Raspberry Island

A man dressed in black suit waives from porch steps of a two story white lighthouse.
Ranger Fred greets visitors dressed as a lightkeeper.

NPS Photo

Quick Facts

Dock/Pier, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Information - Ranger/Staff Member Present, Picnic Table, Toilet - Vault/Composting, Trailhead

Preserving a Lighthouse and its Stories

More than a century of exposure to the harsh Lake Superior environment took its toll on the Miskominikaani-minis (Raspberry Island) Lighthouse. The roof leaked, the foundation was cracked, clapboards were rotting, and plaster was falling down. Other buildings near the lighthouse had similar problems. The light station known as the "showplace of the Apostles" needed substantial restoration to ensure sustainability. A major project began in 2002 to stabilize the shoreline and rehabilitate the property to preserve its historical, architectural, and cultural significance. The historic keeper's quarters now looks much like it did (inside and out) in the early 1920s. Maintaining the light station's historic buildings and grounds is a continuous challenge for National Park Service staff. A small dock below the lighthouse is available for boaters visiting the island on a first come first serve basis. 

Lighthouse History

The Raspberry Island light was first lit in July of 1863 to serve as a beacon to many steamboats traveling through the west channel of the Apostle Islands. The original structure was a single family dwelling surmounted by a square tower. A brick fog signal building was added to the station in 1903, creating a need for additional staff. In 1906 the original lighthouse was rebuilt into a duplex at a cost of $7500 to house the head lighthouse keeper and his two assistants! The duplex structure is the building we see at Raspberry Island today. 

Keeping the Lighthouse

When lighthouse keepers lived at the lighthouse, they regularly maintained the buildings and grounds. Note these entries from the lighthouse logbook in May 1915:

5/3 - Washing walls interior and working in signal.
5/4 - Cleaning in signal & mowing the lawn. 
5/5 - Painting on the dwelling this forenoon.
5/11 - Painting on dwelling & out houses.
5/12 - Painting boat house, trimmings on fog signal and other work. 
5/13 - Painting in signal and railing to dock. 
5/18 - Painting outside and inside of lantern, also verandah floors. 

This attention to regular maintenance ended when the Coast Guard automated the station in 1947. 

Lighthouse Rehabilitation

Raspberry Island Light is the national lakeshore's most visited lighthouse, hosting thousands of people each year. In order to preserve the station, a $1.4 million shoreline stabilization project in 2002 and 2003 provided rock walls, better drainage, and a re-vegetated slope to keep the fog signal building and lighthouse from sliding into the lake. A $1.3 million project to rehabilitate the lighthouse and keeper's quarters followed from 2005 to 2007. This work included foundation repairs, a new roof, restored windows and doors, and repairs to interior and exterior walls. The National Park Service fights a never-ending battle with the harsh environment to maintain all these historic buildings. 

Recycling the Past

How can we keep alive the stories of the keepers and explain their connections to the broader community they served? Once the lighthouse was rehabilitated, the National Park Service refurnished the lighthouse keeper's quarters as it may have been in the early 1920s. This helps park rangers tell the keepers' stories so visitors can better understand what life was like for the keepers and their families. Ongoing station rehabilitation efforts include grounds and other buildings and associated structures like the flagpole, swing, and birdhouses. Dedicated volunteers and park staff help plant and maintain the flower and vegetable gardens that historically, were such an important part of the light station's landscape. The Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore assisted restoration efforts and spearheaded the rehabilitation of the Raspberry Island boat house. Please contact them at PO Box 1574, Bayfield, WI. 54814 if you wish to contribute to this effort. 

Saving a lighthouse is recycling the past. It connects us to the past and helps form a bridge to the future. Anthropologists Mary Catherine Bateson wrote: "The past empowers the present..."

Recycling our past is reviving it to the present...bringing history back to life! Rehabilitation of Raspberry Island Light Station is the ultimate recycling project. 


There are two hiking trails located on the island. The Sand spit Trail is 0.75 miles long and connects the East Bay sand spit up the lighthouse. The West Bay trail is 1.0 miles long and starts at the lighthouse and winds around down to the West Bay. 


Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Last updated: November 7, 2021