Located in Washington Harbor at the north end of Washington Island is the final resting place of the 260 foot wood steam ship called the Louisiana. It was originally built in 1887 in Marine City, MI and it's design became a popular around the Great Lakes for hauling bulk cargo. Due to its efficiency 46 other boats were constructed like the Louisiana, including the R J Hackett which sank just a few miles away. It had a cargo hold that was 40 feet wide and 20 feet deep and the engine had a total of 610 horsepower. It had a long run on the Great Lakes for a boat during that time.
In November of 1913 one of the worst storms in Great Lakes history took place shortly after the Louisiana dropped off a load of coal in Milwaukee, WI. The steam ship was making its way to Escanaba, MI to pick up iron ore and had just crossed Death's Door Passage when the storm struck. Seeking a safe refuge, the Louisiana dropped anchor in Washington Harbor. The anchor did not hold and the ship was beached on the east shore of the harbor. Perhaps the Louisiana could have been saved if that was all that happened but the next morning a fire broke out in the cargo hold dealing the final death blow to the Louisiana. In the years that followed, much of the ship was salvaged including the engine, propeller, and rudder. The ice eventually reduced the ship to its current state.
Today the Louisiana is a great shipwreck to snorkel and free dive on since the ship gradually slopes down to 25 feet of water. Though the water in Washington Harbor is very cold, even in summer, it is some of the clearest you can find in Door County. It is not uncommon to have over 30 feet of visibility even in the middle of summer! The bottom of the hull is fairly well intact with large steel bolts sticking out of the ribs. Other pieces of metal are also scattered around the main wreck site. In the spring schools of baby fish can be spotted under the wreck and in summer bass also move into the wreckage and don't seem to be bothered by snorkelers. Zebra muscles, a small invasive mollusk, also cover much of the wreck.
Captain Matt Olson
Born and raised in Door County, Matt always had an interest in local history, shipwrecks, and the natural wonders scattered around the peninsula. Now he has the opportunity to share his love of all things Door County with locals and visitors alike in the SHIP'S LOG.