Family Stories

Three Great Lakes, Three Lighthouses, One Day

Fall is a beautiful season wherever you live, but in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan it is magnificent!  Brilliant colors of leaves with wild splotches of exotic coloration is everywhere.  And it is the best time of the year for a drive and visiting lighthouses.  That is just what Ritchey and I did Saturday.  Michigan has 125 lighthouses – not sure if that is a record, but what an opportunity to find nature at its best.  The Upper Peninsula is also surrounded by three Great Lakes – Lake Superior to the north, Lake Michigan is southwest, and Lake Huron is east and southeast.  Our goal Saturday was to visit at least one lighthouse on each of the Great Lakes that surround our new home.

We started out with food, drinks, cameras and warm clothes, heading west on Hwy 28.  In the six months here, we are becoming very familiar with the highways, roads, off roads and simply dirt/mud roads (depending on the amount of rain).  Our first stop was to be Grand Marais, 74 miles from Rudyard.  An hour and a half drive was delightful with the reds, yellows, rust and orange colored leaves on both sides of the road.  It was a somewhat cloudy day, but when a bit of sun popped through the clouds it produced the most dazzling colors.

The small town of Grand Marais is about three or four blocks long, a tiny area packed with vacation homes, a few restaurants and gift shops.

Lake Superior

When we pulled up to the lookout ramp at Lake Superior the wind was furiously whipping around – and freezing cold.  Would we let that stop us?  Of course not!  The waves were like a mad ocean, whirling and throwing foam everywhere.

There were two small lighthouses for Grand Marais – an inner one, on shore, that has an octagonal lantern, shining its beam at the edge from the inlet into Lake Superior.

The outer one, consisting of a room perched on a steel skeleton, is on the long stone pier.  This protects the harbor entrance, Grand Marais Harbor of Refuge.  These lighthouses were built in 1895 and 1898.

It was time to warm up afterwards.  We stopped at The Grand Marais Tavern for a whitefish basket and coffee.  Whitefish have been the staple for the earliest inhabitants of this region.  The Ojibwe fished these waters from the time they came to Canada and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  A few weeks ago, I finished Harps Upon the Willows by Marjorie Cahn Brazer.  It is the story of John Johnston who came to this area from Ireland about 1790.  He married Oshaw-guscody-way-quay, Woman of the Green Glade, whom he named Susan.  Oshaw-guscody-way-quay was the daughter of Waub-o-jeeg, chief of the Ojibwe.  This book talks of the life of the Johnston family, but also the history of the tribes, fur traders and adventurers of the area.  And describes the yearly taking of whitefish from the many waters that surround Sault Sainte Marie.

Fortified we headed south for Lake Michigan and Seul Choix Lighthouse.  Pronounced Sis-shwa, this lighthouse is located on the south shore of the Upper Peninsula.  Its name means “only choice,” and became active in 1895.  Beautiful sunlight continued throughout the rest of the day.

The tower is 78 feet, 9 inches tall and the light is visible for thirteen miles.

Lake Michigan

All lighthouses are closed due to Covid-19, but it was a pleasure to view this beautiful monument with attached keeper’s house.

A view going back the hard-packed dirt road to Seul Choix Lighthouse.

As we drove east along Lake Michigan there were several overlooks.  This photo shows a good view of the lake with the colorful foliage of the area.

Arriving at St. Ignace, we drove to Wawatam Lighthouse on Lake Huron.

A boarded walkway takes you directly to the lighthouse where you can see Mackinac Island in the distance.  This is a new lighthouse to the area.  It was originally built at Monroe, Michigan, in 1998, at the welcome center, and was moved to St. Ignace in 2006, when its light was lit for the first time on August 20, 2006.  It and can be seen 13 miles out over the lake.  It is even lit in winter to guide snowmobiles across the frozen lake.

Lake Huron

Now five in the afternoon it was time to start home.  But not before enjoying a piece of blueberry pie from the local restaurant.

Life in the Upper Peninsula is different and exciting, giving us many new places to explore.  Come visit!

8 replies »

  1. Beautiful! I lived in the UP for 4 years near Sault Ste Marie in the mid 70’s. Lots of snow!!

  2. Thank you for that beautiful tour. Autumn is my favorite season and when I lived in Maine I came to appreciate lighthouses and had a chance to see a handful of them in the Penobscot Bay region. I’m glad you are enjoying your new home and I’m sure it is all the more wonderful being close to family. Thanks again as my day was brightened vicariously as I enjoyed your tour!

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