More than 700 historic shipwrecks rest in Wisconsin water. The state's maritime trails allow exploration from dry land. Photo: Tamara Thomsen/Wisconsin Historical Society
They are watery, not dusty, but these Wisconsin trails draw the adventurous just as a Wild West excursion would. Wisconsin’s Maritime Trails feature interpretative signs, websites, public presentations and marked shipwreck moorings. The trails also document, preserve and protect the state’s submerged archaeological sites. With 42 shipwrecks listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Wisconsin has more than any other state.
Wisconsin Trails Explore State’s Maritime History
That’s all due to a collaborative effort by Sea Grant, the Wisconsin Historical Society and other partners to foster knowledge and exploration of the state’s maritime history. Check out the website, maritimetrails.org, now for cold-weather explorations and upcoming events. Then, make plans this summer for a road trip. That’s when the maritime curious can check out three new historical markers and the replacement of a temporary marker.
One of the new trail markers highlights early steamboat tourism. It’s in Ephraim, where early 20th-century tourists escaped the summer heat and pollution of Milwaukee and Chicago via the Goodrich Transportation Co.’s steamboat. Steamboats also carried hundreds of tons of freight until the 1920s, when the automobile and improved roads allowed easier access to Door County.
A second marker is in Sturgeon Bay, commemorating the area’s quarrying past. The local Niagara dolomitic limestone was ideal for constructing breakwalls and piers, and by 1917 almost every harbor around Lake Michigan had been constructed in part with Sturgeon Bay limestone.
Lake Michigan’s very first shipwreck, Le Griffon, will be commemorated with a marker Rock Island State Park. The French brig landed near present-day Green Bay in September 1679. A few days later, Native Americans saw it sail into a storm on northern Lake Michigan—the last anyone ever saw of Le Griffon. Today, the disappearance of Le Griffon remains one of the Great Lakes greatest mysteries.
A temporary version of a fourth marker is already installed in the Egg Harbor marina. It is a memorial to the crew of the Erie L. Hackley, which sank on Oct. 3, 1903. That night, the Hackley departed Menominee, Mich., bound for Egg Harbor. About an hour later, a violent squall tore the pilot house and cabin from the hull. Only eight of the 19 people aboard lived through the ordeal, some by hanging on to the floating cabin, others by clinging to debris. Survivors were rescued the next morning by the steamer Sheboygan.
The frigid, fresh waters of the Great Lakes preserve shipwrecks for a longer time than those resting in saltwater. With more than 30,000 ships plying the Great Lakes throughout history, it is not surprising that there are more than 700 historic shipwrecks in Wisconsin. Additionally, Wisconsin has a lot of Great Lakes shoreline, so there are a lot of opportunities to visit and explore these underwater cultural relics—accessible to both divers and those who read about them on historical markers on-shore.
Bell Rings in New Aquaculture Production Facility
Credits Sea Grant’s Assistance
Sea Grant’s Fred Binkowski, an aquaculture outreach specialist, provides technical advice and assistance to Bell Aquaculture in Redkey, Ind. Yellow perch fisheries in the Great Lakes have been depressed, and Bell is meeting consumer and restaurant demand for the tender, flaky fish with an estimated 1 million pounds sold in 2011. That makes it one of the largest, if not the largest, suppliers in the nation.
Late last year, the company began operations in an expanded $5-million production facility. Plans are underway for another production-facility expansion later this year.
Bell President and CEO Norman McCowan said, “Our customers come to us for a quality food that they can share with their families or that restaurants can feature to enhance their menus. Thanks to Wisconsin Sea Grant, we can deliver.”