2009 camp at the Nickerson Fire Circle

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Our Summer Keepers Program

After very successful seasons in 2015, 2016 and 2017, FILA is
going on with the Summer Keepers Program in summer 2018.

In short, this program means that volunteers spend several weeks camping at the
Lighthouse on South Fox Island.

Sunrise over the gull hook on the east beach
Sunrise seen from the East Beach near the Boat House.

Our Summer Keepers program is simple but somewhat demanding. Simple in that it just involves living at a light station on a large but isolated island, being docents when occasional visitors arrive, performing basic grounds upkeep and participating in ongoing restoration projects at the limits of your ability. In the latter regard, carpentry will be big in the 2018 season too, and there is always painting, ground maintenance, beach grooming etc. to do.

The demanding part involves the planning and execution of a 2+ week independent camping trip. "Independent" means that the nearest grocery store is 30 miles away, by boat. However, since the 2017 season, "camping" does not necessarily mean living in a tent any more. This is why we changed the name of the program from "Camper Keepers" to "Summer Keepers."

Several rooms in the dwellings have been made habitable, with some bunk beds even. Other buildings can be used for storage and work but they are not suitable for habitation. There is a new outhouse with a composting toilet, though. Besides such decadent luxury, the island is surrounded by beautiful Lake Michigan that doesn't mind if you bathe in it!

West beach
The West Beach, the back yard of the Light Station, so to say. Need we say more?

Definitely not for people who need their daily chat with their neighbors or the quick dash into town, but it may appeal to folks who love the outdoors (plenty available out there, and it's free!) and can live without a 30 cubic foot fridge for weeks.

There's not much infrastructure other than said toilet, two simple bedrooms with bunk beds, a kitchen without running water, several big picnic tables and the fire pit in the legendary Nickerson Fire Circle, place of many joyful get-togethers. But hey, it's rustic!

Inside the new (2017) outhouse
 The outhouse, built by DNR folks.

Bunk bed in the summer quarters
 Bunks in the Summer Quarters (lean-to).

Dormer in 1867 Lighthouse
Upstairs bedroom in the 1867 Lighthouse.

Kitchen in the 1867 Lighthouse
Basic kitchen in the 1867 Lighthouse.

For those who prefer living in their tent, there are quite a few nice camp sites around the buildings.  

Camp 2010 at Nickerson Fire Circle
Tents around the Nickerson Fire Circle, with one of the three picnic tables.

The Nickerson Fire Circle
The Fire Circle, campers' meeting point. The chairs do not belong to the provided infrastructure, though.

Tent next to Workshop
Another site next to the Workshop. The building can be
used as a foul-weather kitchen and office too.

Picnis and camp site behind the Fig Signal Building
Yet another camp site with a picnic table behind the Fog Signal Building. And there are even more sites.

As already mentioned, we expect Summer Keepers to welcome visitors to the Light Station and provide them with information if required. That also involves some learning, of course, and some basic social skills too. Couples or small groups of friends are ideal candidates.

If you think you could do that kind of thing, please contact our
Island Project Manager, Phil von Voigtlander in Northport, for more details:

or call him at 231-386-7922

For additional info, please have a look at this document too.

Please note....

.....that we cannot guarantee a stay at the Light Station that suits your time window, because we have to guarantee your safety, which we take very seriously.

Sometimes we have to reschedule island trips for weeks because of the lake conditions. Even in the nicest summer weather, we often have to wait a week or even longer until the lake allows a safe trip. There is no harbor or dock on the island, and the water around the Light Station is full of rocks. Our boats have to be anchored way off the beach, and crews and materials are beached and taken back aboard using inflatable dinghies.

In other words, if we can't stick to your schedule, please don't blame us. We really do our best, but we cannot annul the forces of nature. Thanks for your understanding.



Latest update September 6, 2017