As part of the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, we’re going on a virtual tour with Neil Howk, a man who has spent decades exploring the islands and teaching people about what makes them special. He knows the islands like the back of his hand.
Lighthouse historian F. Ross Holland said that “within the boundaries of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is the largest and finest single collection of lighthouses in the country.”
At the seventeenth stop on our digital tour, Neil is on Michigan Island. It is home to the first lighthouse and the tallest lighthouse in the park, at 46.8775° N, 90.4959° W.
Originally intended for Long Island, the first light in the Apostle Islands was built in 1856. After one year of use, the U. S. Lighthouse Board abandoned the lighthouse in 1857.
That light was renovated and re-established in 1869. The light in the 65-foot tall Michigan Island tower often failed to warn ships away from navigational hazards.
A taller tower was needed to improve the light’s visibility. The Bureau of Lighthouses solved the problem by relocating a surplus tower from Pennsylvania’s Delaware River to Michigan Island in 1918.
The recycled tower sat in sections at the station until contractors reassembled it in 1929. It became the tallest tower (112 feet) in the Apostle Islands.
The Old Michigan Island Light was restored and a set of exhibit panels explaining the station’s fascinating past was installed in 2016. Tours of the lighthouse are not available this year due to the pandemic.
Michigan Island features a dock near the light station, a mile-long trail between the lighthouse and the beach and a single campsite near the beach. Due to the pandemic, the National Park Service is operating with limited operations. Overnight camping is not currently permitted. However, overnight docking for self-contained vessels and day use of the islands is permitted.
Look for another digital adventure next week. To play along, simply like the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Facebook page and check back next Wednesday for the clue to next week’s location. Make a guess in the comments and we’ll post the answer on Thursday. Click here to view the entire series.
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