We recently got back from a week in the beautiful state of Michigan. We have now been to 44 states. 🙂 Anyway, while in the state we had a blast exploring the Detroit area as well as the Upper Peninsula. We had an amazing view of Lake Huron from our room in Mackinaw City, where we could also see part of the Mackinaw Bridge. Another perk was that we could walk out onto the beach just a few steps from our porch. While in the area Gene wanted to check out the Shipwreck Museum up in Whitefish Point. I was more than eager, as I wanted to see the Whitefish Point Lighthouse. It was about an hour and ½ from where we were so it wasn’t too bad and the drive was beautiful.
When we arrived we couldn’t help but notice the huge lighthouse and all the area buildings. Apparently, the Whitefish Point Lighthouse was first lit in 1849 and is one of the first lights on Lake Superior. Even with the light, Whitefish Point is known as the Graveyard of Ships. According to the signs around the area, more vessels have been lost in the Whitefish Point area than in any other part of Lake Superior. One thing I did not know before our trip was that every vessel entering or leaving Lake Superior must pass Whitefish Point. I found that quite interesting.
The most famous ship that went down near Whitefish Point of course was the Edmund Fitzgerald. We learned a little bit of what happened when it went down on November 10, 1975. Around 4:30 pm EST, while the Fitzgerald was about 50 miles to the south of Whitefish Point, the light and radio beacon at the remote navigational station suddenly clicked off. Without the light, the Fitzgerald was now without any homing capability and was left to fend for herself in unbelievable weather conditions.
Here’s a quote from Captain Mc Sorley “We are taking heavy seas over our decks; it’s the worst sea I’ve ever been in”. Sadly around 7:15 P.M., November 10, 1975, the 729-foot ore freighter Edmund Fitzgerald and her crew of 29 sailed into history. I think it’s great that each year on November 10th, at 7 pm they hold a memorial service and ring the ship’s bell (which was recovered) 30 times. They ring it once for each member of the crew, as well as one for all mariners who have been lost at sea. I thought that was really nice. It’s probably too cold to be there in November, lol, but still very nice.
As far as the light itself, it is not the original light that shined at Whitefish Point. The first one was hard hit by fierce Lake Superior winds and weather and needed to be replaced. It was replaced in 1861 with an eighty-foot-tall steel cylinder and supported by a skeletal steel framework.
Over the years the light had several different lenses. The Crouse & Hinds aero beacon lens installed in 1968 was replaced in 2011 with a light-emitting diode (LED) lantern with a reduced range of 15 nautical miles (28 km). The Whitefish Point light was automated in 1971 due to modern navigational systems, but remains an active aid to navigation.
While there you also should check out the Whitefish Point Shipwreck Museum. Artifacts and exhibits tell stories of sailors and ships who braved the waters of Superior and those who were lost to its menacing waves. There are also showings of colorful underwater films which explain the shipwrecks from a diver’s view.
It was sad but also inspiring in a way. Peaceful. It’s not something I can really explain in this post. I guess you’d have to see it and experience it yourself. I will say we had a nice time walking around the area, taking pictures, popping into a few buildings, checking out the gift shop, and walking down to the beach. It was nice and there weren’t as many bugs as there were near the Mackinaw Bridge. Above is an aerial glimpse of Whitefish Point via the Shipwreck Museum website. I hope you are able to visit if you are in the area. It is a place I won’t soon forget. Check out their website at the link above if you are planning your own visit.
Whitefish Point Shipwreck Museum and Lighthouse Visitor Information
18335 N. Whitefish Point Road, Paradise, MI 49768
May 1 to October 31 — Daily 10 am – 6 pm
- Adults: $14.00
- Children 17 and under: $10.00
- Children under 5: FREE
- Family, 2 adults, and 2 or more children: $45.00
- Single Family, 1 adult, and 2 or more children: $32.00
From the Straits of Mackinac:
Follow I-75 north to Rt. 123 (Exit #352), which is the Newberry, Tahquamenon falls exit. Follow this route through Trout Lake (be sure to take the right turn in Trout Lake to stay on M-123), crossing M-28. Follow M-123 all the way to Paradise, Michigan. Once in Paradise, continue north on Whitefish Point Road for 11 miles to the Whitefish Point Light Station. All roads are well paved and maintained by the State/County.
Travel Time = approximately 1 hour, 20 minutes
From Newberry and Tahquamenon Falls:
Follow M-123 east and turn left at the stoplight in Paradise, Michigan 11 miles north to Whitefish Point.
Travel Time = approximately 50 minutes from Newberry and approximately 20 minutes from Taquamenon Falls
From Sault Ste. Marie:
Follow I-75 south to M-28 west. Take M-123 north to Paradise, Michigan. Once in Paradise, continue north on Whitefish Point Road for 11 miles to the Whitefish Point Light Station. All roads are well paved and maintained by the State/County.
Travel Time = approximately 1 hour, 10 minutes
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4 thoughts on “Whitefish Point Shipwreck Museum and Lighthouse”
Wow!44 states… We have a long way to go still as I have barely scratched the surface but your posts will definitely inspire me ..
this place sounds wonderful.. shipwrecks are always fascinating (though sad they happened in the first place, and i find myself wondering about the lives of those who were on that ship ages ago(
Thanks for your comment. I felt sad too, but it’s one of those things that you want to see and take a moment, reflect, and pay homage to those lost wherever it may be. It has taken us a long time to visit the states we have. Once we realized how many we had visited, we were like, why not finish and see all 50, lol One day I will do a post with some of my favorite things about each state. Can’t wait to do that. 🙂 Thanks again for the comment. Happy travels. You can do it! A sort of homage to Rose the Riveter and Michigan, lol Couldn’t resist.
It has been a long time since we visited a historical location on vacation. I used to love doing this.
HI Paula. I was never into history until we started traveling and I could experience things firsthand. It’s not the same in a book. Not I love exploring and learning more. Thanks for the comment. Happy travels.