One of the primary reasons for my impromptu trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula was to check out some of the 115 lighthouses that are found along Michigan's Great Lakes' coastal shores.
Michigan has more lighthouses and navigational lights than any other state in the USA and offers a wealth of opportunity to view, photograph, tour and even sleep in these architectural marvels. Some more elaborate than others, most have been fully automated and remain in service today even if they are no longer manned by light keepers.
As you read on, you will see the term "range lights." Range lights are not intended warn ships away from the shore but rather to be used when lined up to provide navigational assistance either into harbor or through hazardous waters.
When planning for this trip, I decided I would start in Marquette and work my way along the northern peninsula coastline along Lake Superior and then proceed in a clockwise direction to Sault Saint Marie and then to the southern peninsula shore of Lake Michigan which would bring me back "home" to Wisconsin through Marinette, MI/WI.
In total, I was able to visit and photograph 12 lighthouses, including two sets of range lights. The following is a summary in general clockwise order beginning with Marquette:
Marquette Harbor Lighthouse - This light is on an active US Coast Guard Station, so getting up close and personal with it requires taking the $5 tour through the Marquette Maritime Museum. The tour is well worth the money and I would encourage folks to pay the money to have access to the inside of this beautiful building. If a tour does not work into your plans, you can take photos from a distance outside of the fenced area or from a boat. All angles produce a nice image, so do not feel if you are unable to make the scheduled tour times, you are out of luck.
Marquette Harbor Breakwater Lights - there are two of them, the lower and upper. The upper is also known as the "Presque Isle Breakwater" which is located in the area of the ore dock. Photos may be taken from the shoreline as well as by boat.
Grand Island Harbor Range Lights, also known as the Christmas (because they are in Christmas, MI) or Bay Furnace Range Lights (because this area used to be the town of Bay Furnace before fire destroyed it in 1877). The rear light has been transferred from the USCG to the US Forest Service. Both are viewable from the road (M-28) with the front light to the north along Lake Superior and the rear light to the south in the woods.
Munising Range Lights were a couple of my favorites. First, they are very accessible right in the town in Munising. The front light (and house) are currently National Park Service property but not open to the public. The light is accessible from M-28 (park across the street). The rear light sits up on the hillside in a neighborhood. You can drive right up to it, park and get out to photograph it. What makes it so special is that at night, its red beacon shines brightly, making for a wonderful photo
The Grand Marais Range Lights are on National Park Service land and are part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, at the far eastern end of the park. There are several old USCG buildings in the area, which are now part of the NPS. I was able to take a photo of the "inner harbor" range light. Some may also refer to this light as the rear light as that is the function it serves. The front/outer range light was beyond an area that I felt I had time to explore on foot, due to time constraints.
Next on my lighthouse journey was the Whitefish Point Lighthouse which is located at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum near Paradise, MI. Yes, it is almost paradise there and worth spending some time to explore the sand dunes, nautical history AND the lighthouse. Not only can you climb to the top of the light tower, there are tours through the keeper's house and several other former USCG buildings on the property including a Life Saving Station boat house. For those wishing to stay in the 1928 USCG Crew Housing, that is possible for a $150 donation. There are five rooms available in the crew's house; advance reservations are required.
Point Iroquois Lighthouse is another lovely lighthouse complex with keeper's quarters also part of the area open to the public. This lighthouse sits in an area of great historical significance to the local Native Americans which makes this worth a stop on its own merits. This lighthouse property is part of the Hiawatha National Forest and is manned by local volunteers who are available to provide information and answer questions.
Heading south to the shores of Lake Michigan, Seul Choix Point Lighthouse is another property that is operated by the local historical society and manned by volunteers. This former USCG location includes the keeper's house which is open for tours. Guests are also welcomed to climb the tower to take in the spectacular view of the bay where French sailors sought refuge at the place they called "Seul Choix" - "Only Choice." This is also known as the "haunted lighthouse" as one of the light keepers is believed to still be present in the house and light tower.
I arrived at my last lighthouse around supper time on my way back to Wisconsin. The Sand Point Lighthouse in Escanaba also sits on Lake Michigan and when open, provides visitors with a review of the history of the former USCG Station that was once located here. The Delta County Historical Society operates the museum on the property which includes tours of the lighthouse and the adjacent USCG Life Saving Station. For my visit, they were closed so I made a picnic dinner and enjoyed the views as I waited for the rain to pass by.
I have written stories/reviews on several of these lighthouses. Check out these other journals on IgoUgo for more detailed stories and lots of photos: