Michigan Lighthouse Guide and Map: Houghton County Lighthouses
Houghton County is home to three lighthouses and a plethora of historical sites related to the copper mining industry. We love all the historic buildings in the downtown area, the beautiful parks (like the Nara Nature Preserve), the museums, and the unique Portage Lake Lift Bridge. That bridge crosses the Portage Canal, part of the Keweenaw Waterway that bisects the Keweenaw Peninsula and meets Lake Superior on both ends. All three Houghton County lighthouses are located at the eastern or western ends of this once-busy waterway. Today we will show you how to visit each lighthouse – all three can be visited in a little over an hour’s time! Our Michigan lighthouse guide and map series continues below:
Keweenaw Waterway Upper Entrance Light (McLain State Park, Hancock) – One of the least aesthetically pleasing lighthouses in the Upper Peninsula, this 50 foot tall tower can be found in F.J. McLain State Park north of Hancock. This is not the first lighthouse to mark the mouth of the Keweenaw Waterway, a partially man-made route that was widened to help get ships into the Houghton area to load copper from the area’s mines. The first beacon here was constructed onshore in the 1840s, this current light went up in 1950 at the end of the breakwater. This white steel tower rests on a circular concrete crib and is still operational today (automated since the 1970s). You can get good views from the beach or make the adventurous trip out to the end of the breakwater (be mindful of the weather). From McLain State Park it is a 31 mile drive on M-26 and Bootjack Rd. to get to our next destination which is in a small park at the end of White City Rd., on the opposite end of the Keweenaw Waterway.
Keweenaw Waterway Lower Entrance Light (White City Rd., Torch Lake Twp.) – The Lower Entrance Light is certainly a little better looking than its counterpart at the upper end. The current lighthouse replaced earlier towers that had stood at this site. It is a three-story octagonal steel tower that stands around 50 feet tall. The light is painted white with a lantern room that is capped with a red roof. The lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014, with the notation that it is a “well-preserved example of early twentieth century architectural design and engineering methods used in constructing offshore lighthouses in the Great Lakes. It includes a wooden crib foundation, concrete pier, and a superstructure that combines reinforced concrete and steel components. You can make the walk all the way out to the Keweenaw Waterway Lower Entrance Light if weather allows, the breakwater is long but level.
Portage River Lighthouse/Jacobsville Lighthouse (38741 Jacobs St., Lake Linden) – The third and final stop on the Houghton County Lighthouses tour is the Portage River Lighthouse, sometimes referred to as the Jacobsville Lighthouse. If you walked out to the Lower Entrance Light and looked back at the shoreline you may have seen its tower up on the cliff. This lighthouse is privately owned and currently closed to the public, though for many years it was a bed and breakfast. The Portage River Lighthouse was built in 1869. A previous lighthouse had been built at the site in the late 1850s but was not set up to withstand the harsh weather conditions in the area. The tower stands 51 feet tall and is connected to a brick, two-story dwelling. The lantern room is painted red, in stark contrast to the white paint of the tower. This lighthouse was listed for sale as recently as 2020 but recent news has been hard to find. Update: the lighthouse was recently purchased and is being restored, find out more at www.portageriverlighthouse.com or on Instagram! Respect the private property owners and view this from your car on Jacobs St., from a boat, or from the breakwater as mentioned above.