Lake Michigan is the fifth largest lake in the world, 307 miles long and 118 miles wide, and is known as the third coast. The big blue water can quickly change its course from calm, peaceful to highs waves in storms that wreck ships. A Sunday post From a Distance on Jakesprinter encouraged me to travel to Lake Michigan’s shores and into history of a guiding light seen from a distance. I love being by the water and the skies were clear, so off I went.
The annual Mackinac Island Race is held on the lake, starting at Chicago’s Navy Pier and ending at Mackinac Island in northern Michigan. A traditional sail race combining speed with endurance as sailors compete for the fastest times. Lake Michigan turned deadly during the 2011 Mackinac Island Sailing Race as storm hit at midnight whipping up high waves with winds of 54 knots. A boat, the WingNuts, capsized and two members of the sailing crew were killed. Shipwrecks have occurred on the lake, and other great lakes, since they were first sailed on by Native Americans and explorers.
Locals along the third coast know the big blue is fickle changing from flat water to dangerous with rip tides and rogue waves. Sailors of commercial vessels and pleasure boats have relied for centuries on the guiding lights of lighthouses along the lake’s shores. In 1873, Grosse Point Lighthouse, in Evanston, Illinois, began shining a guiding light from a high vantage point above a sand dunes and shore into the distance over the waters of Lake Michigan. The lighthouse tower is 113 feet tall, built of brick, glass and metal with concrete added later on for stabilization. A powerful second order Fresnel lens shined a bright light a distance of 21 miles over the lake. Three lighthouse keepers worked at the tower and station while it was in service. In 1934, the lighthouse was decommissioned. It was designated a national landmark and operates today as a museum.
Lake Michigan Lighthouses, Maritime Museums and Shipwrecks
Travel Lake Michigan’s coast from northern Wisconsin to upper Michigan touring the lighthouses along the shores.
Lighthouse, Maritime and Museums
Local lighthouse and maritime museums are located in the four states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin) encircling the lake. A few to consider visiting are:
Michigan City Old Lighthouse Museum in Michigan City, Indiana
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Paradise, Michigan
Grosse Point Lighthouse in Evanston, Illinois
Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven, Michigan
Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, Wisconsin
Southport Light Station Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin
Association for Great Lakes Maritime History additional information including parks and shipwreck locations
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