No visit to The Ridges would be complete without experiencing the iconic Baileys Harbor Range Lights. Built in 1869 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, the Upper Range Light and its companion Lower Range Light are the only lighthouses of this design that are still on range and functional as navigational aids. These modest but enduring structures played a critical role in the history of Baileys Harbor and in the founding of The Ridges.
At the time they were built, the Range Lights were considered a more effective way to keep ships off the treacherous reefs and shallows at the entrance to Baileys Harbor. From the water, a sailor got “on range” by vertically aligning the white light in the Upper Range Light, which shone at a height of 39 feet above the water, with the Lower Range Light’s red beacon, fixed at 22 feet above the water.
In 1935, permission was granted to the Door County Park Commission to use the lighthouse acreage, except for the land immediately surrounding the two range lights, as a park. A few years later, the commissioners decided to clear some of the land for use as a trailer park. Led by Albert Fuller, Curator of Botany at the Milwaukee Public Museum, residents of Baileys Harbor and the surrounding area joined together and formed The Ridges Sanctuary in 1937 to stop the development and preserve the unique terrain.
Today The Ridges Sanctuary staff, members and volunteers have become the new keepers of the lights, dedicated to the preservation of the structures and their cultural history.