2021 Sheplers Lighthouse Cruise (Westbound Extended Trip) Photo Gallery
As our quest to visit each one of Michigan’s more than 125 lighthouses continues, we’ve had to look for opportunities to see the more remote beacons that sit out in Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior. In June of 2021 we had the chance to take the Sheplers Lighthouse Cruise Westbound Extended Trip and see seven lighthouses, including two that we had never seen before. This 4.5 hour narrated cruise departed from Mackinaw City and passed by the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse before taking us under the Mackinac Bridge and heading out into Lake Michigan. We then visited St. Helena Island Lighthouse, White Shoal Lighthouse, Lansing Shoal Lighthouse, Squaw Island Lighthouse, Grays Reef Light, and the Waugoshance Lighthouse before heading back to the dock. This cruise will run three more times this year, so we thought we’d share some of the highlights from our trip (get tickets here), a little bit about each lighthouse, and a handful of photos.
Our trip was initially delayed as the captain who was supposed to take the boat out got stuck on the Mackinac Bridge in the traffic that followed a fatal crash. After about 15 minutes of waiting and watching traffic on the bridge (as well as some potential bad weather coming later), we found out that our trip would be going on as scheduled but with William R. Shepler helping lead the way! Each Shepler’s lighthouse cruise has narration provided by a GLLKA expert, sharing facts and figures as well as interesting stories for each of the lighthouses. This is the fourth time at least one member of our family has taken a lighthouse cruise with Shepler’s and we still have nothing but positive things to say about our experiences. Here’s a look at the lighthouses we visited and a few other highlights:
Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse – One of the most visited lighthouses in the state, this 1889 brick structure is part of a museum complex in Mackinaw City. Seeing it from the water provides a different vantage point, and shows exactly why a lighthouse was needed here before the Mackinac Bridge was built.
Mackinac Bridge – Overheard on our cruise “It never gets old, does it?” In reference to passing under the Mighty Mac, that statement is definitely very true. There’s something magical about seeing this landmark from the water, and it was very weird to see the cars on it not moving due to the accident.
St. Helena Island Lighthouse – Located on an island just two miles away from the Upper Peninsula shore and ten miles from Mackinac Island, this is one of two lighthouse that GLLKA is working on restoring. First lit in 1873, the St. Helena Island Lighthouse has a 63 foot tall tower and an attached dwelling. Find out more at https://www.gllka.com/sthelena.html.
White Shoal Lighthouse – One of the most recognizable Michigan lighthouses, seeing the White Shoal Lighthouse up close is always a treat. With its “candy cane” paint job and 120 foot tall tower it photographs incredibly well. This light has been undergoing renovations for a few years and is open for limited tours and stays. Find out more at https://www.facebook.com/whiteshoallight/.
Lansing Shoal Lighthouse – The first of two “new to us” lights on this cruise, the Lansing Shoal Lighthouse dates back to 1928 and marks the northern part of a dangerous shipping channel. This remote beacon was important for vessels coming and going from Escanaba, and while it is not the most picturesque light it was cool to finally see it.
Squaw Island Lighthouse – The second “new to us” lighthouse on the cruise, Squaw Island Lighthouse is located on a small island six miles north of Beaver Island. This 1890s lighthouse was abandoned shortly after construction of the Lansing Shoal Light made it obsolete, and it was in pretty rough shape until private owners stepped up in recent years.
Grays Reef Light – This 1930s light replaced a lightship and marks a dangerous reef where the water is less than ten feet deep. The Grays Reef Light tower is 65 feet tall and was one of the more remote and tougher keeper assignments on Lake Michigan.
Waugoshance Lighthouse – This critically endangered light had a 60 year career before being abandoned in the 1910s. It was later used for World War II bomber target practice. The Waugoshance Lighthouse Preservation Society worked for 23 years to try and save this structure but disbanded in January of 2021 after seeing the high water levels of the past two years take a toll on the station that they could not financially overcome. This was a big reason for us to hop on this cruise, as we realize it could be the last time we see the Waugoshance Lighthouse before a bad storm takes it down.