2009 camp at the Nickerson Fire Circle

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Our Camper Keepers Program

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

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 Camper 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, finishing carpentry will be big in the 2017 season, 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. We provide only safe transport (weather permitting) to and from the island. The many buildings can provide emergency shelter but they are not suitable for habitation. On the plus side, there is a flushable toilet, and 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 are quite a few very nice camp sites around the buildings, but there's not much infrastructure other than said toilet, several big picnic tables and the fire pit in the legendary Nickerson Fire Circle, focal point of most camping activities and place of many joyful get-togethers.

Buildings can be used for shelter, cooking (appliances and plumbing do not work, though), storage, etc., but not for lodging. The reason is flaking lead paint all over the place except the newly built lean-to on the north side of the 1867 Lighthouse. That annex is going to be turned into kind of an accommodation, still very rustic but with a solid roof.

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 Camper 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 more details, please have a look at this document.

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 March 6, 2017