DeTour Reef Light: Historic Beacon Stands Tall Near Drummond Island
We love Michigan lighthouses, and with Travel the Mitten we’ve been fortunate to share our experiences visiting close to 100 of the more than 120 beacons in our state. This is our first time featuring the DeTour Reef Light, a 1931 light that marks a reef in Lake Huron near the point where all freighter traffic heading to Lake Superior must pass. For the last 25 years it has been restored and operated by the nonprofit DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society, and through them it is possible to visit the light and even spend the night there!
While we have yet to visit this light up close we have been fortunate to get some good views of it from the Drummond Island ferry and the dock on the island. Watching freighters pass by this light gives an idea just how tall it stands out in the open water. According to DRLPS the light stands 83 feet tall. It has a concrete foundation similar to the nearby Martin Reef Light, and it also shares many similarities with the Fourteen Foot Shoal Light near Cheboygan. You can read about all the work DRLPS has done on their website and learn more about the overnight keeper program. Very few lighthouse in the country offer this awesome chance to spend a night surrounded by open water, with chances to watch freighters pass by while experiencing some real peace and quiet!
There is a Michigan historical marker on M-134 at an MDOT scenic turnout. There is a sandy beach here (good for swimming if weather allows), and a distant view of the lighthouse can be had from where the sign stands. The marker reads: “Located where the St. Marys River enters Lake Huron from Lake Superior, DeTour Passage separates the Upper Peninsula from Drummond Island. It has long been a choke point for Great Lakes shipping. Anticipating increased traffic as a result of the locks planned at Sault Ste. Marie, the U.S. Lighthouse Service built an onshore light station on Point DeTour in 1848. As vessels grew in size, DeTour Reef, which extends a mile from Point DeTour in twenty feet of water, became a greater shipping hazard. In 1929, the Lighthouse Service decided to replace the onshore light with a station atop the reef. DeTour Reef Light Station is one of only six reef light stations in Michigan.”
The history of the lighthouse is further detailed on the marker’s second side: “Located four miles southeast of here, the DeTour Reef Light Station was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1931. The 1861 tower, Fresnel lens and lantern assembly were moved from the Point DeTour Light Station. The new station housed resident keepers, equipment and supplies in three stories. The tower rises more than eighty feet above the water and sits atop a forty-one-foot-high wood crib and concrete pier resting on DeTour Reef. The Coast Guard automated the station in 1974 and excessed it in 1997. The DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society, established in 1998, restored the station in 2004, opened it to visitors in 2005, and took ownership in 2010.”
For a closer view of this lighthouse you can check with any of the local fishing charters, catch a Shepler’s ferry Les Cheneaux Lighthouse excursion, visit through the preservation society, or take a trip past it in your own boat or kayak. On land your best views will come from the Drummond Island ferry dock or several pulloffs along M-134 as you head into DeTour Village (distant view shown above). If you’re looking for a few more lighthouse while in the area the Six Mile Point Range Lights can be found a few miles in each direction, and the small Pipe Island Light can be seen from the State Harbor in DeTour Village.