Concerned for his passengers and cargo, Bailey kept watch for a place in which to ride out the storm. Late that night he found a quiet cove where he could drop anchor until the storm passed and his journey could be resumed.In October 1848, a cargo ship loaded with lumber and carrying several passengers left Racine, bound for Detroit. That evening the ship, commanded by Capt. Justice Bailey, encountered a violent storm. Buffeted by high winds and heavy rain, the ship pitched and rolled in the angry Lake Michigan waters.
That act of nature assured Capt. Justice Bailey a measure of immortality; the village that sprung up there the following year was called Baileys Harbor.
Captain Bailey’s employer was so intrigued with the area that he convinced the Federal Government to construct a lighthouse at the harbor’s entrance in 1851 know as the Bird Cage Lighthouse. Soon after that settlers came to the land surrounding the town in the 1870s to begin farming. Before long, steamboats carrying passengers arrived regularly from ports to the south docking at what is now Anclam Park. Baileys Harbor, which was once a logging camp, shipping point and the original county seat.
Located on the shore of Lake Michigan, the area has thousands of acres of wetlands and wilderness, much of it preserved as part of Björklunden, Toft’s Point, the Ridges Sanctuary, and the Mud Lake Wildlife Area.
Birding and hiking are at their very best at the Ridges Sanctuary at Baileys Harbor. The Ridges, a privately held wildflower preserve, includes the Baileys Harbor Rangelight and Lighthouse, and a beautiful sand beach that’s open to the public.
Across a rocky causeway in Baileys Harbor lies one of the most iconic symbols of Door County, Cana Island Lighthouse. The light, now powered by electricity, is turned on automatically at dusk and off at dawn. It shines out across Lake Michigan waters to guide sailors just as it has done since it was first lit in 1870.
In every season, whether you enjoy recreation on land or on water, Baileys Harbor delivers for you. The rustic, lightly traveled back roads are a bicyclist’s dream. Kayakers will want to explore the natural shoreline at both Moonlight and North Bays. Windsurfers and kite-boarders are discovering some of the best cool breezes around the same natural air-conditioning that has lured summer travelers to Baileys Harbor for generations. In spring, right after the ice goes out, we have some of the best brown trout fishing action around, not to mention spring-run steelhead in Hein’s and Riebolt’s Creeks. In fact, Baileys Harbor has long been considered the premier sport fishing destination on Lake Michigan. All summer long the beaches here offer the best chances to relax, and we have one of the longest running 4th of July celebrations around. Activities are planned from sun-up to fireworks at dusk, so plan on spending your mid-summer holiday with us. Fall brings plenty of apples to be picked, and the best in a kaleidoscope of colors from the maples, aspens and tamaracks all over the community. The crisp, clear days of winter are perfect for exploring by snowshoe, ski, or snowmobile.
A endangered pink lady slipper orchid located in the Ridges Sanctuary.