A Cheboygan Lighthouse Tour: Visit Two Historic Lights in Northern Michigan
In June we had the chance to head up to the Northern Lower Peninsula and visit a few lighthouses we had never been to before as part of a Shepler’s Lighthouse Cruise. On that same trip we were also able to go inside two lighthouses for the first time, adding a Cheboygan Lighthouse Tour to our weekend plans before out cruise departed. These two unique and historic lights are located where the Cheboygan River meets Lake Huron and were important guides for ships carrying lumber, passengers, and Coast Guard personnel for many years. Today we will share some of the photos from our visit to the Cheboygan Front Range Light and the Cheboygan Crib Light, and provide some details for those looking to make a visit of their own. Cheboygan is a lighthouse enthusiast’s paradise, as you can also see the Poe Reef Light and the Fourteen Foot Shoal Light from the waterfront, and a short hike at Chebogyan State Park leads to the ruins of the original Cheboygan Lighthouse.
The Cheboygan River Front Range Light dates back to the 1880s. This two-story dwelling with a 44 foot tower attached pairs with the taller, steel skeletal rear range tower to help guide ships into port by lining up the two lights. The lighthouse has white siding and a black lantern room, with two rectangular orange panels flanking the windows that look out from the tower towards Lake Huron. The view from the tower shows how active traffic on the river still is, including the Bois Blanc Island ferry boat Kristen D., boats from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Mackinaw, Durocher Marine tugs, Ryba Marine Construction vessels, and plenty of private fishing and recreational boats.
The inside of the lighthouse continues to undergo renovations to return it to a 1910 appearance. Most of the first floor has been completed, and several second floor bedrooms and a bathroom are complete or close to complete. Work continues on interior painting and eventually getting the tower back to a more accessible state.
The Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association was awarded ownership of this lighthouse in 2004 through the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. Fresh off of a successful renovation of the St. Helena Island Lighthouse in the Straits of Mackinac, GLLKA dove in to the Cheboygan project and knocked out some big projects in the first years of ownership: “In 2005 we obtained a Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program grant to conduct an engineering study of the structure, and recently submitted an application for a grant to undertake the restoration of the tower and lantern, which have suffered a longstanding water infiltration problem. With a second M.L.A.P. grant awarded in 2008, the lantern and gallery were rebuilt in 2009. We are now seeking funding to match for a grant for which we have applied to re-
Tours of the Cheboygan River Front Range Light are made possible through the efforts of volunteer keepers, who spend the weekends taking care of the lighthouse while leading tours and running a small gift shop. We were thrilled to finally get a chance to see the restoration of the range lighthouse, and also have the added bonus of getting to go inside the Cheboygan Crib Light.
The Cheboygan Crib Light is located just down the road from the Cheboygan River Range Light in Gordon Turner Park. We have visited this picturesque light, with its white paint and red trim, many times over the years. The volunteer keepers staying at the range light also have keys for the crib light, and we finally got to take in the view from the top of the tower here.
In addition to being able to see the Poe Reef Light and the Fourteen Foot Shoal Light from here, the tower also had great views of Lake Huron and the Cheboygan River, as well as close views of the Mackinaw. For current hours and dates for lighthouse tours, head to https://www.gllka.com/cheboygan.html for current information or check in with the GLLKA Facebook page or at the office in Mackinaw City (707 N. Huron Ave.).