Current and Past News


Current News is found on our Home page.


Giving Tuesday 2021 Thanks!

Thank you for your GivingTuesday generosity!  With your help, we were able to raise $4,020 towards our gift to the WIDNR for the dock at Rock!

GivingTuesday 2020 has come to a close, but if you missed out, it's certainly not too late to support the Friends of Rock Island State Park, Inc. by visiting our Facebook page and clicking on the Donate Button here: or sending a check to FORI at: 1924 Indian Point Rd.  Washington Island, WI 54246.

We look forward to seeing you at Rock Island State Park next season as a camper, hiker, or volunteer, assuming the park can get the dock refurbished as planned and pandemic rules allow ferry travel once again. We hope you will be able to find rejuvenation, well-being, and enjoyment while visiting our favorite state park soon!

Once again, thank you for the boost on GivingTuesday!

FORI Receives State Grant of Covid-19 Recovery Aid

Washington Island, Wis.— Governor Tony Evers announced that $15 million in COVID-19 Cultural Organization Grants has been awarded to 385 cultural organizations across Wisconsin. The Friends of Rock Island State Park, Inc. has received a grant of $2,649.31 to replace some of the loss of 2020 income due to the closure of the park and our programs this year. “Just like small businesses, cultural organizations have taken a major financial hit,” said DOA Secretary Joel Brennan. “We’re all in this together. We hope that these funds will make it possible for us to be able to enjoy the museums, theaters, and music from these organizations once it is safe to do so again.” Administered by the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA), the COVID-19 Cultural Organizations Grant program provides grants to nonprofit organizations whose primary missions are to produce, present, or exhibit cultural disciplines such as music, dance, theater, literature, and the visual arts, or items of environmental or scientific interest. Grant awards can be used to cover pandemic-related impacts such as lost revenue, increased workers' compensation costs, cleaning and sanitization, and purchases of services or equipment to facilitate telework by employees.

The President of the Friends of Rock Island, Tina Jacoby, said that “receiving this grant is so welcomed since FORI was unable to raise any income at Rock Island during the 2020 season due to the park closing during the pandemic. These funds will certainly help FORI continue our daily Pottawatomie Lighthouse museum tours, which should resume once it is safe to do so next year, and will help FORI continue to support the WDNR in operating and maintaining Rock Island State Park.”

More information regarding the COVID-19 Cultural Organization Grant Program is available at A full list of grant winners is available at


Rock Island Is Closed for all of 2020

Rock Island State Park is CLOSED to all use through the end of 2020. Ferry service to and from the island on hold until further notice during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Camping reservations are available 11 months in advance for 2021 dates.  Watch the WDNR website for further park updates at

If you have questions about Rock Island State Park, contact Michelle Hefty, Park Manager at (920) 854-2500 or Mike Bergum at 920-241-9936 or

Rock Island Closed 2020 

Rock Island Souvenirs Available on Washington Island

The Historic Island Dairy gift shop is now offering Rock Island souvenirs for sale to benefit the Friends of Rock Island and the park.  When you visit Washington Island, please patronize the Dairy and buy some Rock Island memorabilia too.  The Dairy is located at the intersection of Town Line and Range Line Roads on Washington Island.


2017 FORI Summer Picnic & Silent Auction

The annual fundraiser Bar-B-Q lunch and Silent Auction was held on Saturday, July 1st, 2017.  Brats, burgers and hotdogs were available for lunch, along with chips, dessert and a beverage for one fantastic price.   The Silent Auction in the Boathouse was a rousing success and the sale of park merchandise added to the fabulous fundraising totals we achieved that day!  This year's Picnic was the most successful ever, raising almost $4,000 for the park!

FORI wishes to thank our many donors who gave wonderful items for our auction - national, Washington Island and Door County businesses, FORI members and friends of the park.


The long list of business donors included:  the Washington Island Ferry Line, Love Said So, Trueblood Performing Arts Center, Island Pizza, Island Adventure/Point Grill, Dick's Sporting Goods, Door County Coffee Co., Kraco Photography, Mann's Mercantile, Stones Throw Winery, Dan Anderson Photography, Bay Shore Outfitters, Walt Disney World, Pepsico, Landmark Resort, Jackson Harbor Soup and Sandwich, Red Cup, Washington Island Observer, Jacksonport Cottage Gallery and Gifts, The Oilerie, Wild Tomato, Door County Candle Company, Island Style, Kapstauder Gifts, Nicolet Bank, Danish Mill, Lautenbach Winery, Fair Isle Bookstore, Door Peninsula Winery, Bea's Ho-Made Products, Ship's Wheel, Candlelight Manor, and the Washington Island Rec Center.


Friends who donated included Donna Soellner, the Oeler's, the Zastrow's, Liz Pratt, Sandy Johnson, Kathleen Ernst, Dick Purinton and Christine Andersen. FORI Board members who donated included: Vicki, Cyndi, Erik, Tina, Jim, Jeanell, and Colleen.


Some of the food for our lunch concession was donated by Door County Potato Chips Co., PepsiCo, and desserts by Board members.


New Solar Pump at Lighthouse

A new well was drilled at the Pottawatomie Lighthouse in summer 2016 and it was topped off with a solar powered pump.  The new well replaced the original well drilled in the early 1900's.  The handpump no longer works, even though it is still in the yard as part of the museum.


An Eagle Scout recently installed a well cover and a battery house for the solar well.  Storage batteries will be added to the well operation soon, which will insure uninterrupted water supply for the Lighthouse Docents and museum vistors.


FORI Needs Volunteers in May

We need volunteers to help prepare the park for the 2017 season.  We will be doing chores on Saturdays and Sundays, May 6th and 7th and May 20th and 21st, 2017. There is free transportation to the island on the park boat and free camping for volunteers who come to help us. There may be some room to stay overnight at the Lighthouse too.   If you can come to help us get the park ready for opening this year, please send email to Colleen Andrews at to book your spot on the park boat and to let her know if you will be camping or wishing to stay at the Lighthouse on Rock Island.


The park boat leaves Jackson Harbor at 9am and returns to Washington Island about 4pm daily. There is no ferry service to Rock Island for the work weekends. You can take the 8am Washington Island Ferry from Northport on the mainland on Saturdays and still make the park boat by 9am. You can take the Washington Island ferry back to Northport at 5pm on Sundays.

There are so many ways you can help, including loading cut firewood, hauling it to the woodlot and then stacking it for sale, spring cleaning chores at the boathouse, lighthouse, cottage and campground host trailer, policing campsites for downed branches, and even cleaning latrines! There may be tasks at Jackson Harbor for anyone who cannot make it to Rock Island on Saturdays as well.  All skill levels are needed!

Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder knows Rock Island State Park

Got a smart phone?  Download the free Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder app from and keep info about Rock Island really close at hand. 


Thordarson Garden Gate to be Refurbished

You may have heard that the cedar gate above Dewey's Cottage was to be taken down for safety reasons. Shortly after that was announced, word came down that in fact it will be restored! A wonderful surprise for the park and for FORI! It will be that much more special when it is rejuvenated and once again the icon of Rock Island that it once was!

Summer Picnic 2014 Best Yet!

The FORI Summer Picnic was the most successful event in five years of picnics on the July 4th holiday weekend! The weather was fabulous and the money raised from food and merchandise sales as well as silent auction bids outpaced previous years' fundraising efforts.

Volunteers besides Board members made setup and operation of the concessions a snap. Thanks go out to Tina and Gary Jacoby and the Bowman family for their expert assistance at the food concession and with the balloon launch game on the lawn. Kudos to Greg Koelpien , Rick Simmons and Jude Koehn who assisted with setup of the silent auction in the Boathouse.

FORI has set the date for the 2015 picnic for Saturday, July 4th. Plan to visit the park that day to take part in a fun time on Rock Island.


New 2014 Rock Island Merchandise

FORI is offering new items at Rock Island's contact station and at the Pottawatomie Lighthouse. Hiking staffs and Rock Island medallions were added to the inventory along with aluminum water bottles with the FORI logo. Fill one up at the well for the walk back to the boat dock or campground. Backpacks that are perfect for carrying supplies and snacks for hiking around the island can be purchased at the Lighthouse shop too. White T-shirts with a sun-sensitive colored lighthouse drawing will continue to be available. Checkout more details on our Memberships and Merchandise page. Don't forget to bring your wallet and/or checkbook when you visit Rock Island!


Summer 2013 Picnic

FORI held our annual Rock Island fundraiser event on Saturday, July 6th. Grilled burgers and brats were paired up with chips, a beverage and a dessert for a combined meal price. Galynne & MarkonDrums performed at noon near the Boathouse. A cairn building contest took place near the boat dock all day. A Silent Auction of many nautical items, outdoor gear and images, artwork, jewelry, toys and other wonderful donations was open from 11am-2:30pm in the Boathouse. Many visitors and campers came to eat and enjoy the fun! It was one of our best fundraisers so far! Plan to come next summer and help us contribute to maintaining our favorite park in the manner to which we have become accustomed.


2013 Board Election Results

At the FORI 2013 Annual Meeting, Jeanell Dailey was reelected as Treasurer and Colleen Andrews was reelected as Secretary. Both Jeanell and Colleen will serve for a new 2-year term.


Logo Contest Winner Chosen

Rick Simmons of Almond, WI submitted the winning logo design. The new logo will appear on FORI merchandise, stationary, newsletters, website and Facebook pages. The FORI Board was extremely pleased with the variety and quality of the artwork in our contest! Congratulations to Rick on his winning entry.


Campsite C named Best Walk-in Site in the State in 2012!

Ranger Randy attended the Fall 2012 meeting of the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks to receive the award for the Best Walk-in Campsite in Wisconsin. Backpack Campsite C was chosen once again for this award. You can see why!
Campsite C

Rock Island received Gold Seal Award

Rock Island State Park received the Gold Seal award for best Best Kayaking or Canoeing park in the state in 2010. Ranger Kirby Foss attended the awards ceremony in Madison on October 23rd, 2010. Read more about the Gold Seal awards on the DNR website.


Pottawatomie Lighthouse featured on Wisconsin Public Television in April 2011

The Rock Island Lighthouse Docent segment produced for In Wisconsin by Joel Waldinger of Wisconsin Public TV aired on April 21st, 2011. It was featured on the Wisconsin Public Television website the following week along with the Lighthouse Tour report.  These reports feature FORI Board Member Tim Sweet and Ranger Randy Holm.  You can watch the video at this link:

On May 5th, 2011, the segment on Chester Thordarson was aired again.  It recently won a best writing award from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.


2011 Docent Applications Now Closed

Docent applications for the 2011 park season are no longer available.  A 2012 docent application form will be posted here later in the year.

The deadline for submitting docent applications is February 1st each year.


Applicants who are members of the Friends of Rock Island are considered ahead of other applicants.  To become a FORI member, see our Membership page.  See the Lighthouse Tours page for more information on being a docent at the Pottawatomie Lighthouse.


In the News Again!

Rock Island is featured as one of 7 car-free islands in North America in a 10-18-2010 article on the Huffington Post web site.


Rock Island State Park in the News   

An article appeared in the Sunday, July 25th edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel which described what being a docent at the Pottawatomie Lighthouse is all about.  The Stehlow family of docents hosted journalist Meg Jones of the Sentinel as a guest at the Lighthouse recently.  Be sure to look at the photos that accompany the article.  They are some candid shots of docent life that give the feel for what life in the Pottawatomie Lighthouse can be.


July 3rd, 2010 Cookout at Rock Island State Park

We hope you joined us for the cookout, craft demonstrations, free concert in the Boathouse and silent auction on Saturday, July 3rd at the state park. This was our second annual July 4th fundraiser at Rock Island State Park and it was very successful! The Karfi ferry ran non-stop from 9am-5pm and had never been more busy.  We arranged for perfect weather for our event which brought so many visitors to the park that day.

About 400 lunches were sold  under the big tent.  Picnickers enjoyed their meals in the Pagoda or on the lawn.

New 2010 T-shirts, fleece vests and postcards were on sale, along with hats, sweatshirts, Christmas ornaments, mugs, pens and pencils and Lighthouse pins.  Many visitors took home park souvenirs to remember this perfect day at our favorite state park.

A Norwegian carver, a birch bark basket weaver and civil war re-enactors entertained park visitors to the accompaniment of a violinist and a dulcimer player near the picnic area.

Galynne and Markondrums performed their acoustic tunes at noon in the Boathouse.  Their show included songs about the Washington Island Ferry Line as well as the Pottawatomie Lighthouse which were written by FORI member, Rick Simmons.

The second annual Silent Auction took place inside the Viking Hall of the Boathouse.  Auction items included lighthouse collectibles, Pottawatomie Lighthouse picture quilts, nautical items, camping gear, beach and picnic paraphernalia, artworks, photo collections, fun baskets for kids, games, wine and cheese baskets, and much more.  There was something for everyone who loves Rock Island State Park and the Pottawatomie Lighthouse.  The auction raised a boatload of money for the park!

Proceeds from the day will be used for maintenance of the Boathouse and ongoing restoration of the Lighthouse along with other needy park projects.

In Wisconsin TV Show about Pottawatomie Lighthouse and Chester Thordarson

Tim Sweet, FORI Board member and Past President, stars in episodes of recent In Wisconsin segments talking about the Pottawatomie Lighthouse and Chester Thordarson's contributions to Rock Island.  Ranger Randy Holm and Naturalist Paul King share the history of Rock Island and information about the Park in the third episode.  Shows were broadcast weekly from Feb 11th through Feb 25th, 2010.  A link to each one is listed below:  - This segment shows what it entails to be a docent at the Pottawatomie Lighthouse  - This segment is a tour of the inside of the Pottawatomie Lighthouse - This segment shares information about Chester Thordarson and the history of Rock Island.

Click here to read archived news.