet above Lake Superior.

The center piece is the large, two-story, wood-frame dwelling, divided by a square white frame tower holding an 10-sided black iron lantern room. The dwelling has matching front and rear porches on each side of the building, and identical one-story rooms attached to each side. Restoration of the dwelling interior is an on-going project by NPS volunteers. An original USLHS traveling library is on display, and visitors are permitted to climb to the top of the tower.

The original Fifth Order Fresnel lens is now on display in the museum on Madeline Island, just a short walk from the ferry dock. The focal plane is 80 feet above Lake Superior.

Also located on the station are two outhouses, two sheds, a barn and fog signal building. The grounds are well maintained, including a vegetable garden and a number of flower beds that have been designed to replicate a 1920ís photo of the station.

The original tramway leading up from the boat dock remains, and a rare tram cart is located at the top. A set of steps between the rails takes the visitor up to the station. National Park Service volunteer keepers are on the island during the summer months and the Annual Celebration.


Access to the most of the Apostle Islands light stations is via the Apostle Islands Cruise Service (www.apostleisland.com) water taxi or private boat during the summer months. During the Annual Apostle Island Lighthouse Celebration (www.lighthousecelebration.com) ferry tour service is provided to all the lighthouses. Volunteer park rangers are on the many of the islands to greet visitors during the summer months.

Click on images to enlarge
Photos by Jim Lindholm

View from the water

2008 view after restoration

Rear view of keepers duplex

Fog signal building

Location: Raspberry Island is part of the Apostle Island chain off Bayfield, Wisconsin
Date Built: 1863
Active: No

Open to



Access is by private boat or Apostle Island Cruise Service

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