Kenosha Pierhead

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Kenosha Pierhead Light
Kenosha Pierhead Lighthouse
Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Built in 1906, this brilliant red lighthouse marks the entrance to Kenosha Harbor on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. Like most southern Lake Michigan lighthouses, this one is at the end of a concrete pier extending way into the lake.

While it's not the most elegant example on the lake, the construction of this lighthouse is quite interesting. Made of increasingly smaller cast iron rings stacked on top of one another, the tower tapers toward the top to form the familiar conical shape of the light.

A forth order Fresnel lens sits atop of the 50 foot tall structure, warning boats of the shore and marking the entrance to the harbor.

A few hundred feet inland sits the old 1866 Southport lighthouse that was replaced when the pier was built in the early 1900s.

Southport Lighthouse

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Southport Lighthouse
The Old Southport Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters
Simmons Island, Kenosha, Wisconsin

Built in 1866 of Cream City Brick from Milwaukee, this 52 foot tall lighthouse and its fourth order Fresnel lens served the maritime community until 1906 when it was replaced by the new North Pier Light. The lantern room was removed a few years later and a flag staff was installed at the top of the tower to display storm warning signals.

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Southport Lighthouse Doorway
The Southport Lighthouse Doorway
Kenosha, Wisconsin

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Southport Lighthouse Vertical Panorama
A vertical panoramic view

Slated for demolition in the 1950's, the Southport lighthouse was saved and restored over the years and remains an important symbol of Kenosha's maritime history.

Overnight Snowfall

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Snowy Winter Morning
DuPage River
Naperville, Illinois

A wet snowfall overnight highlights every branch on all of the trees along the DuPage River.

Wind Point Light

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Wind Point Lighthouse
Wind Point Lighthouse on a beautiful winter day
Wind Point, Wisconsin

A sunny February day is ideal for heading up north into Wisconsin to take in some lighthouses! Sunday was sunny and 31 degrees in Racine, WI, but it seemed much warmer in the sun. In fact, it felt like spring the entire time even though the ground was covered in around a foot of snow.

Wind Point, Wisconsin is a few miles north of Racine and just south of Milwaukee. There is a very picturesque lighthouse and keeper's house located in this little town of around 2000 people. Built in 1880, and standing at 108 feet tall, it remains one of the tallest operating lighthouses on Lake Michigan. With it's original third order Fresnel lens, the light from the kerosene lamp was able to be seen up to 19 miles away. A detached fog house was later built that had an audible signal capable of warning vessels up to 40 miles away. It was also one of the first lighthouses on the great lakes to become electrified, that occurred in 1924.

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north point light pano
A Panoramic View of Wind Point, Wisconsin

The lighthouse sets right on a natural point that projects into Lake Michigan - hence the town name Wind Point. The views are spectacular from the beach, the golf course next door and even from the park a few blocks away.

Wind Point Light is possibly the most beautiful lighthouse I've visited on Lake Michigan (so far!). The tall, white tower and keeper's house paint a striking picture against the deep blue sky and water of Lake Michigan. I'll have to visit in the summer when the grass and trees are green and we can enjoy a day in the shadow of this beautiful lighthouse.

Winter Sunset

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prairie barn sunset
Sunset and an abandoned farm
Orland Park, IL

A dilapidated crib barn and common reed are silhouetted against the setting sun on a cold February evening. This is one of my favorite farms to visit because it's so convenient for me to see while driving to and from work. It also has a little pond right in front of the barn that provides great reflections.

I'm sure it will be gone soon, but if I ever will the lottery, maybe I'll buy the property to make sure it stays around a little longer.

Lunar Eclipse

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Progression of The Lunar Eclipse
Composite of Lunar Eclipse
February 20, 2008

I braved the frigid temperatures last night and stood outside with a camera and tripod to capture the last full lunar eclipse until 2010 - at least in North America. Taking a few photos every 5 to 10 minutes, I managed to stay frostbite free and still enjoy the rare event.

Lucky for me, it was high up in the sky so I didn't have to travel to some wide-open park and freeze. It was also nice and early in the evening, so unlike last time, I didn't have to get up at 2:30 AM just to see it.

Split Rock

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split rock tunnel
Tunnel through Split Rock
Near LaSalle, Illinois

Split Rock got it's name from the time of the building of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. It was a tall limestone, sandstone and dolomite stone obstacle that stood in the way of the canal, so the workers blasted through it - thus the name split rock.

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split rock tunel interior
The Split Rock Tunnel
Original brick lining still in place

As railroads replaced the canal, the Rock Island Railroad cut a tunnel through Split Rock to get their trains through the stone formation. This tunnel remains in Split Rock to this day, but the old tracks and bridge have been removed.

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tracks on fire
The 706 delivering a load of sand to LaSalle

One can still access the tunnel, and from the looks of it, not many people do. It's a 2.5 mile walk from Utica along the I and M Canal Towpath, but well worth it.

Lighthouse Keeper's View

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from the keepers catwalk
Michigan City Lighthouse
From the Catwalk

It was an unusually warm Sunday for February, temperatures in Michigan City, Indiana reached 50 degrees. It rained on and off most of the day, so after some shopping at the nearby mall, we stopped by Washington Park (it's becoming a weekly event to capture ice on lighthouses).

I walked to the lighthouse from the parking lot - it's about a block or so - with the wind howling around 40 mph. Once I got to the lighthouse pier, I jumped up and found that I could hardly stand up! The wind was blowing so hard I was almost pushed backwards.

I decided that since nobody in their right mind was out with me, I'd climb up the catwalk and take in the view. It's amazing how different things look from 15 feet higher! It was a spectacular view, the catwalk was below me for once, I could take in the entire beach, lake and harbor, and I could see the approaching rainstorm over the lake.

Of course, I did not venture out to the lighthouse via the catwalk, I was certainly afraid of getting charged with trespassing - the Coast Guard station is about a half block inland, and I'm sure you could see me standing up there from a mile away.

The Fury of Lake Michigan

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St. Joseph Michigan Light
St. Joseph, Michigan Lighthouse
Saturday, February 9, 2008

With white-caps as far as the eye could see, Lake Michigan slammed into the outer light of the St. Joseph, Michigan Lighthouse. Ahead of a cold front that brought sub-zero temperatures and 40 to 50 mph winds to the area, these winds were strong enough to create waves high enough to batter the Michigan shoreline.

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St. Joseph Lighthouse Winter
Ice and snow deposited by the high surf
St. Joseph, Michigan

Looking a lot like the aftermath of a snowplow, these 15 foot high piles of ice and snow were created by the wind, the cold and the waves. It's very hard to find the actual shoreline, but if you look close, you can see the piling that outlines the pier.

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the wave that got me
The Wave that Got Me Wet

The waves inside the protected harbor were around5 or 6 feet high, and often crashed over the railing of the pier. In this case, it splashed me up too!

Making a Splash

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waves pound the South Haven Lighthouse
South Haven Lighthouse
South Haven, Michigan

An approaching winter storm churns up Lake Michigan sending waves crashing into the South Haven lighthouse. The waves created splashes over 45 feet high while I was there - probably much higher that night when the winds increased to 40 mph!

This splash and spray combined with the bitter cold air is what causes this lighthouse to become covered in ice over a foot thick! I'll bet after this storm and the below zero temperatures, it's covered once again.

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The Fury of Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan pounding the frozen shoreline

A dangerous product of winter along the lake is shelf ice. This ice is formed along the shoreline and can pile into mounds up to15 or 20 feet in height (probably more where it's colder). It's really dangerous as you're walking along the shore because you don't know you're walking on it. The mounds of ice are located at the edge of the ice and water, so you think you're walking on shore because this ice also contains sand blown by the wind - but you're actually walking on the ice.

I encountered this last year as I was walking along the Chicago shoreline. I wanted to walk out toward the large piles of ice along the shore and figured it would be safe up to the mounds. As I walked out on the flat, smooth sandy surface, I noticed an absence of stones and rocks and immediately backed up to an area with lots of stones and pebbles. It seemed to me that the wind had no problem carrying sand out onto the ice, but it couldn't carry rocks and stones, so I was walking on ice. I was right, and lucky I didn't fall in.

Now when I visit the shore, I look for obvious signs of solid ground and don't venture past them.

Silky Waterfall

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deer park falls
Lake Falls in Winter
Matthiessen State Park
Near Utica, Illinois

In the late 1800's Frederick Matthiessen purchased a parcel of land near Utica, IL on which to build a summer home. The land contained a unique feature for it's location in Illinois - a mile long canyon with a small stream running through it. The canyon was cut through the St. Peter's Sandstone by the Vermilion River following the last glacial melt. He employed 50 workers to build dams, bridges, stairways and walkways around the canyon.

People would travel from far away to walk through the canyon and around the unspoiled forest. The forest remains largely unspoiled to this day, thanks to the heirs of the Matthiessen fortune. The land once owned by Frederick Matthiessen was given to the State of Illinois to be set aside as a state park.

Beautiful in every season, the sandstone canyon and forest are a treat to explore.

Field and Fog

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field of fog
Field in Suburban Chicago

A dense, winter fog surrounds this abandoned crib barn in south suburban Chicago. At times visibility was down to a few yards, making it difficult to find interesting subjects to photograph!

Taking the Plunge

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Lake Falls
View of Deer Park Lake Falls from the top

This 45 foot tall plunging waterfall was created by a man made dam in the lower dells area of Matthiessen State Park near Uitca, IL. The natural sandstone canyons of this area are beautifully stained by the seepage of mineral laden waters seeking the lowest level of the canyon and ultimately to the nearby Vermilion River.

A foot bridge spans the canyon just over the dam, offering a great view of Deer Park Lake, the lower dells canyon and the waterfall.

Dwarfed by the Frozen Canyon

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Dwarfed in the frozen canyon
Looking up from the Lower Dells

The 35 to 45 foot tall sandstone canyon walls line the lower dells portion of Matthiessen State Park near Utica Illinois. A beautiful place to visit and explore in any season, numerous waterfalls dot the canyons including the 45 foot tall Deer Park Lake Falls and 35 foot tall Cascade falls. Most falls are a few feet or less, and meander through the mile long canyon.

At the bottom of the canyon is a stream that leads to the Vermilion River so right now it's frozen and we're able to walk on it. In other seasons depending upon the amount of rain, it is difficult to walk in the canyon.

It's a bit slippery in winter and muddy when it's warm, but well worth the bumps and bruises!

Winter in South Haven, Michigan

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lighthouse catwalk lights
South Haven, Michigan Lighthouse

Crowned and bearded in ice, The South Haven, Michigan lighthouse endures another brutal winter. I'd love to see this lighthouse at night. All of these catwalk lights illuminated and their reflections in the snow would be fantastic. - a great summertime sight too.

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south haven light frozen lake

Looking a lot like Antarctica, frozen Lake Michigan is pretty barren, except for the interested souls wanting a closer look at the ice covered lighthouse 1554 feet down the pier.