The Lighthouses of Michigan

Michigan holds the distinction of having more lighthouses than any other state, even states bordering the oceans. With more than 3,000 miles of coastline, Michigan has more shoreline than any other state except Alaska and the longest freshwater coast in the world.

Back in the 19th century, before freeways crisscrossed the country, the inland seas of the Great Lakes served as the highways for shipping goods. The routes were dangerous yet they were the most heavily traveled waters in America.

The majority of Michigan's lighthouses were built back in the 1800’s to warn mariners of the many hazards that lurked in the waters of the Great Lakes. More than 130 lighthouses were built near rocky shores, shallows known as shoals and port entrances, serving notice to the ships navigating those treacherous waters.

With over 120 lighthouses still standing, it is no wonder that the Welcoming Signs into Michigan proudly display a lighthouse.

The lighthouse has become one of Michigan’s most identifiable icons.

Pure Michigan

Pure Michigan is an ad campaign launched to promote tourism in Michigan. A series of heart warming and colorful ads which highlight the special qualities of Michigan, featuring the voice of Michigan native, Tim Allen, are broadcast on a national level.

"Pure Michigan lighthouses are stars of the shore, beacons of brilliance and luminaries of lore. More than 115 Great Lakes lighthouses form a stellar constellation along the Michigan coastline, guiding sailors and capturing imaginations. Some still shine for ships. Others share their stories with us first-hand as museums. As bed and breakfasts and as Michigan history in the making. So let Michigan lighthouses light our way. Because their gleaming legacy guides us to Pure Michigan."

Almost two-thirds of the existing lighthouses in Michigan are currently under the jurisdiction of the federal government or the coast guard. Sadly, they are scheduled for disposal with the next 10 years. All of the Michigan Lighthouses are historic or architecturally significant and are either on the list or are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. This has led to the Michigan’s Historic Lighthouses being named on The National Trust for Historic Preservation list of America’s most endangered places.

Michigan has taken the lead in lighthouse preservation forming the Michigan Lighthouse Project to rescue and preserve these historic facilities. This program stands as a model for lighthouse preservation for the rest of the nation. Using state grants and promotional aid from preservation groups, Michigan is determined to save her lighthouses.

The historic value of the lighthouses in Michigan highlight an integral part of our growth as a state. Although now modernized and without actual lighthouse keepers, the light that shines is still a beacon for ships traveling the lakes.

Accessible Lighthouses
Accessible Lighthouses

In order to preserve some of Michigan’s lighthouses, some of them have been turned into museums. Others have been purchased by private enterprise, transforming them into period inns or gift shops.

In each case, the heritage of the lighthouse is preserved and showcases the historical importance of the lighthouse, the surrounding area and those who lived the life of lighthouse keeping.

Out of the 120 lighthouses still standing, 26 have are currently open and accessible for visitors as museums, gift shops and inns. The list of these lighthouses and contact information can be found at Michigan’s Official Economic Development and Travel Site, Pure Michigan.

Highlighting just a few of them here with their corresponding map number.

Fort Gratiot Lighthouse
Fort Gratiot Lighthouse

Fort Gratiot Lighthouse # 26

The oldest lighthouse in Michigan is the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, older than the state itself. It is also the 2nd oldest on the Great Lakes. .It was erected in 1825 as part of the Fort Gratiot garrison. Their duty was to guard the entrance to the St Clair River.

The light was automated back in 1933 and can be seen for 17 miles out over the water. Currently, this lighthouse is still functioning as a Coast Guard station watching over one of the busiest waterways in the world.

The lighthouse is now a museum and is open to the public for tours.

Old Mackinac Point Light Station
Old Mackinac Point Light Station

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse #18

At the northern most point of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, lies Mackinaw City. Along the shoreline is the Colonial Michilimackinac State Park. This park is a National Historic Landmark. The open-air museum preserves the rich history of the Straits of Mackinaw, a strategic link between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. As part of preservation, the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and fog signal house were incorporated into the park in 1960.

Built in 1892, Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse shines for 16 miles over the straits. This narrow passage is filled with shoals and rocky outcroppings. Long before the first lighthouses, the native Ojibwa people recognized the need for help traveling through the straits and would light signal fires along the shore as warning.

The Straits of Machinaw connect two of the great lakes and is one of the busiest crossroads of the Great Lakes. It is also home to many shipwrecks. Fog envelopes the narrow passage frequently and storms that build up over the lakes often stall over the straits, increasing the hazards of traveling through the straits.

The building of the Mackinaw Bridge, completed in 1957, made the lighthouse unnecessary, due to the many signal lights that show safe passage through the pillars of the bridge.

Sea plane tours are perhaps the best way to view the Straits of Mackinaw.

The Whitefish Point Lighthouse and The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Photo by James Korringa
The Whitefish Point Lighthouse and The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Photo by James Korringa

The Whitefish Point Lighthouse #16

Whitefish Point Lighthouse is one of the oldest lighthouses on Lake Superior. It was built in 1848 and completed with the first lighting in 1849. Structural damage caused the lighthouse to be rebuilt in 1861. The Coast Guard automated the light station in 1971 and it is still operating to this day.

In over 150 years of service, only once did the light fail. It was November 10, 1975; the night the Edmund Fitzgerald sunk just 17 miles north of the entrance to the Whitefish Bay. Severe storms raged over the entire area prompting not only the closure of the locks, where the ore carrier was headed but also caused the light at Whitefish Point to shut down.

The lighthouse is now preserved and the lighthouse keeper’s dwelling is open to the public. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, home to the bell off the Edmond Fitzgerald, is also located here. The 80 miles stretch of coastline approaching Whitefish Bay is known as the Lake Superior's Shipwreck Coast.

This passage at Whitefish Point is also called the Graveyard of Ships because more ships have been lost navigating these treacherous waters of the bay than anywhere else in the Great Lakes.

Copper Harbor Lighthouse Photos by Ronald Corey
Copper Harbor Lighthouse Photos by Ronald Corey

Copper Harbor Lighthouse # 13

The Copper Harbor Lighthouse is located on the northern coast of the Keweenaw Peninsula of Lake Superior.  This lighthouse was built back in 1949 and used gas and oil to produce light until 1937 when it was converted to electricity.  The lighthouse tower is capped in copper, unique copper found only in northern Michigan.

The lighthouse is part of the Fort Wilkins Historic State Park. Acquired by the state in 1963, it is now a nautical museum.  It is situated on the mainland in the state park; however, there is no access to the lighthouse from land. You can only get to the lighthouse and museum by ferry. The lighthouse keeper’s home is still intact, now refurbished, and is included in the tour of the museum.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse
Grand Traverse Lighthouse

Grand Traverse Lighthouse #4

Grand Travers Lighthouse was originally constructed in 1852; however, it needed to be rebuilt in 1858. The present lighthouse was built at the same location but in a more visible spot for passing ships to see clearly. Forty one years later, in 1899, a fog signal was added. Locally called the Northport Lighthouse, this lighthouse marks the entrance to the Grand Traverse Bay. It is located at the end point of the Leelanau Peninsula and inside the Leelanau State Park. Guiding ships through the Manitou Passage of Lake Michigan, the lighthouse also marked the shallows off the peninsula.

The Grand Traverse Lighthouse is one of the oldest lighthouses on Lake Michigan and was such a busy lighthouse that two keepers were needed to keep the light and fog signal properly prepared. The keeper’s dwelling was converted into a two-family residence in 1900.

The light was automated in 1972 and the building closed. Fourteen years later, the Lighthouse opened again as a museum with extensive exhibits including the keeper’s home restored to the time period of 1920 – 1930.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Big Sable Point Lighthouse

Big Sable Point Lighthouse #2

Big Sable Point Lighthouse is part of the Ludington Sate Park. First lit in 1867, the conical tower stands 112-feet high. The light was automated in 1968, the last lighthouse of the Great Lakes to get electricity.

Due to erosion, the lighthouse tower was encased with steel plate in 1902. The big black line was added so sailors could spot the lighthouse against the backdrop of the sand dunes during the daylight hours.

The museum and restoration is provided by the Big Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association and the light is maintained by the Coast Guard. The remote lighthouse and gift shop, staffed by volunteers, is reached by a hike through the park or scheduled ferry trips to the point.

Aerial photo of the Waugoshance lighthouse marking the dangerous shoals in Lake Michigan off shore from Waugoshance Island in the Wilderness State Park
Aerial photo of the Waugoshance lighthouse marking the dangerous shoals in Lake Michigan off shore from Waugoshance Island in the Wilderness State Park
Lighthouse on the Pine River Channel going out to Lake Michigan in Charlevoix Michigan.
Lighthouse on the Pine River Channel going out to Lake Michigan in Charlevoix Michigan.
Point Aux Barques Lighthouse, Port Austin, Michigan
Point Aux Barques Lighthouse, Port Austin, Michigan
Grand Haven Lighthouse on Lake Michigan, photo by Ed Post
Grand Haven Lighthouse on Lake Michigan, photo by Ed Post

Visiting the lighthouses in Michigan gives us a fascinating look at the rich history of our state and the important role that the Great Lakes have played in that history.

Preserving the lighthouses is very important to the citizens of Michigan. While not all of them have been refurbished as museums, they are all worth visiting.

For more information and resources regarding the Lighthouses in Michigan, please see:

For tours of Michigan Lighthouses

A photo book of Michigan Lighthouses


I hope you have enjoyed your brief visit to Michigan's Lighthouses.


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Comments 55 comments

FGual profile image

FGual 6 years ago from USA

Thanks for this great tour of Michigan lighthouses. I had no idea they had so many, and so much coastline. They should all be preserved, and converted to living quarters for residents or travelers. Or schools, community centers, maritime museums, and so on.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

There is something compelling about lighthouses. You article is great to bring the plight of lighthouses to our attention.I for one hope to see some of these.


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Wow, you guys are quick.

Thanks for visiting FGual. The Lighthouse Project is working hard to preserve them. Appreciate the comments.


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

I agree dahoglund. They are fascinating to visit, even the ones not refurbished.

I hope you get to see them too. Thank you so much for stopping by and for your comments.


bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

Such a great piece and beautiful as well!RATE UP!


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Thank you bayoulady. Appreciate the compliment.


"Quill" 6 years ago

Wonderful and a must see next visit, thank you very informative and well written.... you have a new fan.

Blessings


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Thank you Quill. Blessings to you as well.


TinaMarieTad profile image

TinaMarieTad 6 years ago from Michigan

You did our wonderful and beautiful state justice once again Joni~ I have seen several of the lighthouses here in Michigan, and each is unigue and special in it's own right..Thanks again! Voted up!


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Thank you Tina. I have been to quite a few and they really are something. I sure appreciate the nice things you have to say.


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

I've seen a couple of these, but I had no idea - 120 ??? wow.


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Hi carolina muscle, thank you for taking the time to stop by and check out the lighthouses.


ReuVera profile image

ReuVera 6 years ago from USA

I love lighthouses. I lived next to Ashdod lighthouse in Israel and I liked its flashing at night. It was giving a special comforting feeling that everything is alright.

It was really interesting for me to learn about lighthouses of Michigan. We are neighbors, so some day I will visit them. Rated up.


singlmomat52 profile image

singlmomat52 6 years ago

Absolutely beautiful!!!!

Lighthouses have been around for many, many years! Just another reminder of the good old days this country is about. Thanks for sharing!!


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

ReuVera, welcome and thank you for stopping by. Loved your comments, there is a certain comfort to the rhythm and normalcy of the lighthouses.


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Hi singlemom, Yes they have been around a long time. The preservation is intended for just that purpose, to remind us not only of the history and hardship endured but the innovation and ingenuity that made this country so great.

Thank you for visiting and for your great comments.


gusripper profile image

gusripper 6 years ago

A hell of a hub lady.Very good subject.


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

That's a heck of a nice compliment. Thanks gusripper, glad you stopped by.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

How beautiful and informative. I answered your tag on my hub and came to sign up to follow you and saw all these great things on Michigan. Bob is from Michigan and we lived there for 2 long, long years (I am a southern CA girl and west coast all the way unfortunately) but surely wish I'd seen all these marvelous places! Now I need a road trip!


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

You sure do need to visit, akirchner. I am working on a continuing series about Michigan. There are wonderful places to visit here. Being from CA, I imagine that Michigan wasn't your favorite place; life is very different here.

For me, the one thing that Michigan beats CA hands down is the water. The ocean is gorgeous but swimming in the ocean just can't compare to swimming in the fresh water of Lake Michigan. Who wants a mouthful of salt water? Sorry, had to throw that little dig in.. :-)

Thank you for visiting my hub and for your nice comment, hope a visit to Michigan is in your future.


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

I love your pictures. You have painted a word picture that makes me long to go there and visit that beautiful area. Great job.


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Thank you KK Gal. I am happy to meet you. You should come to Michigan for a visit. It is a beautiful state and I am proud to show it off here on HubPages. Thanks for taking the time to comment and I sure appreciate the compliment.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England

Hi, well written and informative with beautiful photographs to enhance your hub. Thank you for sharing this knowledge with us.


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

It was my pleasure DAL. I have lived in Michigan almost my entire life and I am still learning new and wondrous things about this state. Hoping to share more in my Michigan series of hubs. Thank you for stopping by and for your kind remarks.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

I have to admit to you that I never go to lighthouse before. But I saw something beautiful from the lighthouse in Michigan. Good job, my friend. I really enjoy all the information and the pictures also. Have a good day!

Prasetio


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

I am so glad you stopped by, Prasetio and that you enjoyed this hub. Thank you for your comments and I hope you have a great day too.


belliott profile image

belliott 6 years ago

Although I live in the mid-west and lighthouses are not needed in our part of the country, I have always found them interesting and love to visit them when we are on vacation. I enjoyed your hub. Thanks


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Why thank you belliott. I am so glad you visited. I find them fascinating too. Wherever we visit in Michigan, I like to make a point of stopping by the nearest lighthouse.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 6 years ago

I have always wanted to tour the lighthouses of Mich. in a sailboat , I may never ,but I can dream, nice hub and thank you. Can you imagine to live in one ! I can , being half hermit !


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Yes I can ahorseback. It wouldn't be my first choice in a sailboat, but the gypsy life in a scaled down motorhome would suit me a to a tee. Just fill er up and go, go, go. I can dream too.

Thanks for stopping by and granting me a smile today.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 6 years ago

I actually meant to live in a lighthouse but the boat would be good too.....


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

The lighthouses in Michigan aren't near as remote as you might think so being only half a hermit might work out for you.


World-Traveler profile image

World-Traveler 6 years ago from USA

Lighthouses have often facinated me. One reason is because I enjoy the sea. Lighthouses have often been a relief from anxiety that ship captains have often had when they knew they were approaching the coast while the fog lay thick about them.


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

That is so true, World-Traveler. Their importance may have diminished some with all the fancy equipment available for the big ships but when you hear about the Edmund Fitzgerald, you know that the captains depended heavily on the lighthouses.

Thank you so much for stopping by, great comment.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 6 years ago from USA

This is a wonderful hub especially since I am in Michigan. I didn't know we had more lighthouses than any other state. Now I'll have to see more.


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Thanks Barbara. Sounds like a cool road trip. Glad you stopped by.


Support Med. profile image

Support Med. 6 years ago from Michigan

Beautiful lighthouses! I really did not know that MI was in the lead! Voted-up/rated.


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Thanks Support Med. Doing this Michigan series, I have learned a lot about our state. I didn't realize it either until I started researching it. Since I love to learn new things, it is a win/win for me. Thanks for the vote and the comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

Thanks for publishing this lovely article. I grew up in the shadows of the St. Joseph lighthouse but never appreciated its beauty until I had moved away for a couple of decades.


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Hi James, glad you checked in. Hope you are enjoying your summer. I spent the day in the shadow of the Grand Haven lighthouse today. Rolling waves and sunshine made it quite a day.

The lighthouses are something, I have been to quite a few of them and continue to be fascinated.


Sweetsusieg profile image

Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

I made a lighthouse quilt for my son's g/f she loves em', one of these days I'd like to jump on a boat and tour around the waters edge of this great state of our and see them for myself!

Fantastic job of showing the beauty of our Great State!


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Sweetsusieg, the quilt sounds lovely. That would be an excellent trip by water wouldn't it? You can even rent a cabin cruiser and follow the coastline all around the state. Great idea!

Thanks for stopping by and the very nice compliment.


vballkel profile image

vballkel 6 years ago from Michigan

This is a great hub, thanks for sharing! My husband and I just moved to Michigan and are looking for some things to visit before the winter starts in and seeing these is a great idea! Any other suggestions on places to visit?


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Welcome to Michigan. It is a beautiful state and one where you can always find something to do all year around. I am working on more hubs in my Michigan series but, you know how it is, sometimes life just gets in the way.


American_Choices profile image

American_Choices 6 years ago from USA

Awesome! Simply awesome! Thank you! I haven't been to Michigan for years now I am yearning to return - thank to you.


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Thanks American_Choices. I love this state. The economy sucks right now but the mix of woods and water are irresistible.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

I love lighthouses. They always look so beautiful standing against the storms. Thanks for all the lovely photos as well!


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

I do too. I have been to many of the lighthouses in Michigan and they are fascinating. There is such a rich history to them. Thanks RedElf for stopping by and adding your thoughts here.


shygirl2 6 years ago

Four years ago now, I use to work for a tiny gift shop here in the P.N.W...we use to sell the miniatures of MI lighthouses. My dad loves them! My grandfather once built one situated on Houghton Lake Isl. It burnt down, after he leased it out when he was to old to care for it anymore. Brought back so many memories...thanks for this one, Joni!


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago Author

Thanks for your addition to these comments shygirl. The Houghton Lake area is exceptionally beautiful.


Sharon Douglas profile image

Sharon Douglas 5 years ago from GA, United States

Very nice article! I enjoyed it, I also enjoyed your lighthouse pics as well.

My husband and I drive to Canada almost every year and passes through Detroit Michigan to go to Canada and didn't realize there are so many lighthouses in Michigan.

Maybe next time, I'll stop off and sight see a bit.


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 5 years ago Author

Next time, I hope you do. All of the lighthouses have a story and they are fascinating stories. Thanks for stopping by.


dearabbysmom profile image

dearabbysmom 5 years ago from Indiana

Very informative--your hub will help draw people to the Michigan coast!


Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 5 years ago Author

Welcome dearabbysmom. I certainly hope so, Michigan can use the tourists. Besides, we have some of the most beautiful coastline in the country.


Seaside Artistry 2 years ago

Just as a point of information, Michigan may have the most lighthouses, but Florida has the most shoreline and coastline. Michigan has the most fresh water shoreline. Not that it is all that important, but I am anal about the accuracy of facts.

Having said that, I'd love to check out the lighthouses in Michigan since I am a photographer and lighthouses are one of my favorite subjects to photograph. Michigan has some real beauts adorning their shores.

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