Waugoshance Light

Last updated
Waugoshance Light
Waugoshance Light 2015.jpg
Waugoshance in 2015
USA Michigan location map.svg
Lighthouse icon centered.svg
Location Lake Michigan
Coordinates 45°47′10″N85°5′28″W / 45.78611°N 85.09111°W / 45.78611; -85.09111 Coordinates: 45°47′10″N85°5′28″W / 45.78611°N 85.09111°W / 45.78611; -85.09111
Year first constructed1850
Year first lit1851
Deactivated1912 [1]
FoundationTimber crib filled with stone/concrete
ConstructionBrick encased with steel or iron boilerplate [2] [3]
Tower shape Frustum of a cone (encased in iron in 1883)
Markings / patternNatural
Tower height63 feet (19 m) [4] [5]
Focal height74 feet (23 m) [6]
Original lensFourth order Fresnel lens [7]
Current lensRemoved
Characteristic Original: Fog bell, Steam Whistle
ARLHS numberUSA-784 [8]
Heritageplace listed on the National Register of Historic Places  Blue pencil.svg
Waugoshance Light Station
Nearest city Waugoshance Island, Michigan
Area0.1 acres (0.040 ha)
MPS U.S. Coast Guard Lighthouses and Light Stations on the Great Lakes TR
NRHP reference # 83000841 [9]
Added to NRHPAugust 04, 1983

The lighthouse at Waugoshance protects boats from a shoal area at the northern end of Lake Michigan. The lighthouse is located in Emmet County, Michigan, United States, and in U.S. Coast Guard District No. 9. [10]

Shoal A natural landform that rises from the bed of a body of water to near the surface and is covered by unconsolidated material

In oceanography, geomorphology, and earth sciences, a shoal is a natural submerged ridge, bank, or bar that consists of, or is covered by, sand or other unconsolidated material, and rises from the bed of a body of water to near the surface. Often it refers to those submerged ridges, banks, or bars that rise near enough to the surface of a body of water as to constitute a danger to navigation. Shoals are also known as sandbanks, sandbars, or gravelbars. Two or more shoals that are either separated by shared troughs or interconnected by past or present sedimentary and hydrographic processes are referred to as a shoal complex.

Lake Michigan One of the Great Lakes of North America

Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of North America and the only one located entirely within the United States. The other four Great Lakes are shared by the U.S. and Canada. It is the second-largest of the Great Lakes by volume and the third-largest by surface area, after Lake Superior and Lake Huron. To the east, its basin is conjoined with that of Lake Huron through the wide Straits of Mackinac, giving it the same surface elevation as its easterly counterpart; the two are technically a single lake.

Emmet County, Michigan County in the United States

Emmet County is a county located in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the population was 32,694. The county seat is Petoskey.


Reason for lighthouse

Boats from Chicago heading North (and ultimately) East need to navigate the narrow tip of northern Lake Michigan, and there are many dangers. The area around Waugoshance Point is not only shallow, it's a large (in area) projection from the bottom of the lake. Boats large enough to safely travel in times of storm cannot approach the light closer than a few hundred yards.[ citation needed ]

Waugoshance Point

Waugoshance Point is a 2.5-mile-long (4.0 km) cape or peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan from the northwest coast of the Lower Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan in Emmet County. It separates the Straits of Mackinac to its north from Sturgeon Bay to the south and is part of Wilderness State Park. The nearest town is Mackinaw City. Waugoshance is a hybrid word, that combines the Anishinaabemowin word wah'goosh (English:fox) and the French word anse (English:cove).

Adding to the complication of navigation in this area is the White Shoal, located just north of Waugoshance. This area is currently protected by White Shoal Light—built in 1912, nearby, powerful and larger—and Grays Reef Light which rendered this lighthouse obsolete. [11] [12]

White Shoal Light (Michigan) lighthouse in Michigan, United States

The White Shoal Light is a lighthouse located 20 miles (32 km) west of the Mackinac Bridge in Lake Michigan. It is an active aid to navigation.

During the last half of the nineteenth century, this light marked the turning point for ships traveling through the Straits of Mackinac and along Lake Michigan's eastern shore between the mainland and the Beavers. With a water less than 12 feet (3.7 m) deep, it was "one of the most dangerous parts of the Straits." Thereafter, a "Gray's Reef passage" became more typical because modern freighters require considerably more depth, so Waugoshance is bypassed about 2 miles (3.2 km) to the west. [13]

Straits of Mackinac strait connecting Lakes Huron and Michigan in Michigan, USA

The Straits of Mackinac are narrow waterways in the U.S. state of Michigan between Michigan's Lower and Upper Peninsulas. The main strait flows under the Mackinac Bridge and connects two of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The main strait is 3.5 miles (5.6 km) wide and has a maximum depth of 295 feet (90 m). Hydrologically, the two connected lakes can be considered one lake, which is called Lake Michigan–Huron. Historically, the native Odawa people called the region around the Straits Michilimackinac. The Straits of Mackinac is "whipsawed by currents unlike anywhere else in the Great Lakes".

Cargo ship ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials onboard from one port to another

A cargo ship or freighter ship is a merchant ship that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year, handling the bulk of international trade. Cargo ships are usually specially designed for the task, often being equipped with cranes and other mechanisms to load and unload, and come in all sizes. Today, they are almost always built by welded steel, and with some exceptions generally have a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years before being scrapped.


In 1832 the first lightvessel on the Great Lakes was placed here. [14] That wooden lightship was the Lois McLain. In 1851 she was replaced by the Waugoshance Light, which stands in the area of the Wilderness State Park, and which remains one of the most hazardous areas near the Straits of Mackinac, Michigan. [11] The last light vessel on the Great Lakes was the Lightship Huron.

Lightvessel ship that acts as a lighthouse in waters that are too deep or otherwise unsuitable for lighthouse construction

A lightvessel, or lightship, is a ship that acts as a lighthouse. They are used in waters that are too deep or otherwise unsuitable for lighthouse construction. Although some records exist of fire beacons being placed on ships in Roman times, the first modern lightvessel was off the Nore sandbank at the mouth of the River Thames in England, placed there by its inventor Robert Hamblin in 1734. The type has become largely obsolete; lighthouses replaced some stations as the construction techniques for lighthouses advanced, while large, automated buoys replaced others.

Great Lakes System of interconnected, large 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. Hydrologically, there are only four lakes, because Lakes Michigan and Huron join at the Straits of Mackinac. The lakes form the Great Lakes Waterway.

Wilderness State Park

Wilderness State Park is a public recreation area bordering Lake Michigan, five miles southwest of Mackinaw City in Emmet County in Northern Michigan. The state park's 10,512 acres (4,254 ha) include 26 miles (42 km) of shoreline, diverse forested dune and swale complexes, wetlands, camping areas, and many miles of hiking trails. The state park is operated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which has, as of 2006, approved a proposal that 4,492 acres (1,818 ha) be officially dedicated as a wilderness area. Wilderness State Park was designated a Michigan "dark sky preserve" in 2012.

The lighthouse at Waugoshance was arguably the first light built in the Great Lakes that was totally surrounded by water. Both its construction and its continued maintenance were rendered extremely hazardous by the severe weather conditions of the area. Waugoshance is at the northern end of the long fetch of "south-wester" waves on Lake Michigan; the wave action is amplified as they build upon the shoal. [11]

The imposing crib structure was a first on the Great Lakes. The pier was reconstructed in 1870—a massive undertaking that was hampered by the ironic fact that the viable 'building season' is far shorter than even the normal operating season for the light—and used a "bird cage" lantern, which makes it one of only three built on the Great Lakes. The lantern originally held the first fourth order Fresnel lens on the Great Lakes. [11]

Although the light is now gray in color, it was originally painted in four broad horizontal Red and white stripes as a Daymark. Its walls were encased in steel, and are 5½ feet thick at the bottom. [15] The Waugoshance Light operated from 1851 until its deactivation in 1912, when it remained the property of the U.S. federal government. The encasement was similar to Big Sable Point Light, which was made from Cream City Brick, and also had to be encased in steel boilerplate to retard the deterioration.

Of particular note were the efforts of Lighthouse keepers who rang bells for many days, trying to ward mariners and their vessels off the shoal as they groped through the smoke from the many fires — 1871 Great Chicago Fire, Peshtigo Fire, Northern Michigan including large tracts around Manistee, Michigan, Western Michigan around Holland and the fire in the Thumb near Port Huron [16] —that took place beginning October 8, 1871, casting an impenetrable pall across Lake Michigan for the better part of a week. However, many vessels were lost. [17]

During World War II, the abandoned light was used by the U.S. Navy for bombing practice. [18] The Lighthouse keeper's house and all of the wood framing in the lighthouse burnt. The metal shell has fallen away. [11] Today, the lighthouse "is considered one of the most endangered lighthouses in the world." [18] It has been said that, ". . . . it is amazing that anything remains." [19]

Current status

The light is listed on the National Register, Reference #83000841, Name of Listing: WAUGOSHANCE LIGHT STATION (U.S. COAST GUARD/GREAT LAKES TR) It is not on the state list inventory. [12]

It is said to be both a "nautical gravestone" (because of the many wrecks in the vicinity) and on the "most endangered list" of lighthouses, [20] being on the Lighthouse Digest "Doomsday List." It is one of six in Michigan; the remaining five are: Charity Island Light, Fourteen Mile Point Light, Gull Rock Light, Manitou Island Light and Poverty Island Light. [21]

The Waugoshance Lighthouse Preservation Society was formed in 2000. It has undertaken preservation and restoration. [22] The Society's "first priority is raising funds to stabilize the building." [23] It is soliciting funds to rebuild the light, and is seeking an extended lease from the U.S. Coast Guard, so that restoration can continue. [18] In 2009, under the terms of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act the lighthouse was put up for public sale. [24] Another source reports, however, that "In 2009, [it was] deemed excess by the U.S. Coast Guard," so it was "offered at no cost to eligible entities, including federal, state, and local agencies, non-profit corporations, and educational organizations under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000." [25]

Getting there

The lighthouse is closed to the public.

A private boat is recommended to see this light close up. These are, however, dangerous and open water over wide expanses far from shore and interlaced by shoals, so caution is advised. [23]

Short of that, Shepler's Ferry Service out of Mackinaw City offers periodic lighthouse cruises in the summer season. Its "westbound Lighthouse Tour"—three hours more or less—includes passes by various lights, including Waugoshance Light, White Shoal Light, Wilderness State Park, Gray's Reef Light (originally built in 1891), and St. Helena Island Light. Schedules and rates are available from Shepler's. [26]

Another alternative is to charter a seaplane to make a tour of the Mackinac Straits and environs. [27]

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  1. Lighthouse Central, Photographs, History, Directions and Way points for Waugoshance Light, The Ultimate Guide to West Michigan Lighthouses by Jerry Roach (Publisher: Bugs Publishing LLC - 2005). ISBN   0-9747977-0-7. Archived August 27, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  2. However, other sources say it is "iron"boiler plate. See Michigan Lighthouse Project, Waugoshance Light.
  3. "Detroit News, Interactive map on Michigan lighthouses".
  4. Pepper, Terry. "Database of Tower Heights". Seeing the Light. terrypepper.com.
  5. "Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, Waugoshance Light".
  6. Pepper, Terry. "Database of Focal Heights". Seeing the Light. terrypepper.com.
  7. Pepper, Terry. "Database of Original Lenses". Seeing the Light. terrypepper.com.
  8. "Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, USA-784, Waugoshance Light (Lake Michigan)".
  9. National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service.
  10. "Michigan Lighthouse conservancy, Waugoshance Light".
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 "Terry Pepper, Seeing The Light, Waugoshance Lighthouse".
  12. 1 2 National Park Service Maritime History, Inventory of Historic Light Stations, Waugoshance Shoal Light.
  13. Edwards, Jack, "A Nautical Gravestone", Great Lakes Cruiser Magazine (October, 1994) reprinted in Lighthouse Digest. Archived June 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  14. "Wagner, John L., Chronology of Michigan lightship and lighthouses Beacons Shining in the Night, Clarke Historical Library, Central, Michigan University".
  15. "Waugoshance Lighthouse Preservation Society, "Our Lighthouse"".
  16. "Manistee Michigan history page".
  17. Edwards, Jack, "A Nautical Gravestone", Great Lakes Cruiser Magazine (October, 1994) reprinted in Lighthouse Digest. Archived June 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  18. 1 2 3 "Waugoshance Lighthouse Preservation Society".
  19. "Wobser, David, Waugoshance Light, boatnerd.com".
  20. "Edwards, Jack, A Nautical Gravestone, Great Lakes Cruiser Magazine (October, 1994) Lighthouse Digest". Archived from the original on June 14, 2011.
  21. Rowlett, Russ. "The Doomsday List". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  22. "Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Waugoshance Shoal Light".
  23. 1 2 Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of the United States: Michigan's Western Lower Peninsula". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  24. "NHLPA 2009 Program, Notices of Availability". www.nps.gov. Retrieved June 6, 2009.
  25. "Lighthouses in the Mackinac Straits, Lighthouse Friends, including a winter aerial photograph".
  26. "Shepler's Ferry Service".
  27. Stoke, Keith, A seaplane tour of the Straits.

Further reading