Michigan Lighthouse Guide and Map: Presque Isle County Lighthouses
Presque Isle County is located in the northeast Lower Peninsula of Michigan. One of the least populated counties in the Lower Peninsula (less than 13,000 residents), it covers 678 square miles and features 72 miles of Lake Huron shoreline. That long stretch of shoreline is protected by several lighthouses, which help guide ships into ports like Calcite and Stoneport. Presque Isle County is home to five lighthouses that are all very easy to visit. Three of these sites are open to the public as museums, and the four lights on Presque Isle are all located within a 1.5 mile stretch of road. There is quite a bit of history in this county, and the local historical societies have done a great job preserving and restoring these lighthouses and helped keep them open so the public can enjoy visiting them. Our Michigan Lighthouse Guide and Map: Presque Isle County Lighthouses begins below, and it will take you to five lighthouses while covering roughly 30 miles of road.
1. Presque Isle Front Range Light – We start our journey on U.S. 23 north of Alpena. About 10 miles north of Alpena, head east on E. Grand Lake Rd. We’re taking the scenic route here, and you’ll pass several landmarks on the way. After 3.5 miles you’ll want turn right and continue on E. Grand Lake Rd. and shortly after that you will pass the Besser Natural Area. After that you will stay on E. Grand Lake Rd. for another nine miles, passing the Lafarge Presque Isle Quarry, the Fireside Inn, and the Presque Isle Lodge before arriving at the Presque Isle Front Range Light on the right side of the road shortly after you pass Co. Rd. 638. The range light is now part of a small park, with parking available in a lot on the west side of the road. The Michigan historical marker here notes that “In 1869 the U.S. Congress appropriated $7,500 to build two range lights marking the channel into Presque Isle Harbor. Orlando M. Poe submitted plans in May 1870, and by August the range lights were in operation as seafarers aligned the lights to direct them into the harbor. Anna Garrity, one of the few women light keepers, maintained this light from 1903 to 1926.” A statue in front of the roughly 20 foot tall range light depicts Garrity.
2. Presque Isle Rear Range Light – The Presque Isle Rear Range Light is currently a private residence, but it can be viewed from a respectful distance from the parking area for the Front Range Light. From lighthousefriends.com: “The rear light shone from a tower mounted atop the pitched roof of a one-and-a-half-story, five-room keeper’s dwelling and had a focal plane of thirty-six feet above the harbor, twice that of the front light. The range lights were similar in form to those deployed at Copper Harbor and Eagle Harbor on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, and at Baileys Harbor in Wisconsin.”
3. Old Presque Isle Lighthouse – This white brick tower is one of Michigan’s oldest lighthouses as well as one of the shortest. Dating back to the 1840s, the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse stands 38 feet tall and was built to guide ships into the Presque Isle harbor where they could find refuge from rough weather on Lake Huron. After a career of just over 20 years, it was determined that a taller light needed to be built north of this site. This is one of two lighthouse operated as a museum by the Presque Isle Township Museum Society, so you have the chance to tour the keeper’s dwelling, climb the tower, and even learn about the reported hauntings that have taken place here! Find out more at https://presqueislelighthouses.org/.
4. New Presque Isle Lighthouse – A short drive from one of Michigan’s oldest lighthouses brings you a few miles north to one of Michigan’s tallest lighthouse. The New Presque Isle Lighthouse stands close to 110 feet tall and was built in 1870 to replace its neighbor down the road. You can climb to the top of the tower here for some amazing views:
The lighthouse and the 1905 Keeper’s House are open as part of an impressive museum complex. Like the Old Presque Lighthouse, this one also has some rumored hauntings – the most well-known being by a keeper’s wife who was locked in the lighthouse when her husband went into town to visit a lady friend.
5. 40 Mile Point Lighthouse – After visiting the four Presque Isle lighthouses, there is only one left to visit in the county and it is reached by driving north on U.S. 23 to Rogers City. The 40 Mile Point Lighthouse is located in a county park a few miles north of Rogers City (look for it on the right shortly after passing Hoeft State Park). This lighthouse gets its name from its location, as it is roughly 40 miles northwest of Alpena and 40 miles southeast from Mackinaw City. “40 Mile Point is a two-story duplex with a tower incorporated into the center of the side-wall facing Lake Huron. Its footprint measures 35 feet by 57 feet. Constructed on a 20″ thick foundation, each 16″ thick exterior wall is made up of double brick walls separated by an air space that provides the only insulation. The 12-foot square tower stands 52 feet in height and is capped by an octagonal cast-iron lantern room. The mirror-image apartments on each side of the dwelling provided complete privacy for the keeper and his assistant. Each apartment features it own main entry, cellar, kitchen, parlor, tower access and stairway to the bedrooms on the second floor.” The lighthouse is open for tours and the surrounding park has many other nautical artifacts (including the pilothouse of the 1912 freighter Calcite). Plan on being here for a little while!
An added bonus of visiting here is the chance to see one of Michigan’s shallow water shipwrecks. Depending on water levels you may be able to see some or a lot of the wreckage of the Joseph S. Fay, an 1871 wooden steamer that grounded here in 1905.