849 Wisconsin Bay Road [map]| Gills Rock, WI 54210 | For Reservations Call: 888-840-4162

On the Rocks house

March 1969 National Geographic Article

By William S. Ellis
Photographs by Ted Kozumalski

DARKNESS CAME QUICKLY as wind and rain gusted out of the sky to wreck the drowsy stillness of three o'clock on a warm summer afternoon. From atop a high limestone cliff, I watched the waters of the strait below bunch up into swells and then become driving beams of frothy fury. A skiff torn loose from it's mooring slammed into the base of the cliff and backed off as kindling.

Churning, whirling , bloated with arrogance, this rip of water between a peninsula and the islands off its tip mirrored all the gray grimness of the name given it by French explorers many years ago. Porte des Morts, they called it - literally "Door of the Dead", but colloquially translated "Death's Door". On its floor rest the bones of humdreds of ships.

The "Door of the Dead" washes against the tip of Wisconsin's Door Peninsula (the name comes from that of the strait), a 70-mile-long shoot of land extending from the eastern reaches of the state and bounded by Lake Michigan on the east and Green Bay on the west.

The vista here is one of striking constrast of land and water locked together by glaciers that receded thousands of years ago; of an acidlike surf sculpting a cove in rock, while inland, less than 100 yards away, a placid lake nuzzles a beach of white sand, of deer browsing amid wild wood lilies, and gulls in screeching pursuit of a boat, hoping for a handout; of harbors throttled by ice, and countrside awash in the pinks and whites of flowering fruit trees.
As an alien thumb of land on the corn-knuckled fist of the Middle West, the Door Peninsula, with its 250 miles of shoreline, draws expressions of surprise from first-time visitors.

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