June 26, 2014
While many of Michigan’s historic lighthouses have been decommissioned and are mostly ornamental, Pure Michigan tells the story of how the Wawatam Lighthouse started out as an ornamental lighthouse and now actually has a job! Thinking there’s a children’s story here…
This classic lighthouse started life in 1998 as a Michigan Welcome Center travel icon at Monroe, Michigan. In 2004, the Monroe Welcome Center was being revamped and the lighthouse was put up for relocation. The City of St. Ignace was the lucky recipient and the structure was trucked north in five pieces. It stayed on the Chief Wawatam Dock for a time, awaiting the construction of its new platform. The red, white and green lighthouse was repainted in bright white with red accents. In June 2006, a crane reassembled the tower on its new site. Everything was in readiness, just waiting for U.S. Coast Guard certification. Wawatam Lighthouse takes its name from the late railroad ferry Chief Wawatam, which used this same dock from 1911 through the mid-1980s.
When you visit the lighthouse, you will pass right by the Chief’s old lift gate. Wawatam Lighthouse’s beacon was first lit on August 20, 2006. Visible for more than 13 miles out over Lake Huron, it is now an official aid-to-navigation. The 250 millimeter Fresnel lens casts its light in a 152 degree arc. Though the lighthouse’s GPS location is 45-051-19.700 N by 084-42-09.000 W, it will most likely be easier for you to find it straight out east of McCann Street. The tower is 52 feet tall, but the Coast Guard looks at it in a different way. They rate it as 62 feet tall from the water. It is even lit in the winter to guide snowmobiles across the frozen lake.
More Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures!
June 3, 2014
If you’ve been following Michigan in Pictures for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with the work of John McCormick aka Michigan Nut.
John has just released his 2015 Michigan Wild & Scenic Wall Calendar, and you can get it for just $15. As an added bonus, if you head over to like his post about it on Facebook, you have a chance to win a free one!
The photo above of the Mackinac Bridge is not only the cover of the calendar, it’s also the photo for June. View (and purchase) John’s photo bigger at MichiganNutPhotography.com, see more in his Michigan Bridges Gallery and definitely follow Michigan Nut Photography on Facebook for a regular dose of photographic awesome from the Great Lakes State!
There’s lots more from John on Michigan in Pictures too!!
May 5, 2014
Terry Pepper writes that the first Presque Isle Light was established in 1840 to serve as a guide to mariners seeking the harbor on Presque Isle, the spit of land protruding from the eastern shore of Lake Huron French trappers named “almost an island.” By 1866, the dwelling was judged to be a tear-down candidate and in March of 1967, Congress appropriated $28,000 for construction of the New Presque Isle Light according to the plan of District Engineer Orlando M Poe:
Poe’s classic design for the new tower was atypically elegant for such a utilitarian structure, and was so successful that it would be duplicated at a number of stations throughout the district, including Outer Island and Au Sable Point on Lake Superior, and at Little Sable, Big Sable and Grosse Point on Lake Michigan. Erected on a limestone foundation that extended almost ten feet below grade, the red brick tower stood 113 feet in height. 19 feet 3 inches in exterior diameter at the base, the structure tapered gracefully to a diameter of 12 feet beneath the gallery. Constructed with a double wall system, the outer walls stood 5 feet three inches in thickness at the base and the inner wall one 1 foot thick with a 2 foot three inch air space between. The inner walls did not reflect the taper of the exterior, but were erected as a pure cylinder, encasing a spiral cast iron stairway consisting of 138 steps and incorporating five landings and a watch room with four windows immediately below the gallery. Each of these windows featured a graceful arched top section, typical of Poe’s groundbreaking design.
Supported by a series of ornate cast iron corbels, the gallery provided a convenient location from which the keepers could observe vessels out on the lake during fair weather, and created a natural location from which to suspend a boatswain’s chair to conduct maintenance on the gallery supports and the masonry of the tower walls. Centered on the gallery, a prefabricated cast iron apparatus room was erected with a smaller encircling gallery. Centered within this secondary gallery, a cast iron lantern with vertical astragals was equipped with hand-holds to provide the keepers with an extra measure of safety while standing on the narrow upper gallery when cleaning or scraping ice from the plate glass lantern panes. A large cast iron pedestal to support for the lens was erected in the mechanical room below the lantern, and the massive Third Order Fresnel lens, which had been ordered from Henry LePaute Cie. of Paris assembled at its upper flare. Consisting of a brass support structure standing 8 feet in diameter, ten prismatic panels, each six feet in height and 2 feet 6 inches wide were carefully assembled within the frame to create the “crystal beehive” look typical of such lenses.
Read on for more about this lighthouse including some old pics.
Many more Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures!
February 27, 2014
I tend to keep my advocacy to myself on Michigan in Pictures, but when a friend shared the Climate Hope tumblr with me last week, I felt compelled to share it with you.
Michigan for me is defined by our water. On the heels of the disastrous million gallon oil spill on the Kalamazoo River, I feel that Michiganders have a sacred duty to protect our water today and for future generations. Climate Hope is submitting pictures shared with them as public comment by the March 7, 2014 deadline.
You can see more photo messages on Climate Hope and (if you’re so inclined) share one with them at email@example.com. If you’d like to comment directly on the Keystone pipeline, head over to www.regulations.gov.
More about the corrosive beast that is tar sands oil via the Natural Resources Defense Council.
February 18, 2014
Michigan’s Little Finger has been getting a lot of national media attention for the fantastic ice caves that have formed off the Leelanau Peninsula, but it’s a good time to check out the Thumb as well! Turnip Rock is on private property and reachable in the summer only by boat. In wintertime, however, walking on publicly owned Lake Huron becomes an option.
The Point Aux Barques – Turnip Rock geocache explains:
Everyone that received their grade school education in Michigan learned that glaciers pushed their way over Michigan several times. The result is glacial drift averaging 200 to 300 feet deep covering on top of the bedrock. The thickness of drift has measured over 1,000 feet in a few Michigan locations. Rarely can we see exposed bedrock that has been sculptured by non glacier forces. This is one of the locations in southern Michigan where the sandstone bedrock is exposed at the surface. The amount of shoreline that has exposed sandstone is about one mile, but a lot of beauty has been sculptured in the stone.
The locals call the main structure here “Turnip Rock”, because of it’s shape. Geologists call it a “Sea Stack”. A definition of a sea stack is an isolated pillar-like rocky island or mass near a cliff shore, detached from a headland by wave erosion assisted by weathering. Waves force air and small pieces of rock into small cracks, future opening them. The cracks then gradually get larger and turn into a small cave. When the cave wears through the headland, an arch forms. Further erosion causes the arch to collapse. This causes a pillar of hard rock standing away from the coast. Generally occurring in sedimentary rocks, sea stacks can occur in any rock type.
Here’s a map to Turnip Rock.
February 10, 2014
Winter 2014 has been a big challenge to keep up with for road crews and homeowners, and it’s a challenge that doesn’t end at the shoreline!
On Friday, Ross got a chance ride aboard the US Coast Guard Icebreaker Bristol Bay as it opened a path for shipping traffic on Lake Saint Clair. The captain told him the ice has only been this dense one other time in the past 30 years! The Coast Guard says:
The USCGC BRISTOL BAY is one of just two Bay-class cutters that work in conjunction with a special barge. BRISTOL BAY the second of the U.S. Coast Guard’s 140-foot icebreaking tugs. She is named after the body of water formed by the Alaskan peninsula which empties into the Bering Sea. BRISTOL BAY was built by the Tacoma Boatbuilding Co. in 1978. She was commissioned in Detroit in 1979.
Designed by U.S. Coast Guard engineers, the BRISTOL BAY’s primary responsibility is opening and maintaining icebound shipping lanes in the Great Lakes. Bay-class tugs are designed to continuously break at least 20 inches of hard, freshwater ice. The ships can break more than 3 feet of ice by backing and ramming. The Bay tugs have a special hull air lubrication system that helps extract the ship from thick ice and improves ice breaking ability at slower speeds.
PS: A few weeks ago I came across this video of more Great Lakes icebreaking action, showing the Icebreaker Mackinaw and others clearing a path from Sault Ste Marie down the St Marys River that you might enjoy. It was shot from the wheelhouse of the CSL Assiniboine.
December 20, 2013
I dug way back through the over 13,000 winter photos in the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr for today’s photo.
Liz Glass took it at the Straits of Mackinac in 2011. She says that the color is real and recommends you check it out bigger to see the details on Fluidr. It’s also a cool way to look at her Ice set (or view the slideshow on Flickr).
More ice on Michigan in Pictures.
November 23, 2013
Many in Michigan are waking up to frigid temps, high wind and snow – the perfect conditions for lake effect snow. Meteorologist Robert J. Ruhf has an excellent article on Lake-Effect Precipitation in Michigan that explains lake effect snow and rain are common in Michigan, especially in late fall and early winter as cold polar air moves across the warmer Great Lakes.
The unfrozen waters are relatively warm when compared with the temperature of the wintertime air mass. Therefore, the temperature of the air that comes into contact with the water increases. The warmed air expands and become less dense, which causes it to rise. This is an “unstable” situation. As the air rises, the temperature decreases until it reaches the dew point, which is the temperature at which the air becomes saturated.. Ice crystals or water droplets will then begin to collect until the force of gravity pulls them down. The result is “lake-effect” precipitation. When the cP air mass is very cold, as is often the case between December and February, the precipitation falls as snow. During late autumn, however, the polar air mass may be warm enough for the precipitation to fall in the form of rain.
“Lake-effect” precipitation can cause substantial intensification of snowfall amounts in very narrow bands, often referred to as “snow belts,” along the leeward (downwind) shores of the Great Lakes. The prevailing wind direction in the Great Lakes region is westerly; therefore, most “lake-effect” precipitation events occur to the east of the lakes.
…An interesting feature of “lake-effect” is that the heaviest bands of snow do not usually occur along the immediate shoreline, but tend to fall several miles inland. Snowfall accumulations are enhanced inland because the air experiences more uplift when it is forced over hills and higher terrain.
Read on to learn lots more about lake effect snow in Michigan including four narrow bands – Keweenaw Peninsula, Leelanau Peninsula, the Thumb and the southwest Lower Peninsula – where geographic features and the shape of the shoreline contribute to more intense snowfall. Hang on to your hats – winter is here!
Need a winter background?
October 21, 2013
The Poe Reef Lighthouse page at Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light begins with the story of the vessel that preceded the lighthouse:
Poe Reef lies just eight feet beneath the water’s surface between Bois Blanc Island and the Lower Peninsula mainland, and as such has long represented a significant hazard to vessels making their way through the Straits between Lakes Michigan and Huron.
In the early 1890’s the Lighthouse Board faced a vexing problem. Increasing vessel traffic created a need to install navigational aids at a number of offshore shoals and reefs. With Congressional funds increasingly difficult to obtain, and the costs of offshore lighthouse construction prohibitively high, the Board determined that the use of lightships to mark such hazards would be both significantly more expeditious and cost effective.
Unable to convince Congress to free up the funds for these lightships, the Board took the chance of redirecting an existing $60,000 congressional appropriation for a lighthouse off Peninsula Point to the purchase of four lightships.
In 1892 two contracts totaling $55,960 were awarded to the Craig Shipbuilding Company in Toledo for the construction of four lightships. Designated as Lightships LV59, LV60, LV61 and LV62, all four vessels were built to similar specifications. Framed and planked of white oak they measured 87′ 2″ inches in length, 21′ 6″ inches in the beam, with a draft of 8 feet. In a cost-cutting effort, the vessels were un-powered, outfitted with only a small riding sail carried on a short after mast. Equipped with a cluster of three oil-burning lens lanterns hoisted on their foremasts, each was also equipped with 6″ steam whistles and hand-operated bells for fog use. Work was completed on the four vessels the following year, and after sea trials, all four were commissioned by the Board and placed into service, LV59 being assigned to Bar Point, LV60 to Eleven Foot Shoal, LV61 to Corsica Shoal and LV62 to Poe Reef.
With the words POE REEF brightly painted in white on her fire engine red hull, LV62 was towed to Poe Reef by the lighthouse tender Marigold, and anchored on station to begin her vigil on September 29, 1893. For the next seventeen years LV62 spent every shipping season faithfully guarding the shoal. With the end of each shipping season, one of the lighthouse tenders would make the rounds of all lightship stations in the Straits area, and tow them into Cheboygan harbor for winter lay-up. While in Cheboygan, necessary repairs and improvements would be made in preparation for the following season. At some time in March or April, the ice would break up sufficiently to allow the vessels to be towed back to their stations to stand guard for yet another season.
Read on for another shot of this vessel and for more about the lighthouse that replaced the lightship at Poe Reef. Also have a look at these photos of Light Vessel 96, which took over for LV 62 from 1915-1920 at Poe Reef.
October 19, 2013
EDIT: WOW!! Check out the video that Tudor did at Forty Mile Point, The Grand Hotel and Fort Mackinac!
Wikipedia’s U.S. Lighthouses entry says that the United States has had approximately a thousand lights as well as light towers, range lights, and pier head lights. With the second longest coastline in the U.S. and a history of vibrant trade across the Great Lakes, it makes sense that Michigan has the most lights of any state with over 150 past and present lights (166 by their count and as many as 247 by some). While the current number varies depending on who you talk to, 115 seems to be the accepted number.
Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light is a fabulous guide to the lighthouses of the Great Lakes and definitely a resource to review before you visit a Michigan lighthouse. The Forty Mile Point Light entry in explains:
While the Presque Isle Peninsula had been lighted since 1840, and the entrance to the Cheboygan River fifty miles to the north had been lighted since 1851, the New Presque Isle Light’s range of visibility of 19 miles and the Cheboygan Light’s visible range of 13 miles left an unlighted 18 mile intervening stretch of coastline along which mariners were forced to navigate blind. In it’s annual report for fiscal 1890, the Board recommended that $25,000 be appropriated for the construction of a new light and fog signal at Forty Mile Point near Hammond’s Bay, at the approximate mid point between the two lights.
(the project languished for nearly 60 years until…)
Eleventh District Engineer Major Milton B. Adams selected and surveyed the site for the new Light. With an offer of $200 for the property accepted by the owner, Adams approved the plans and specifications for the station in February 1896. Contracts for the ironwork for the lantern, gallery, boilers and fog whistles were awarded soon thereafter, and with receipt of the materials at the Detroit depot, were loaded aboard the lighthouse tender AMARANTH and delivered to the site on July 5, 1896. Work at the site began with the construction of a wood-framed building, which would be used by the work crew as a temporary dwelling during construction, and converted into a barn for the keeper’s horses on the completion of the work.
Adams’ plan for the main lighthouse structure was a virtual duplicate of that simultaneously under construction at Big Bay Point on Lake Superior. Consisting of a duplex dwelling with a tower incorporated into the center of one side-wall, the structure stood 35 feet by 57 feet in plan. Erected on a 20″ thick cut limestone foundation, the brick walls featured double walls with an air space between to provide insulation. The integrated tower stood twelve feet in plan, and fifty-two feet in height. The apartments on each side of the dwelling were exact mirrored duplicates and were set-up to afford complete privacy. Each apartment featured its own main entry, cellar, kitchen, parlor, tower entry door and stairway to the bedrooms on the second floor. Indicative of Adam’s thoughtfulness in designing the structure, each of the stairways incorporated a skylight in its ceiling through which the lantern could be observed, thereby allowing both keeper and his assistant to verify the correct operation of the light from within the warmth of their apartment without having to leave the building or climb to the top of the tower itself to see the light. The brick tower was capped by a square gallery with iron safety railing, and a prefabricated octagonal cast iron lantern erected at its center.
Read on for more at Seeing the Light and also check out this shot of the construction crew posing in front of the lighthouse in 1896. Forty Mile Point Light is now a museum, click here to visit their website for more including directions.
Many more Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures.