Gills Rock Maritime Museum – Deaths Door

For the Fourth of July every year we head up to Gills Rock. If your not familiar with Gills Rock it is in Wisconsin and is one of the many tourist attractions in Door County. You can take the ferry across from Gills Rock to Washington Island. There are a few shops and a park. There are boat launches and a maritime museum. Now Gills Rock is a small town but let me tell you this town has AMAZING fireworks every year. Just when you think it’s the grand finale it’s not. I am blown away each year with the fireworks.

The maritime museum that is in Gills Rock is very small. However, it is also very interesting and has a lot of facts. One of the things that is famous between Gills Rock and Washington Island is Deaths Door. Your probably wondering what that???? I wonder if it would make you think twice about taking the ferry…..I know it kind creeps me out….with technology today it’s a whole different story. Eventually I will take the ferry across to Washington Island. That’s one experience I haven’t done and I live up here!!

Deaths Door is passageway that connects the Bay of Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Gills Rock is the Northern Tip of Door County and that is actually the south side of Deaths Door and to the north is a string of islands. When you look at the map of Door County you often times notice Porte Des Mortes, which means Deaths Door. The first people to discover this area were the Europeans. There are many legends about the name. You would think that it got its name because of all the ship wrecks. Well that really isn’t the case. It is said that it came from a Native American Battle, where many of them lost there lives. The fighting was said to be between the Potowatimi Indians and the Winnebago Indians. I don’t want to give you to much information because you can easily research that yourself or you can take the time to visit the museum and find out more about the battle between these two tribes.

The question then comes as to why is there so many shipwrecks. Well the Lake Michigan has some really violent weather in the fall and winter. These storms produce really big waves, fog, snow, sleet, and rain that reduces the visibility to the ships, which increases there chances of crashing on the rocky coasts or shoals. The currents of the bay and lake coming together also create for bad navigation. The reason the ships went through this passage way was because it was much faster to get where you were going. Most ships used this passage way until the Sturgeon Bay Canal was done in 1881. In all honesty I had NO idea that the canal was that old. So I learned something new.

If I gave you a little scare to take the ferry across no worries, shipwrecks now a days is a rare occurrence thanks to the new technology. The only traffic that does go through there is the ferry now. The ferries take tourist and islanders across back and forth.

There are some really neat artifacts that were found from the shipwrecks. It is rather interesting to find beach glass and other things along the beaches too. Once I found some sort of porcelain. I never did take it in to see if it was from a shipwreck. What got me thinking of that was some porcelain that was found in some of the ship wrecks. For all I know some one could have broken some fancy plates on a ship. Do you know that Lake Michigan alone has over 700 shipwrecks. One famous one is the Christmas Tree Ship which I believe is 8 miles off the Algoma Shoreline. You can see a little blurb about it down by the marina. I think it would be awesome to see some of these ships. Another ship wreck to remember is the sinking of the Edmond Fitzgerald. They actually have something about that ship wreck when you first walk in. They have a display of a ship wreck and what it would look like under water.

I don’t want to share to many pictures from the museum because it is really small but there is a lot of things to learn from the museum. One of the things that I learned was that commercial fishing began to become really popular during the Great Depression. We still have a lot of commercial fishing boats that take you out fishing. There is even ice fishing on the Bay. So if you like fishing one of many things to do is fish. Now there are many different towns with some awesome little shops and restaurants, state  parks, walking trails, and so much more. There is a lot to see and do in Door County. Back to the fishing during the Great Depression, one of the boats from that time is in the museum and the really cool thing is you can take a walk through it. I guess you appreciate it more with the history, at least I do. It was really neat to see. I believe the ship that is in the maritime museum is called Hope.

If your not careful you could be arrested for piracy out on the Great Lakes….. the cool thing about this little area was that they had different things from the older days for kids and adults to dress up in. We had fun playing with the different hats and outfits!

All in all the museum was really awesome. I am glad that we could take the time to visit and learn more about the things in our area. Since the kids were outside with friends we could take our time going through the museum. It really is a must see at least once!! I think it’s one of the treasures that many people actually miss out on!

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