American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Lighthouse Keeper Programs Throughout America, Part 3
In the first and second parts of this blog series, I explored several interesting – if exhausting – lighthouse keeper programs in the United States. To wrap up this short series, I offer just a few more opportunities in Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin:
Rhode Island: The Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation (RILF) (P.O. Box 1419, Newport, RI 02840, 401/847-4242) offers two options for those interested in staying at the Rose Island Lighthouse, still in operation on Narragansett Bay and now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. First, you can stay overnight in one of the two bedrooms available in the first-floor museum ($165-175 Nov.-June, $185-195 July-Sept., $175-185 Oct., $250 per night on holiday weekends). Furnished with cleaning supplies, fresh linens, and kitchen paraphernalia, the accommodations are fairly basic and old-fashioned. For instance, you'll have to pump water into the kitchen sink and shared indoor toilet; use solar-powered showers, wind-powered electricity, and an oil-fired heating system; and bring perishables in a cooler, given that there's no refrigerator in the museum kitchen. Be advised that you can only check in after the museum closes, and you must be out by 10 a.m. the following morning, when the museum reopens.
Your second option is to participate in Rose Island's “Keepers for a Week” Program, which has helped to maintain the historic lighthouse since it was restored in 1993. If you decide to be a volunteer keeper, you'll stay in the second-floor keeper's quarters, and you'll have two programs from which to choose. For the “Regular Keeper Vacation Week” ($700-1,200 weekly Nov.-May, $1,200-2,300 weekly May-Oct.), you must devote one to two hours each day to lighthouse-keeping chores, responsibilities, and maintenance projects; the rest of the time can be spent relaxing or pursuing recreational opportunities on the island. For the “Full-Time Keeper Week” ($700-1,200 weekly Nov.-May, $1,200-2,300 weekly May-Oct., which is tax-deductible), you must work six to eight hours per day, for a five-day week; your skills will be matched to projects meant to enhance the lighthouse and restore the 200-year-old structures of Fort Hamilton. All volunteer keepers must be physically fit and willing to take a boat ride between the mainland and Rose Island.
Washington: Lighthouse lovers will find at least two interesting keeper programs in the Evergreen State, not far from Seattle. Near Tacoma, the Points Northeast Historical Society (PNEHS) (1000 Town Center, Ste. 180, PMB #135, Browns Point, WA 98422-1194, 253/927-2536) operates Browns Point Lighthouse Park, which contains several curious buildings, including a history center, a boat house museum, as well as the lighthouse and keeper's cottage, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Volunteer lighthouse keepers (who must be members of PNEHS) can rent the three-bedroom cottage by the week (Sun.-Sun., $800 in summer, $500 in winter) as long as they agree to conduct tours for visitors during the March-November season (Thurs.-Sat.) and perform daily light chores on the grounds.
On the eastern end of the Olympic Peninsula, the New Dungeness Lighthouse Association (P.O. Box 1283, Sequim, WA 98382, 360/683-6638) offers members the chance to serve as lighthouse keepers for a week at a time. Up to seven adults and/or children can stay in the well-furnished, two-story keeper's quarters at any given time ($260-275 adults, $155-170 children 6-18 Jan.-Mar., $335-350 adults, $185-190 children 6-18 Apr.-Sept., $260-275 adults, $155-170 children 6-18 Oct.-Dec.). In exchange for the opportunity to live as lighthouse keepers of old, you must perform certain light duties, such as watering and mowing the lawn, maintaining the property, and providing tours of the New Dungeness Lighthouse, which, as with Rose Island, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. All keepers must be in decent physical shape and willing to watch an orientation and safety video prior to their stay.
Wisconsin: Like Michigan, the Badger State has several lighthouses along its Lake Michigan and Lake Superior shorelines, several of which maintain their facilities through the help of keeper programs. The Friends of Rock Island (FORI) (126 Country Club Dr., Clintonville, WI 54929), for instance, recruits volunteers for one-week stints (Sun.-Sun.) at the Pottawatomie Lighthouse in Rock Island State Park on Lake Michigan--which is only accessible via boat. From Memorial Day through Columbus Day, volunteers can stay on the premises, in exchange for operating a small gift shop, performing minor maintenance, and leading tours. The property can accommodate up to six volunteers at any given time. Although membership isn't required for potential keepers, members are given first priority for all open slots.
Situated on Lake Superior, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (415 Washington Ave., Bayfield, WI 54814, 715/779-3397) also provides several opportunities for volunteer lighthouse keepers. In exchange for conducting tours, maintaining the grounds and visitor facilties, and keeping accurate records, volunteers can take advantage of the housing on three different islands: the brick, Queen Anne-style keeper's house (with flush toilets, potable hot and cold water, and limited electricity) near the popular Devils Island Light Station, the two-story keeper's quarters (with an outhouse, no electricity, and water that must be pumped from the lake and subsequently filtered or boiled) near the less visited Michigan Island Light Station, and the modern, two-bedroom cabin (with solar-powered lights, hot and cold running water, and an outhouse) two miles from the well-favored Sand Island Lighthouse. The length of your stay can range from a few weeks to a full summer, depending on availability, and all islands are only accessible via boat.
For a few more program suggestions, check out the first and second parts of this series, and for even more information about U.S. lighthouses that allow overnight stays and welcome volunteer keepers, consult the United States Lighthouse Society. If you're curious about other seasonal attractions in Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin, consult the following Moon travel guides: Moon Handbooks Rhode Island, Moon Washington, and Moon Wisconsin. And let me know if you've ever participated (or if you decide to participate) in one of America's lighthouse keeper programs – I'm eager to hear about your experiences!
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Photo courtesy of Dave Amis / Text © 2010 Laura Martone