The three lighthouses pictured above are on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. All are now maintained and operated for visitation by the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association. On the left is LITTLE SABLE POINT Lighthouse, the one pictured in the sunset shot above. Only the brick tower itself remains from the days when this was a complete “light station”, with a Keeper’s residence and other support structures. It is located within Silver Lake State Park, just south of Ludington MI.
The center picture is of BIG SABLE POINT Lighthouse. It is the same size as Little Sable. They are named not for their size, but for the geographic points on which they are located. Also made of brick, this lighthouse was covered with iron plates when the brick began to deteriorate. It is located in Ludington State Park. The lighthouse on the right is the LUDINGTON PIER Lighthouse, in the harbor of Ludington. Much more exposed to the violent waves of Lake Michigan storms, this lighthouse is wedge-shaped on the side facing the lake. “Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Assoc.”
MOST LIGHTHOUSES – The state that had, and still has, the greatest number of lighthouses is – MICHIGAN ! Think about it. Michigan is two peninsulas, surrounded by the waters of three of the Great Lakes, lakes that were and are heavily used by commercial ships. New York is number two by the way.
These three photos above are of the AU SABLE POINT lighthouse, on the south shore of Lake Superior. It is in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a unit of the National Park Service. The shot on the left shows a good overview of the entire “light station,” the name for not only the lighthouse tower, but the keepers’residences, oil storage houses, privies, sheds, boathouse, fog signal buildings and any other associated structures that supported the light.
The center photo shows a view of the lighthouse from the Lake Superior beach down below. Since Lake Superior is fresh water, you won’t find many “seashells”, but you will find a neverending rainbow of stones of all sizes and hues that have been polished and tossed ashore by the waves. The photo on the right is a closer-up view of the “new” (1909) residence built for the head keeper. Summer volunteers live on the second floor; the museum/gift-shop is on the lower floor. Although the tower still retains its classic 3rd Order Fresnel lens, it sadly is no longer illuminated. A solar powered modern optic, mounted on the gallery rail, provides a light to mariners on the lake. Check out the park website at: “Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore”
Late summer of 2012 found Jack and Tobi back on the shores of Lake Superior on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP) at the ONTONAGON lighthouse. This “cream” brick lighthouse, built as an extension of the matching brick keeper’s residence, first went into service in 1867 at the point where the Ontonagon River flows into the lake, replacing an earlier structure. Ships sought the Ontonagon harbor to transport the tons of copper ore, and millions of board feet of white pine and hemlock timber that was brought down the river for decades. The lighthouse is now owned and operated by the Ontonagon County Historical Society. Sadly the Fresnel lens from this tower was removed many years ago, but fortunately has been saved and can be seen at the Society’s museum in Ontonagon, from where tours of the light can be arranged, and from where visitors are transported the few miles to the lighthouse in a little red bus, driven by the “Keeper.” This light was deactivated in the 1960s, and last occupied regularly in the 1970s. Today the keeper’s house has been made into a nice circa-1916 museum. This was the year electricity was first installed in the house. Jack and Tobi were the first to again live in the house in over thirty years, and the Society is considering plans to make it available to other volunteers and/or lighthouse tourists. Other original structures from the “station” that remain are the 1867 brick privy, and the 1901 oil house.
2014 found Jack and Tobi at yet another of our nation’s fantastic maritime treasures, and back on Lake Michigan too, or I should say “in” Lake Michigan. This was the NINTH year in which we have spent some part of the summer as lighthouse keepers /tourguides. We spent the month of July at SOUTH MANITOU ISLAND LIGHT STATION. As the name implies, this one too is on an island, but that island is sixteen miles off the mainland west of Leland, Michigan. It is a part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a unit of the National Park Service. Visitor access is by private boat (limited moorings)or via the daily commercial ferry from Leland. There are four backpack campgrounds on the island. A few pics follow. The park service provided us with a nice little house to stay in. Although the original Fresnel lens has been lost, a fantastic replica is now in the lantern room and focuses its light nightly out over the Manitou Passage.
The photos above show an overview of the station, including the building that once housed the fog signals, the round metal and more typical brick “oil houses” and the keeper’s residence, built in 1858. [The station’s second light tower sat on the roof of the house; the current lighthouse, the third one here, dates from 1871.] The second photo is a close up of the top of the tower, and the third looks up into the illuminated Fresnel lens. The lower row shows the house we lived in, part of the former U.S. Lifesaving Station there, and a shot of “keeper and wife” in the tower doorway.
Our destination for June of 2016 was the NEW PRESQUE ISLE lighthouse, at the town of the same name, on the shores of Lake Huron. Yes, as the name suggests, there is an OLD PRESQUE ISLE lighthouse too. The two of them are quite close together. The “New” tower, another of the double-wall tapered brick towers, is almost identical in design to the ones at South Manitou, Au Sable, and Big and Little Sable points, all pictured above. The original “Old” lighthouse on the Presque Isle Point went into service in 1840, but over time it was determined it was not tall enough nor postioned properly for maximum usefulness to the mariners, and so the “new” tower was built. This much taller one went into service in 1871. The pictures below are of the “old” tower (on left) and the “new” tower (on right).