Thumb Area Bottomland Preserve

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Thumb Area Underwater Preserve
Relief map of USA Michigan.png
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Location within the state of Michigan
Location Lake Huron, Huron County, Michigan USA
Nearest city Port Austin, Michigan
Coordinates 44°01′24″N82°46′16″W / 44.0232°N 82.771°W / 44.0232; -82.771 Coordinates: 44°01′24″N82°46′16″W / 44.0232°N 82.771°W / 44.0232; -82.771
Area 276 square miles (710 km2)
Governing body Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The Thumb Area Underwater Preserve is a preservation area in Lake Huron in the U.S. state of Michigan. It is 276 square miles (710 km2) in size and is located off Michigan's Thumb north of Detroit. [1]

Lake Huron one of the Great Lakes of North America

Lake Huron is one of the five Great Lakes of North America. Hydrologically, it comprises the easterly portion of Lake Michigan–Huron, having the same surface elevation as its westerly counterpart, to which it is connected by the 5-mile-wide (8.0 km), 20-fathom-deep Straits of Mackinac. It is shared on the north and east by the Canadian province of Ontario and on the south and west by the state of Michigan in the United States. The name of the lake is derived from early French explorers who named it for the Huron people inhabiting the region. The Huronian glaciation was named due to evidence collected from Lake Huron region. The northern parts of the lake include the North Channel and Georgian Bay. Across the lake to the southwest is Saginaw Bay. The main inlet is the St. Marys River, and the main outlet is the St. Clair River.

Michigan State of the United States of America

Michigan is a state in the Great Lakes and Midwestern regions of the United States. The state's name, Michigan, originates from the Ojibwe word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake". With a population of about 10 million, Michigan is the tenth most populous of the 50 United States, with the 11th most extensive total area, and is the largest state by total area east of the Mississippi River. Its capital is Lansing, and its largest city is Detroit. Metro Detroit is among the nation's most populous and largest metropolitan economies.

The Thumb

The Thumb is a region and a peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan, so named because the Lower Peninsula is shaped like a mitten. The Thumb area is generally considered to be in the Central Michigan region, located east of the Tri-Cities, and north of Metro Detroit. The region is also branded as the Blue Water Area of Michigan.



The Thumb Area Underwater Preserve protects bottomlands off Pointe aux Barques and the beach port towns of Harbor Beach, Huron City, and Port Austin. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has counted 10 known shipwrecks within the boundaries protected by the preserve. [1]

Pointe aux Barques Light lighthouse in Michigan, United States

The Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse ranks among the ten oldest lighthouses in Michigan. It is an active lighthouse maintained by the US Coast Guard remotely, located in Lighthouse County Park on Lake Huron near Port Hope, Michigan in Huron County. "Pointe aux Barques" means 'Point of Little Boats', a descriptor of the shallow shoals and reefs that lurk beneath these waves, presenting a hazard to boats as they round Michigan's Thumb.

Harbor Beach, Michigan City in Michigan, United States

Harbor Beach is a city in Huron County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 1,703 at the 2010 census.

Port Austin, Michigan Village in Michigan, United States

Port Austin is a village in Huron County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 664 at the 2010 census. The village is within Port Austin Township.

As in most of the Great Lakes, most of the shipwrecks predate the consolidation of federal marine safety services into the United States Coast Guard in 1915.

Great Lakes lakes in North America

The Great Lakes, also called the Laurentian Great Lakes and the Great Lakes of North America, are a series of interconnected freshwater lakes primarily in the upper mid-east region of North America, on the Canada–United States border, which connect to the Atlantic Ocean through the Saint Lawrence River. They consist of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, although hydrologically, there are four lakes, Superior, Erie, Ontario, and Michigan-Huron. The connected lakes form the Great Lakes Waterway.

United States Coast Guard Coastal defense and law enforcement branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is the coastal defense and maritime law enforcement branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the country's seven uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the U.S. military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency mission as part of its mission set. It operates under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, and can be transferred to the U.S. Department of the Navy by the U.S. President at any time, or by the U.S. Congress during times of war. This has happened twice: in 1917, during World War I, and in 1941, during World War II.

The foundered SS Daniel J. Morrell, a lake freighter which split in two and sank in 1966 with a loss of 28 lives, also lies off the shore of Michigan's Thumb, but outside the boundaries of the Underwater Preserve.

SS <i>Daniel J. Morrell</i>

SS Daniel J. Morrell was a 603-foot (184 m) Great Lakes freighter that broke up in a strong storm on Lake Huron on 29 November 1966, taking with it 28 of her 29 crewmen. The freighter was used to carry bulk cargoes such as iron ore but was running with only ballast when the 60-year-old ship sank.

Lake freighter ship type

Lake freighters, or lakers, are bulk carrier vessels that ply the Great Lakes of North America. These vessels are traditionally called boats, although classified as ships.

The Underwater Preserve protects a network of limestone sea caves off Port Austin. Near Port Austin is the largely depopulated former town of Grindstone City, where grindstones were quarried. Some of the specialized stones were lost overboard near the quarries and can be seen underwater as of 2009. [1]

Sea cave A cave formed by the wave action of the sea and located along present or former coastlines

A sea cave, also known as a littoral cave, is a type of cave formed primarily by the wave action of the sea. The primary process involved is erosion. Sea caves are found throughout the world, actively forming along present coastlines and as relict sea caves on former coastlines. Some of the largest wave-cut caves in the world are found on the coast of Norway, but are now 100 feet or more above present sea level. These would still be classified as littoral caves. By contrast, in places like Thailand's Phang Nga Bay, solutionally formed caves in limestone have been flooded by the rising sea and are now subject to littoral erosion, representing a new phase of their enlargement.

Millstone stones used in gristmills, for grinding wheat

Millstones or mill stones are stones used in gristmills, for grinding wheat or other grains.

Related Research Articles

Huron County, Michigan County in the United States

Huron County is a county in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 33,118. The county seat is Bad Axe. Huron County is at the northern tip of the Thumb, which is a sub region of Mid Michigan. It is a peninsula, bordered by Saginaw Bay to the west and Lake Huron to the north and east, and has over 90 miles (140 km) of shoreline, from White Rock on Lake Huron to Sebewaing on the Saginaw Bay. Huron County's most important industry is agriculture, as with most of the other Thumb counties. Huron County enjoys seasonal tourism from large cities such as Detroit, Flint, and Saginaw.

M-25 (Michigan highway) highway in Michigan, United States

M-25 is a state trunkline highway in the US state of Michigan. The route follows an arc-like shape closely along the Lake Huron shore of the Thumb in the eastern Lower Peninsula between Port Huron and Bay City. It serves the lakeshore resorts along Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay and generally lies within sight of the lake and the bay. All is surface road and generally scenic, except for the freeway segment near the junction with I-75 and connection into the US 10 freeway.

Marquette Underwater Preserve

The Marquette Underwater Preserve was established in 1990 to promote conservation of the submerged historical resources in Lake Superior near Marquette, Michigan. The Preserve is composed of two separate units, the Marquette Unit and the Huron Islands Unit. The Marquette Unit extends along approximately 24 miles of Michigan shoreline out to the 200-foot depth contour. The Huron Islands Unit surrounds a group of granite peaks about 12 miles from shore. The Michigan Underwater Preserve Council oversees activities relating to all of Michigan's Underwater Preserves.

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary aquatic protected area in Michigan, USA

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve is a United States National Marine Sanctuary on Lake Huron's Thunder Bay, within the northeastern region of the U.S. state of Michigan. It protects an estimated 116 historically significant shipwrecks ranging from nineteenth-century wooden side-wheelers to twentieth-century steel-hulled steamers. There are a great many wrecks in the sanctuary, and their preservation and protection is a concern for national policymakers. The landward boundary of the sanctuary extends from the western boundary of Presque Isle County to the southern boundary of Alcona County. The sanctuary extends east from the lakeshore to the international border. Alpena is the largest city in the area.

Port Crescent State Park

Port Crescent State Park is a public recreation area on Lake Huron five miles (8.0 km) southwest of Port Austin in Huron County at the tip of The Thumb of Michigan. The state park covers 640 acres (260 ha) along state route M-25 in Hume Township. The park occupies the site of Port Crescent, a ghost town which once stood at the mouth of the Pinnebog River. The park was designated a Michigan "dark sky preserve" in 2012.

Michigan Underwater Preserves

Michigan Underwater Preserves or Michigan Bottomland Preserves are protected areas of the Great Lakes on Michigan's coast. The thirteen designated areas, comprising a surface area of over 7,000 square miles (18,000 km2), are considered to be "Underwater museums" and serve to protect concentrations of shipwrecks, unique geologic features and other submerged sites through awareness and public interest. The program is currently receiving no funding from the state and does not offer any extra legal protection for the sites in the preserves. However, it is a felony to remove or disturb underwater artifacts in the Great Lakes. Persons apprehended and convicted of removing or willfully damaging underwater artifacts risk confiscation of their equipment, stiff fines and up to two years imprisonment. The Michigan Underwater Preserve Council advocates on behalf of all of Michigan's Underwater Preserves.

Sanilac Shores Underwater Preserve

The Sanilac Shores Underwater Preserve was established to promote conservation of the submerged historical resources in Lake Huron near Port Sanilac, Michigan. The Sanilac Shores Underwater Preserve spans a total of 163 square miles (420 km2) of Lake Huron. The Michigan Underwater Preserve Council oversees activities relating to all of Michigan's Underwater Preserves.

US Highway 25 (US 25) was a part of the United States Numbered Highway System in the state of Michigan that ran from the Ohio state line near Toledo and ended at the tip of The Thumb in Port Austin. The general routing of this state trunkline highway took it northeasterly from the state line through Monroe and Detroit to Port Huron. Along this southern half, it followed undivided highways and ran concurrently along two freeways, Interstate 75 (I-75) and I-94. Near the foot of the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, US 25 turned north and northwesterly along the Lake Huron shoreline to Port Austin.

Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve Reserve to protect and conserve shipwrecks and historical resources in Lake Superior

The Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve was established in 1987 to protect and conserve shipwrecks and historical resources on 376 square miles (970 km2) of Lake Superior bottomlands in Whitefish Bay and around Whitefish Point, Michigan. The formation of the Michigan Underwater Preserves helped stop controversy over artifact removal from shipwrecks of this area. The preserve is now known for deep, well preserved shipwrecks in clear water accessible to scuba divers with technical skill and experience. The preserve is one of the last places in the Great Lakes to observe shipwrecks without zebra mussel encrustation.

SS <i>Vienna</i> (1873) Steamship sunk after a collision in Lake Superior

The SS Vienna was built in 1873 during the era when steamers were built with sail rigging. She had a 19 year career marked with maritime incidents including sinking when she was just 3 years old. She sank for her final time in fair weather in Whitefish Bay in Lake Superior after she received a mortal blow when she was inexplicably rammed by the steamer Nipigon. Although no lives were lost when the Vienna sank for the last time, more than 100 years later her wreck claimed the lives of 4 scuba divers, the most of all the wrecks in the Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve that now protects her as part of an underwater museum. Her wreck was stripped of artifacts that resulted in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources seizing her artifacts in a raid on the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in 1992. Her artifacts are now on display in this museum as loan from the State of Michigan.

<i>Sagamore</i> (barge)

The SS Sagamore is reported to be the best example of a whaleback barge among Great Lakes shipwrecks. Only 48 whalebacks ever existed on the Great Lakes. She sank in 1901 in the shipping lane near the Soo Locks when she was rammed by the steel steamer Northern Queen in one of Whitefish Bay's notorious fogs. Her captain and two crewmembers went down with her. Artifacts from her wreck were illegally removed in the 1980s. Her artifacts are now the property of the State of Michigan and are on display as a loan to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The wreck of the Sagamore is protected as part of an underwater museum in the Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve.

De Tour Passage Underwater Preserve

The DeTour Passage Underwater Preserve is a preservation area in the U.S. state of Michigan. Located in Lake Huron, it completely surrounds Drummond Island and includes all of DeTour Passage and adjacent sections of Lake Huron and the St. Mary's River.

Keweenaw Underwater Preserve

The Keweenaw Underwater Preserve is a preservation area in the U.S. state of Michigan. Located in Lake Superior, it protects waters that lie offshore Keweenaw Peninsula.

Southwest Michigan Underwater Preserve

The Southwest Michigan Underwater Preserve is a preservation area in the U.S. state of Michigan. Located in Lake Michigan, it protects a five-mile-wide strip of water offshore from Michigan's Allegan, Berrien, and Van Buren Counties. These waters include the waters offshore the port towns of Benton Harbor, Holland, St. Joseph, and South Haven, all in Michigan. Many wrecks litter these waters.

Grand Traverse Bay Bottomland Preserve

The Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve is a preservation area that encompasses all of Grand Traverse Bay, a bay of Lake Michigan, in the U.S. state of Michigan. It is 295 square miles (760 km2) in size and is located off Traverse City, Michigan.

<i>Miztec</i> (schooner barge)

The Miztec was built as a 3-masted schooner in 1890. She was later converted to a schooner barge and served as a consort for lumber hookers on the Great Lakes. She escaped destruction in a severe 1919 storm that sank her longtime companion, the SS Myron, only to sink on the traditional day of bad luck, Friday the 13th, 1921, with the loss of all hands. She came to rest on Lake Superior's bottom off Whitefish Point near the Myron.

Grindstone City Historic District

Grindstone City Historic District is an industrial historic district located on M-25 in Grindstone City, Michigan. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.


The Michigan Underwater Preserve Council or MUPC is a private, non-profit, volunteer driven organization that oversees activities relating to all of Michigan's Underwater Preserves. The council was formed in order to educate divers and non-divers on the history and importance of the shipwrecks of the great lakes so that the public might assist in the preservation of Michigan's bottomland heritage.