Great Lakes Waves offer beauty, power & danger


Untitled, photo by Scott Glenn

“These are not lakes, these are the world’s eighth seas, and her bottom is littered with the wreckage of over six thousand ships.”
~The Three Sisters, Song of the Lakes

This gorgeous shot of the St. Joseph Pier Lighthouses demonstrates the incredible power of Great Lakes waves. I live in Traverse City, and this summer it feels like Lake Michigan has claimed the lives of more people than normal. Whether or not that’s true (it’s not), I thought this photo offered the perfect opportunity to share some tips and tools for staying safe on Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior and Lake Erie!

  • Thinking of any of the Great Lakes as anything like any lake you’re familiar with is a mistake. They are freshwater seas that can pack  incredible power. They are stronger than you and can end your life in an instant if you don’t respect them.
  • The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is a nonprofit dedicated to drowning prevention that keeps track of drowning statistics: 74 in 2010, 87 in 2011, 101 in 2012 and 39 so far in 2013. (you can also keep up with them on Facebook)
  • Life jackets can save your life.  U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that 90% of the people who drown in a boating or water accidents would survive with a life jacket.
  • Cold kills! Hypothermia is a danger all year round on the Great Lakes. Click that link for tips on how to stay alive if you do end up in the water.
  • Rip Currents (sometimes called “undertow” or “rip tide”) are a big danger on Michigan beaches accounting for the majority of drownings. Michigan is 4th in rip current related fatalities behind Florida, California, and North Carolina – we have “ocean force” rip currents. Learn how to beat them in this video.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offers comprehensive Great Lakes marine forecasts.
  • The MyBeachCast smarthphone app can predict waves and warn you of hazardous conditions.
  • Do you have more tips? Share them in the comments!

Check it out bigger and see more in Scott’s Lighthouses slideshow and also check out a winter view of the pier that Scott shot.

Catch a Michigan wave on Michigan in Pictures!

Ice Kingdom


DSC08043RP, photo by Scott Glenn

Incredible what wind, water and way too cold can do! More about the St. Joseph lighthouse on Michigan in Pictures.

Check this out on black and see more icy goodness in Scott’s lighthouse slideshow.

St. Joseph Lighthouse

St. Joseph Lighthouses

St. Joseph Lighthouses, photo by KentV999.

The page on the St. Joseph Pier Lights from Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light says that while the first lighthouse in St. Joseph is thought to be in the home of Captain Pickering in 1832, where the family put lanterns in their windows so ships would know where the entrance to the St. Joseph River was located:

St. Joseph’s first Federal lighthouse was constructed in 1859 on the hill above the harbor, and served the area until 1906 when the north pier was extended 1,000 feet, and the cast iron pier head light installed.

…The inner pier light was built in 1907, to serve as a rear range for the existing pierhead tower, allowing vessels to line up accurately on the channel from far out in the Lake. Over a a steel frame, the structure was encased in 3/8 inch steel plates. Twenty-six feet square, the building was capped by an octagonal cast iron lantern room, and equipped with a Fourth Order lens manufactured by Chance Brothers of Birmingham, England. At some point thereafter, this lens was removed from the tower, to be replaced by a Fourth Order Fresnel lens manufactured by Sautter & Cie, of Paris, the lens that remains in the tower to this day.

Check it out on black and in Kent’s St. Joseph MI slideshow.

To beat the heat, check out the St. Joseph Lighthouse slideshow from the Absolute Michigan group on Flickr which features a lot of wintertime shots!

Cool Blue: Michigan Lighthouse Ice

Cool Blue
Cool Blue, photo by Brian.H

Wind, waves and winter work create some amazing ice formations on Michigan lighthouses. To see some of them. click over to the Lighthouse Ice show from the Absolute Michigan pool!

See this photo of the St. Joseph light bigger or in Brian’s Lighthouse set (slideshow).

Blossomtime in Michigan

Untitled, photo by Christina**.

We’re headed into the season where trees explode with color in Michigan. It’s celebrated in events like next weekend’s Blossomtime Festival. It happens the first Saturday in May every year in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph and is Michigan’s oldest multi-community festival.

You can view this photo larger (and more blossoms) in Christina’s Natural set and also in her slideshow.

For even more blossoms, check out the blossom slideshow from the Absolute Michigan pool!

Higgins boats discharge their cargo … on the beaches of Saint Joseph

The Higgins boats discharge their cargo. (IMG_1314)

The Higgins boats discharge their cargo. (IMG_1314), photo by bill.d.

From the Things I Wish I Had Known About in Advance files comes this fantastic set of photos of last weekend’s D-Day re-enactment in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph (slideshow). Bill uploaded them all nice and big so be sure to cruise through that slideshow link. Or even better, download PicLens, click the set link and enjoy. (trust me on the PicLens thing – coolest web software I’ve seen in quite some time).

The 2008 Saint Joseph and Benton Harbor WWII Reenactment Weekend took place last weekend and was sponsored by the veterans’ organization Lest We Forget of SW Michigan. It was designed to teach folks about WWII history, veterans, and the equipment utilized and featured reenactments of the battles at Normandy (D-Day) and Peleliu (Palaus archipelago in the Phillipines).

Because I can, here’s a link to an amazing reenactment of the landing at Omaha Beach.

River of Mystery – exploring the St. Joseph River

St. Joseph River Valley

St. Joseph River Valley, photo by mojophiltre.

Mojophiltre took this photo of the St. Joseph River, just above the Buchanan Hydro-Electric Dam. He has a view of the water going over the Buchanan Dam that you’ll want to check out too.

As usual, Wikipedia has an entry on the St. Joseph River – I like to include these so that people who are passionate and knowledgeable can add to the phenomenal resource that Wikipedia offers. The St. Joseph River Watershed site (which has some cool maps of the watershed but some rather annoying Java) says:

The St. Joseph River Watershed is located in the southwest portion of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and northwestern portion of Indiana. It spans the Michigan-Indiana border and empties into Lake Michigan at St. Joseph, Michigan. The watershed drains 4,685 square miles from 15 counties (Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Hillsdale, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren in Michigan and De Kalb, Elkhart, Kosciusko, Lagrange, Noble, St. Joseph and Steuben in Indiana). The watershed includes 3,742 river miles…

The Friends of the St. Joseph River has a nifty historical photo of the Buchanan Dam and a great article about the history of the names of the St. Joseph River by Bob Owens & Scott Null. The river was important to native peoples – all the way from the enigmatic Hopewell Mound Builders who made their home all along the Saint Joseph River valley to the Fox & Sauk who moved in as mercenaries for the English. This very interesting page lists various names for the river and I think it’s fascinating how one river can provide such a wealth of insight into Michigan’s history:

  • The Miami called it Sauk-Wauk-Sil-Buck (which The Google thinks means “River of Mystery”).
  • The Iroquois, who apparently conducted a nasty genocidal campaign on the Algonquian in the region, called the river The Illinois – maybe because the first Algonquian tribe they met were the Illinois.
  • In spring of 1672, Explorer Rene-Robert Cavalier De La Salle (searching for the best route between Quebec and the mouth of the Mississippi) ran into the Miami (who by this time were in the pay of the Iroquois against their Algonquin brethren), so naturally he christened it The River of the Miamis.
  • Jesuit Missionary Claude Allouez (who earlier had named Lake Michigan “Lake Saint Joseph” after first sighting it on Catholic Feast Day of Saint Joseph) founded a mission at the rail junction at Bertrand. It’s noteworthy that when LaSalle returned later, he still called it the River of the Miami.
  • North and east, the French built Fort St. Joseph near Niles in 1691. At that time the Potowatomi (who called the river Sohg-Wah-Se-Pe – also Mystery River) were friendly with the French.
  • Around 1700, the Fox & Sauk tribes, who were allied with the English and named the river O-Sang-E-Wong-Se-Pe (Mystery River again), began to tangle with the Potowatomi and French.

The authors advocate for naming the river the Sagwa. I don’t know about that, but I do know that time seems to mysteriously disappear when I run into cool Michigan history like this!

More from the Michigan Fall Wallpaper series