Shed Some Light on the Subject: Mackinac Island Lighthouses

Lighthouses are said to symbolize the way forward and help those facing adversity to navigate those waters. They are also the faces of safety and security: the ultimate beacons of hope. Vacationing with family and friends can offer the same sense of solace, so it only makes sense that the popular vacation spot Mackinac Island would have its fair abundance of lighthouses.  

The Round Island Light was made in 1895 and automated in 1924. It is now part of the National Forest on the small, uninhabited Round Island. The lighthouse, along with other landmarks in Mackinac, was restored in 1978 for the film Somewhere in Time. Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry offers several tours throughout the summer that stop on the island.

About 600 meters from the Round Island Light is the Round Island Passage Light, which was created in 1948 and automated in 1973. An intriguing tidbit about the Round Island Passage Light is that there is a profile of a Native American near the top of it. 

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If this isn’t #puremichigan then what is? The historic Round Island Lighthouse is located just South of Mackinac Island, and has been standing tall for 124 years. ——————————————————————— PC: @lilskipthedrone ——————————————————————— #roundislandlighthouse #straitsofmackinac #mackinacisland #mackinac #uppermichigan #michigansun #michiganawesome #michigansunset #upnorth #puremittigan #puremittenpride #michiganphotographer #michigander #mustbemichigan #greatlakesstate #greatlakes #lighthouse_lovers #lighthouse #wanderfolk #roamtheplanet #sunset_ig #sunsetlover #nature_brilliance #dronestagram #droneshots #lilskip

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Journeying along, the Bois Blanc Island Lights are on the Northeast side of the Island, are solar powered, and often remain unseen. There are both old and new Bois Blanc Island Lights; the old ones were created in 1868 and deactivated in 1924, while the new ones were created in 1941.   

Bois Blanc Island, known as “Bob-lo” to locals, is twelve miles long and has six lakes. The first resort on the island was established because President Walter B. Webb hired the Mason L. Brown Company to record the Pointe Aux Pins subdivision. Thus, the Point Aux Pins resort community was formed. Much of the island is state-owned forest land, and the island has historically been a provider of lumber to Mackinac Island, where woodcutting is prohibited.  

As Mackinac Island is named after a “big turtle”, Poe Reef Lighthouse is named after Orlando M. Poe, who was the chief engineer of the eleventh lighthouse district. In 1926, the Commissioner of Lighthouses requested funds for the project, which ended up costing $78,000. Poe Reef Lighthouse began operation on August 15, 1929. That same year, Poe Reef Lighthouse and Cape Henry Lighthouse became the first in the United States to be equipped with synchronized radio beacons and fog signals. After its use was no longer needed, the lighthouse was auctioned off in September of 2017 with a high bid of $112,111. 

So far, something old, something sold, and something blue have all been explored in terms of lighthouses near Mackinac Island. What are all of those classics without a little bit of something new to supplement? In as recently as May of 2012, the Fourteen Foot Shoal Lighthouse was made available under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 to eligible agencies for historic preservation purposes. Sadly, no parties were interested, so the new-again lighthouse was put up for auction, with the winning bid over $20,000 more than the Poe Reef Lighthouse at $133,333.  

Photo by Phyllis Taylor  

Sailing on, the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, established in 1889, helped to navigate ships through the waters of the Straits of Mackinac. This lighthouse has also seen its day on the big screen, having been featured in the movie Shipwrecks of the Straits. It is also featured in the Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Museum. This lighthouse is unique in that it is actually open for tours to this day, for only around $8.  

Not coining the name lighthouse, but rather simply “light” is the Cheboygan Crib Light. It is called a light instead of a lighthouse because it does not contain a structure in which a keeper lived. History has come to assume that the original keeper lived in Cheboygan. When the keeper left in 1929, it degraded soon after, and it earned the nickname “The Dummy” from the locals. The Light is now maintained by the municipality, and luckily, it is maintained by a local support group who seemed to see it as more than just a dummy.  

The Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association applied for ownership of the 1880 Cheboygan River Front Range Lighthouse after successfully restoring the St. Helena island light station. The National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act in 2003 granted them the deed. Volunteer keepers have now opened the lighthouse to the public every weekend during the summer season, and it is a must-see for lighthouse history buffs. It is located on the west bank of the Cheboygan River in Gordon Turner Park.  

Abandoned places are a popular point of fascination, and the Cheboygan Point Light ruins are no exception. The light was built in 1851, but as time passed, high water began to wash away at the foundation and it was removed. In 1859, the station was rebuilt as an eight foot square wooden tower atop a dwelling. The tower rose 22 feet above the house and featured the same white light. When the aforementioned Fourteen Foot Shoal light was constructed offshore in 1930, the Cheboygan Point Light was abandoned and the land was deeded to the State of Michigan. Due to vandalism and other delinquent activities, the building was dismantled in the 1940s. Today, the ruins are an eerie part of Cheboygan State Park.  

Lastly, but certainly not of lesser significance, is the McGulpin Point Lighthouse, which is currently owned by Emmet County and once also protected ships on the Straits of Mackinac against storms. Its history began thousands of years ago when the Native Americans arrived -- history tells that the Odawa came to the Straits to expel an earlier tribe living in Northern Michigan called the Muscodesh. When the Erie Canal later opened in 1825 and through the 1850s, vessel traffic increased rapidly, and Congress constructed McGulpin Point two miles from Fort Michimilimackinac. Today, the lighthouse is open for tours and visits...There is even a bed and breakfast adjacent to it.  

As the adage goes, happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light. In the same regard, living in a modern world should not fool one into believing that such old fashioned means are no longer necessary. In fact, some of our country’s richest and most intricately woven history can be found in places like the lighthouses of Mackinac Island. It is up to the visitors, however, to ignite that light in their hearts and minds.