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Door County is pleasantly void of skyscrapers — but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for a view. Three lookout towers provide expansive, panoramic views of the vibrant blues and greens that encapsulate the beauty of the peninsula and islands.
Door County’s natural scenic beauty is one of the biggest attractions this strip of land has to offer. While beaches and bluffs offer incredible views, there are three spots along the peninsula where you can climb high to truly take it all in.
Before it became a state park in 1928, Potawatomi park belonged to the Village of Sawyer, which eventually became a part of Sturgeon Bay. A few members of the Sawyer Commercial Club were jealous of the attention that Eagle Tower up in Peninsula State Park was getting and they decided to build a tower of their own. The club financed and volunteered to build the structure, but when all was said and done, it topped out one foot shorter than Eagle Tower, at 75 feet.
Still, attendance at the park quickly approached that of Peninsula to the north. One account from the Door County Advocate in 1931 claimed that you could see 25 miles across the bay and distinctly make out the buildings of Marinette and Menominee. While that might have been some journalistic exaggeration, you can surely see the winding peninsula of Idlewild across Sawyer Harbor and the Olde Stone Quarry (now George Pinney County Park) that supplied much of the stone to Sturgeon Bay’s shipbuilders during World War II. *As of April 2018 the tower is scheduled to be deconstructed with no current plans for replacement
The Friends of Peninsula State Park have launched a fundraising drive to rebuild the tower. For more information visit EagleTowerFund.com. There is a passionate effort behind the rebuild, because perhaps the only thing more important than the tower’s historical significance is the incredible view.
First built in 1914 as a way to watch for forest fires following the 1871 Peshtigo Fire, the tower was rebuilt in 1932. Although serving as a fire tower, it was still open to the public. Soon, there were more tourists climbing the tower than forest fire watchmen and one the greatest Door County attractions was born.
From atop Eagle Tower, standing 250 feet above the Bay of Green Bay (the tower itself is 76 feet tall) you can easily see the charming village of Ephraim nestled against Eagle Harbor to the east. Look west across the bay on a clear day and you’ll see the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Down in the water below, make out the horseshoe shape that gave Horseshoe Island it’s name just off the shore of Nicolet Bay.
The tower on Washington Island is perhaps the most curious one, since the story behind it is so simple. “It just came up at a meeting and the town voted on it,” wrote Gail Larson Toerpe in the Washington Island Observer.
The town began construction in 1968 and without room for a crane or electricity lines, builders carried the logs for the tower on their shoulders. But town residents didn’t stop with just a tower. In 1989, a group of volunteers built a staircase leading up the steep hill to the base of the tower, clocking in a total of 186 steps.
Look out over the northeast corner of Washington Island and see Rock Island State Park in the distance, the beginning of the Grand Traverse Islands, which stretch all the way up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
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