Sturgeon Bay, Wis. (February 8, 2021) – A Candlelight Ski and Snowshoe at Crossroads will be the kickoff activity for Destination Sturgeon Bay’s FIRE AND ICE Weekend. The event will take place (conditions permitting) on Friday February 12, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM starting at the Main Campus, 2041 Michigan Street.
Crossroads trails will be lit by luminaries to provide a magical, memorable winter experience. (We will offer a candlelight hike if there’s not enough snow to ski. Please check our website www.crossroadsatbigcreek.org that day for current, and often fast-changing conditions.)
Bring your own equipment or borrow ours. We have skis, poles, boots and snowshoes in all sizes from tiny tot to large adult. (First come, first serve as limited inventory allows.) Our volunteers will be on hand to help get you started. Staggered departures and safety protocols will be followed. Please avoid others when on the trails and step off the trails when necessary to avoid contact. This is a family-friendly event offered at no charge. Free will donations to Crossroads are accepted and appreciated. No reservations necessary.
We have no ideas how Sturgeon Bay’s winter festive got the name “FIRE AND ICE” but it seems appropriate because in a very real way, the City of Sturgeon Bay was shaped by fire and ice.
“Many years ago Sturgeon was an open strait connecting Green Bay and Lake Michigan,” wrote H.R.Holand in his book, “The History of Door County.”
Geologists concur. Most believe that prior to the Ice Age, a river, perhaps the Ancient Menominee, created a bedrock valley which was enlarged by tongues of glacial ice. Geologically recent deposition –“drifting sand” as Holand put — filled the east end of the channel.
In unpublished notes (archived in the Laurie Room of the Sturgeon Bay Library), the late mayor and historian Stanley Greene wrote, “The suggestion of a canal was made in 1835 by a Captain Cran. But it wasn’t until 1864 that a company was chartered to dig the canal. The state legislature gave them a grant of 200,000 acres to finance the project. But the timing was bad. The canal was grounded by lack of funds.”
Eventually, the company approached the federal government. As Holand explained, “The untold dangers that these 7,000 vessels and their 600,000,000 feet of lumber encountered in the rocky and tempestuous passage of Death’s Door were thrillingly set forth, but Congress refused to thrill.”
What finally worked? The ever-popular “harbor of refuge” ploy. The deal was to get the government to underwrite the studies and to appropriate funds for harbor improvements and then, to incorporate the improvements into the canal project.
And that is what happened. The U.S. government paid for the survey and work at the entrance of the future canal; the state renewed the grant of 200,000 acres of timberland.The digging began in 1871 with a work force made up predominantly of recent immigrants.
By 1873, a quarter of the project was complete so the company was to receive its first allotment of land which they could sell to raise revenue for the second phase.
At this time, the company received $40,000 from the state because part of the canal timberland had gone up in smoke during the Peshtigo Fire. And that windfall turned out to be fortunate, because back then, the remainder of the canal land seemed to have very little value and was difficult to sell. The project languished for five years.
According the Greene, the delay in construction also was fortunate because, “in the interim, an engineer had perfected the use of hydraulic pumps mounted on barges and the use of steam instead of horse and hand power” … lowering the cost … somewhat.
In their book, “Sturgeon Bay,” Ann Jinkins and Maggie Weir wrote : “Completed in 1882, the man-made waterway linked the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Suddenly, the long bay leading up to the canal became a major shipping passage. The success of the canal project boosted local industry and paved the way of new business endeavors.”
FIRE … the devastating Peshtigo Fire resulted in partial funding for the ship canal construction.
ICE … from the Ice Age Glaciers carved out a passage, which, when opened, turned a quiet settlement into a bustling city.
Another fire, the Great Chicago Fire, which occurred the same day as the Peshtigo Fire, led to the Great Rebuilding, creating a huge demand for lumber. Sturgeon Bay quarries shipped out the stone that helped rebuild Chicago. Ice harvest became a huge industry.
Door County provided cordwood to fuel the kilns in the brickyards of Milwaukee, and countless cream-colored bricks were loaded onto schooners as ballast for the return voyages to Sturgeon Bay.
FIRE and ICE sculpted the location and ignited the City of Sturgeon Bay as we know it ….and that is worth celebrating this weekend.
Crossroads Ski and Snowshoe (and now Kicksled) for Free distribution will be offered on Saturdays and Sundays when snow and weather conditions are adequate. Covid-precautions will be in place. Check Crossroads’ website www.crossroadsatbtigcreek.org for current trail conditions and for hours of operation.