Detour Reef Lighthouse
July 13, 2013
Today’s post is from the “What Are the Odds?” category. Some weeks I will sit down on Sunday evening and write a few posts. I wrote this one last Sunday and then on Tuesday, the State Historic Preservation Office announced 2013 recipients of Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program. Three lighthouses will receive dollars for preservation efforts: the Manistee North Pier Light, the St. Clair South Channel Range Lights (already profiled on Michigan in Pictures) and the DeTour Reef Lighthouse!
Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light tells of the history of the DeTour Reef Lighthouse. He begins:
As freighters plying the St. Marys River grew in length and depth, a reef lying 24 feet below the surface off the entrance to the river between Detour Point and Drummond Island became a menace to safe passage between the lake and river. Without funding to erect a lighthouse, an acetylene buoy was placed to mark the reef on September 29, 1897 as a temporary measure.
As part of a major project to improve aids to navigation in the Straits of Mackinac at the end of the 1920’s, the Lighthouse Bureau had proven its ability in the efficient construction of offshore crib-based lights at Martin Reef in 1927, and Poe Reef 1929. With success already in its back pocket, after receiving an appropriation for the construction of a first-class light station on Detour Reef, the Bureau was immediately able to focus its attention on construction of the new station.
The first order of business was the establishment of a land-based camp as close as possible to the reef. Here, the crib which would form the submarine foundation for the structure could be built, and housing could be obtained for the construction crew. By the twin virtues of having deep water close to its shore and its proximity to the construction site, Detour Village was selected as the best location for the base of operations.
You can read on at Seeing the Light for details and photos of the fascinating construction process of this “crib lighthouse” that culminated with the official lighting of the new tower on the night of November 10, 1931. In 1974 the light was automated and in 1997 the lighthouse was declared excess property by the U.S. Coast Guard, but community members were able to come together to for the DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society (Facebook). This successful partnership renovated the lighthouse and now offers YOU the chance to be a volunteer keeper and stay at the lighthouse!
Many more Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures.