NOAA Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center – Alpena
On a recent trip to Alpena and the northern Lake Huron shore, we stumbled upon a local museum that fits perfect into my interests of all things maritime. The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center is open all year, and for FREE! Exhibits are plentiful, and those featuring specific shipwrecks from the area have a scale model, informational sign and either video footage or photos from dives down to the shipwreck’s final resting site.
The museum’s website gives hours and details on exhibits. There are thousands of artifacts housed here from shipwrecks in the area, and even an on site lab for restoration of new finds. Two of the featured shipwrecks are the sidewheeler New Orleans and steamers Pewabic and Montana. The NOAA provides a bit of background on the national marine sanctuary: “Located in northwestern Lake Huron, Thunder Bay is adjacent to one of the most treacherous stretches of water within the Great Lakes system. Unpredictable weather, murky fog banks, sudden gales, and rocky shoals earned the area the name “Shipwreck Alley.” Today, the 4300-square-mile Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary protects one of America’s best-preserved and nationally-significant collections of shipwrecks. Fire, ice, collisions, and storms have claimed over 200 vessels in and around Thunder Bay. To date, nearly 100 shipwrecks have been discovered within the sanctuary. Although the sheer number of shipwrecks is impressive, it is the range of vessel types located in the sanctuary that makes the collection nationally significant.”
The highlight for many younger visitors will be the full-size replica schooner (seen in the top photo), where visitors can walk the decks that are tilted to provide the Great Lakes storm experience – with full audio and visual enhancements. Among the artifacts in the museum are things like this safe:
The museum has plenty for those interested in maritime history and even a few things that might grab the attention of everyone else:
- LEED certified “green” facility
– access to local trail just outside the building
– yearly boat-building contests
– historical photos
– recovered artifacts
– replica vessel interactive display
– gift shop
– information on the area’s lighthouses
The museum is located at 500 W. Fletcher in Alpena, on the river and just north of downtown. Find hours of operation and other info at http://thunderbay.noaa.gov/maritime/glmhc.html. Be sure to head over to the harbor area and check out the famous red Alpena Light (parking near Harbor/Prentiss).