By Cliff Locke
The many things Michigan is known for include the automobile, loyal University of Michigan fans, snowy winters, and Yoopers. But did you know that Michigan is second only to California in how many lighthouses it has? Of the 119 lighthouses in Michigan, most are still in working condition. There are also nearly 200 waterfalls in Michigan’s upper peninsula.
I started my lighthouse tour at South Manitou and the boat ride there was awesome. The small village of Spring Harbor has very few residents and it’s the only boat ride to the island. When we reached it we could see a shipwreck off the shore, reminding us that the Lake Michigan waters are beautiful but very treacherous. As we walked to the lighthouse, just a short stroll from the dock, it became a tower standing out against the bright blue sky. I knew this would be a great climb and would have magnificent views from the top.
The climb is long but easy and when we walked out onto the catwalk the views didn’t disappoint!! All I can say is wow!! You can see for miles and the deep blue color of Lake Michigan makes you wonder what lies beneath. I boarded the boat back to the mainland; I had other lighthouses to see on my way to Michigan’s upper peninsula.
Traverse City is a tourist town that has exploded with many new city businesses. If you want to get supplies before getting to the U.P., this would be the place to do it. While I was here, I definitely wanted to see The Mission Point Lighthouse. As I traveled up the coast of Little Traverse Bay, I drove through some beautiful scenery and to my surprise, many wineries. I was told that the Lake Michigan waters keep the ground at the perfect temperature for the vineyards. You learn something new every day!
Old Mission Point sits on the 45 parallel; halfway between the equator and the North Pole. It is a small lighthouse, its shape akin to an old schoolhouse. The sandy beaches had many people out playing volleyball and flying kites. If I had more time I would have joined them, but I had to get back on my mission to get to the U.P.
Before I crossed the five-mile-long Mackinaw Bridge, I stopped at Mackinaw Lighthouse. With views of the Mighty Mac in the background, you can see just how grand the bridge is. I had to see it up close. I had heard that there were lighthouse cruises with Shepler’s Ferry Service, so that was my next stop! Asking myself if I’d ever make it over the bridge and to the U.P., I boarded another boat and headed out to see lighthouses on St. Helena Island and White Shoals Light. As the tour went underneath the bridge, you could see just how mighty this lighthouse actually is. The expanse was longer than I had imagined and the height was a lot taller than I thought. You could see how it got its nickname The Mighty Mac! The tour was headed to White Shoals; I wondered, how did they get this lighthouse here? It sat on a concrete slab in the middle of the lake.
It was just a tower painted red and white. All my questions would soon be answered by the very knowledgeable tour guide. I decided that I would spend the night in Mackinaw City and start fresh the next morning for the Upper Peninsula part of my lighthouse and waterfall tour.
[Click here to read Part 2]