Local AttractionsThunder Bay Golf
& RV Resort
Hillman · MI 49746 Share this Site
Make Thunder Bay Resort Your Lighthouse Headquarters!
October 2010 Lighthouse Festival
Live Nautical Entertainment, Performing Artists Lighthouse & Lifesaving Exhibits, U.S. Coast Guard, Nautical Items for Sale Guest Speakers, Ship & Shipping Exhibits, Food & Drinks, Fish Fry Silent Auctions, Lighthouse Dinner & Concert, Nautical Crafters Artists, Authors, Photographers Harbour Lights Auction, The Keepers Dinner/Concert, Nautical Auction, Boat Tours, Aerial Lighthouse Tours
Fun For the Whole Family • Door Prizes Galore
Along the Shoreline...By Patty Ramus
Northeast Michigan is rich with maritime history that includes shipwrecks and lighthouses, but given the remoteness of the upper Great Lakes this comes as no surprise, according to Pat Labadie, historian at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary museum in Alpena.
Sailing ships moving passengers and goods were common in ports like Alpena, Oscoda and Rogers City. Lighthouses from Sturgeon Point in the south to 40 Mile Point in the north were constructed along the Lake Huron shoreline, some onshore and the rest on a handful on offshore islands, were positioned at hazaardous points along the shoreline.
Water was the highway of the 1800's, and nearly everything moved by ship from city to city unless, of course, a person was able to withstand the rigors of overland travel in a wagon trying to trace what originally were game trails. Thousands of passengers moved north from the bigger cities aboard schooners, including swift clipper schooners built for speed.
Despite the large number of lighthouses along the northern Lake Huron shoreline, shipwrecks were common as these early wooden ships sank at a high rate in the late 1880's, most to stormy weather in the fall and winter months.
Alpena's most well known shipwrecks, the Pewabic in 1865, and the Nordmeer in 1966, are just two of hundreds that litter the bottom of the lake from Harrisville north to Hammond Bay. The area with the highest number of known shipwrecks is oddly enough between Old Presque Isle Lighthouse and the Thunder Bay Island Lighthouse. Relied on as important landmarks, these lighhouses actually caused ships to ride up on the shoals in the area, espe ially in periods of bad visibility and rough weather.
"It isn't any accident that the lighthouses are placed at those hazardous locations, theoretically to warn ships of those points," Labadie said.
Lighthouses that dot the shoreline in the region were important aids to navigation. Some contained fresnel lenses atop the towers. A fresnel lens is a lens comprised of a series of smaller lenses arranged to construct a large lightweight lens. The lighthouses in the region include:
Sturgeon Point Lighthouse - Located in northern Alcona County, this lighthouse was built in 1869, and became operational in 1870. The 70 foot tall lighthouse continues to operate today.
Thunder Bay Lighthouse - Built in 1832, the 50 foot tall tower serves as a current aid to navigation with an automated beacon atop the structure.
Alpena Range Lighthouse - Constructed in 1914, and replaces a number of other range lights in the area.
Middle Island Lighthouse - The 79 feet tall structure was built in 1905, and is currently an operational automated light.
Old Presque Isle Lighthouse - The shores of the northern lake's series of lighthouses, the 30-foot tower was built in 1840 to simply be a harbor light. It was operational for 30 years before increased shipping activity made it inadequate.
New Presque Isle Lighthouse - President Abraham Lincoln authorized the construction of a new lighthouse and in 1870, this lighthouse was built. The tower is 115 feet tall tower's light can be seen for 15 miles. The light is still operational as an automated beacon.
40 Mile Point Lighthouse-this square tower lighthouse was fully operational until 1943. The light from its fourth-order fresnel lens can be seen for 16 miles.
Some Good Links:LighthouseFestival.org
Great Lakes Lighthouses