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Long Island Lightstation
Three lighthouses have graced the narrow sandspit that separates Chequamegon Bay from the open waters of Lake Superior. Originally intended to guide ships to the old fur trade settlement of LaPointe on nearby Madeline Island, the station on Long Island took its name from that historic town.
The first LaPointe light was constructed about one-quarter mile east of the island's western tip. This small, wooden structure was hastily erected in 1858, when authorities found that in the previous year, the lighthouse intended for Long Island had been placed on Michigan Island in defiance of their plans. Although the "misplacement" of the lighthouse was apparently due to the instructions of a Lighthouse Service official, the contractor was forced to build a second lighthouse at his own expense.
Over the years, the focus of shipping in the area shifted from venerable LaPointe to the bustling industrial port of Ashland. To accomodate this change, authorities installed a steam-powered fog signal and replaced the old lighthouse with two newer towers, spaced nearly a mile apart.
The fog signal came first, built in 1891, several thousand feet east of the original light. In 1897, it was joined by the "New" LaPointe light, a 67-foot cylindrical tower constructed alongside. The old lighthouse had its lantern room removed, and continued to serve as housing for keepers and their families until it was finally abandoned in 1940, replaced by a triplex apartment block. Only ruins remain today, hidden in thick vegetation.
The Chequamegon Point light, a 42-foot tower at the western tip of the island, was also erected in 1897. The LaPointe keeper had to operate both lights. Fortunately for the weary keepers, the Lighthouse Service eventually built a concrete sidewalk connecting the two towers, eliminating the need for a tiring walk through loose sand.
By 1924, a radio beacon was added to the LaPointe light station. Generators supplied power for the radio beacon and keepers' quarters. Eventually, a cable was installed across the channel to Madeline Island, making the LaPointe station the only one among the Apostle Island lights with consistent access to electrical power.
LaPointe light station and the Chequamegon Point light were fully automated in 1964. The fog signal building was demolished in 1986.
Of the three historic lighthouses of Long Island, only the New LaPointe tower remains in use. In 1987, concerned about erosion, the U.S. Coast Guard moved the Chequamegon Point tower, lifting it with a helicopter and transporting it about one hundred feet back from the shoreline. The beacon was placed on a modern cylindrical structure, and the old tower stands empty, surrounded by trees.
Visiting the Lighthouses
Long Island is not served by scheduled tour boats, although the Apostle Islands Cruise Service sometimes provides special trips. Private boaters visiting the site should use caution due to shallow waters around the island. Distant views of the Chequamegon Point and New LaPointe towers can be seen from a variety of locations on Madeline Island and along State High 13 on the mainland. The lighthouses on Long Island are not open to the public, but may be viewed from outside.
Did You Know?
Snowmobiles may be operated for authorized purposes (i.e. ice fishing, hunting, trapping, and winter camping) on the frozen surface of Lake Superior that surrounds every island from the shoreline out to the authorized boundary (one quarter mile offshore).