THE CLAY BANKS PROJECT and MANUAL

This project has been underway in southern Door County WI for over five years, where WUAA has been progressively investigating several “Ghost Ports,” that were once thriving shipping sites that have almost escaped the historical record. Immediately after the Civil War, Clay Banks Township developed such prolific logging and sawmilling operations that several active commercial ports sprang up and constructed enormous shipping piers that stretched over 1,500 feet out into the lake.  These lengthy docks were essential to reach deep water and to avoid the many dangerous reefs and submerged boulders in the area.  Over the years, at least 12 shipwrecks occurred at these docks or in nearby waters, but few of these have been found or studied.  When the logging boom was over, these “Ghost Ports” and their piers vanished into oblivion and no above-water remnants remain today. These “boom towns” came and went so quickly that few official records have survived; many documents were also lost in horrific forest fires that swept the area in the 1870s. 

WUAA has conducted extensive land transaction research, which has helped to isolate the location of these old pier sites and some of the shipwrecks. Sections of certain intact piers have been located which are today submerged. These underwater skeletons should allow us to determine how these lengthy docks were originally built, since virtually no construction information on them exists. Our current objectives are to confirm all documented pier locations, and then locate, survey and map the associated shipwrecks.  The garnered information from these investigations may allow us to reconstruct much of the history of these lost “Ghost Ports” and subsequently publish relevant information.

This project is NOT conducted on a conventional format where WUAA schedules and supervises research dives.  Rather, it is a self-directed project, where individual dive teams or small expeditions can schedule their own trips, directed or guided by the Field Manual WUAA has developed for this project. This multi-paged booklet details the various sites requiring study, how find them (including GPS data), landowner information, and suggested tasks to undertake. Hardcopies of the latest revised Field Manual (2011) are available via the WUAA website.