Thunder Bay Island Light

Last updated
Thunder Bay Island
Thunder Bay Island Light' undated USCG
Thunder Bay Island Light
Location Alpena County, Michigan
Coordinates 45°02′30″N83°12′00″W / 45.04167°N 83.20000°W / 45.04167; -83.20000 Coordinates: 45°02′30″N83°12′00″W / 45.04167°N 83.20000°W / 45.04167; -83.20000
Constructed1857 (station established 1831)
FoundationDressed stone and timber
Tower height50 feet (15 m)
Tower shape Frustum of a cone with attached keeper's residence
MarkingsWhite with red lantern
HeritageNational Register of Historic Places listed place  OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
First lit1857
Focal height63 feet (19 m)
LensFourth-order Fresnel lens [1]
Characteristic FI G 10s
ARLHS no.USA-847
USCG no.7-11495
Thunder Bay Island Light Station
Nearest city Alpena, Michigan
Area2 acres (0.81 ha)
MPS U.S. Coast Guard Lighthouses and Light Stations on the Great Lakes TR
NRHP reference No. 84001371 [2]
Added to NRHPJuly 19, 1984

Thunder Bay Island Light, located on Thunder Bay Island's southeast tip, is one of the oldest operating lighthouses in Michigan. The third operating U.S. lighthouse in Lake Huron was built here in 1831, but it disintegrated almost at once and was rebuilt in 1832 of local limestone. [1] This 40-foot (12 m) 1830s light tower was raised 10 feet (3.0 m)) to a height of 50 feet (15 m) in 1857, and sheathed with brick. A fourth order Fresnel lens was installed. [1] This 1857 light tower is the current Thunder Bay Island Light, although the tower has been further altered and is currently 63 feet (19 m) high. [3]


A fog bell was installed in 1858, [1] and the lightkeeper's house was rebuilt in 1868. [1] A steam-powered fog horn was added in 1871, and a fog signal building sheltering the fog signal apparatus was constructed in 1892. [1]

The lighthouse was manned during the seasons of Great Lakes navigation from 1832 until automation in 1983, more than 150 years.

Current status

The Thunder Bay Island Light was automated in 1983. The lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 19, 1984; however, the lighthouse and adjoining infrastructure resources have deteriorated since automation. In 1997 the United States Coast Guard leased Thunder Bay Island Light to the Thunder Bay Island Preservation Society (TBILPS). [1]

Under TBILPS's guidance, the light has been the object of an intense rescue effort. They have been the subject of a feature article in Lighthouse Digest. [4]

In 2004, Stephen B. Tongue and TBILPS published a book on Thunder Bay Island's history and heritage, with proceeds assigned to the historic preservation of the island. [5]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Lighthouses and Life-Saving Stations". Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary . Retrieved 2009-10-31.
  2. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  3. Light List, Volume VII, Great Lakes (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard.
  4. D'Entremont, Jeremy Rescuing of the Thunder Bay Beacon. Lighthouse Digest.
  5. Tongue, Steve Lanterns and Lifeboats ($14.95 plus $2.00 shipping & handling to: TBILPS, P.O. Box 212, Alpena MI 49707, Attn: Book Committee.

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