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Waugoshance Light: the first light built in the Great Lakes that was totally surrounded by water

3 min read

The Waugoshance Lighthouse will not be around much longer.
And, as it crumbles into Lake Michigan, it takes a rich history and even some interesting good ghost stories with it.
Located in northern Michigan and built in 1850 to mark a dangerous shallow area of northern Lake Michigan in the approach to the Straits of Mackinac, the lighthouse at Waugoshance was arguably the first light built in the Great Lakes that was totally surrounded by water. It is located in Emmet County, and stands in an area of the Wilderness State Park that is considered one of the most hazardous areas.

The first lightship was stationed on Waugoshance shoal in 1832 and it was 1851, when the Lighthouse Board decided to replace the lightship with a real lighthouse. Both its construction and its continued maintenance were extremely hazardous due to the severe weather conditions of the area.
In its glory it sported red and white horizontal strips on a steel encased tower and stone walls that are over 1,5 meters thick. The tower was crowned with a large “birdcage” lantern, one of only three lighthouses to be equipped with this style of lantern room in all of the Great Lakes.


Waugoshance Lighthouse served until 1912, when it was replaced by White Shoals Lighthouse.
Boats from Chicago heading North (and ultimately) East need to navigate the narrow tip of northern Lake Michigan, and there are many dangers.
The area around Waugoshance Point is not only shallow, as it’s a large projection from the bottom of the lake. This area is currently protected by White Shoal Light, built in 1910, nearby, powerful and larger, and Grays Reef Light which rendered this lighthouse obsolete.
In any case, Waugoshance Lighthouse has been around for the Civil War and both World Wars, and It even survived being used for target practice in WWII as the U.S. Government tested the first drones.
It has stood watch as sailing ships were replaced by steamships and then again by over 300 meters freighters.
However, Lake Michigan’s high water levels and strong winds have caused extensive damage.

Waugoshance Lighthouse is also renown for a haunting tale. During the 1800′s, it was kept by John Herman, a lighthouse keeper well known for his devious pranks, as well as heavy drinking on the job. Legend has it that one night while in a stupor, he locked his assistant in the lantern room as a practical joke. When his assistant finally found his way out, Herman was no where to be found. Many believe he fell into the lake as he was never seen again. Either way, future lightkeepers who knew the history, refused the assignment. Those that did, reported having had their chairs kicked out from underneath them when they fell asleep, coal buckets filling by themselves, and furniture being moved around the room.
Perhaps, it’s the old lightkeeper final sad prank to pull the lighthouse with him into obscurity.
As of now, it’s only a matter of time before this historic and supposedly haunted structure will be lost to the wind and waves.

Images from web – Google Research

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