We found hidden gems waiting just below the surface waters of scenic Door County. We have been enjoying Door County for years, visiting parks, and enjoying activities on the lakes, but we recently discovered unique and beautiful experiences below the water, snorkeling two shipwrecks of the shore of Jacksonport, WI. Door County is the resting place for approximately 240 known shipwrecks, of which a handful of these rest less than 10 feet below water making them great for snorkeling or viewing by kayak.
On the lakeside of Door County, just off the shore of Jacksonport, WI is a great location for beginner snorkelers: the wrecks of the Schooner Cecelia and the Schooner Perry Hannah which are both accessible from shore and rest in about six feet of water. During a strong gale in 1880, the Perry Hannah was driven into Reynold’s pier damaging the pier and the ship which sank in the shallow water near the pier. Just five years later the Schooner Cecelia joined the Perry Hannah.
We met our guide for the day, Captain Allen Cote (IG: acotedelcaote), at Lakeside Park in Jacksonport. He provided our family with snorkels, goggles, snorkeling vests, and a diving marker. The snorkeling vests allowed us to float comfortably on the surface when inflated but allowed us to deflate the vest to dive down to explore the wrecks from a closer vantage point.
We visited in August which is a perfect time for a snorkeling experience in Door County as the surface water temperatures are comfortable. I was impressed with the clarity of the water. As we neared the wreckage we first started to see the remains of the pylons of Reynold’s pier. Not far from there we came across the wreckage of the two ships which are intermingled. WisconsinShipWrecks.org has a great illustration of the wreckage of the two Schooners.
I was surprised to discover so much underwater sea life. We enjoyed seeing schools of fish swimming amongst the wreckage. Although maybe not as beautiful as tropical fish, we enjoyed not having to worry about jellyfish or stingrays.
Lake Michigan is a great place to explore shipwrecks as the fresh and often cool lake water keeps these shipwrecks, some as old as 140 years old, frozen in time. In the case of these shipwrecks, no lives were lost, but we still get an eerie feeling swimming through this history.
Allen Cote was an excellent guide! Our children had no experience snorkeling and he was able to give them brief instructions and then help guide them through using the equipment. He directed us to the ships and then would meet us on the surface after each dive below to explain what we were seeing. If you need his contact information, please drop us a line.
If you have enjoyed exploring all that Door County has above the surface, it is time you explore the hidden gems below the surface. I can assure you this will be a unique Door County experience that your family will cherish! I know we are already thinking about how to explore more wrecks in the area and are interested in learning to Scuba dive to open up even more opportunities.
All underwater photography by Allen Cote.