For two weeks in the month of June, my family and I had the wonderful opportunity to see over fifty lighthouses on and off the shores of Michigan. That’s about half of the state’s lighthouses.
Copper Harbor Lighthouse, photo by Chuck Turk
The variety of location and design was both delightful and intriguing. There were lighthouses at the end of breakwaters, lighthouses on high bluffs, and lighthouses on caissons in the middle of the lakes. Some lighthouses were in towns while others were quite remote and cut off from civilization.
South Haven Lights, photo by Chuck Turk
We saw small schoolhouse-style lighthouses which housed a single keeper and his family, and giant obelisk lighthouses with large keeper’s houses that served as home to families of three keepers. There were lighthouses marking the entrance of rivers into one of the Great Lakes, and there were lighthouses warning of the danger of nearby reefs.
There was also quite a diversity of organizations who managed the lighthouses. Those that are still active aids to navigation must adhere to the rules of the U.S. Coast Guard, the lighthouse governing authority. Many of these don’t allow climbing of the towers. Others were run by local historical societies with volunteers who gave their time to show visitors around. And still others were managed by the state park system and had park rangers in charge.
Old Mackinac Light, MI, photo by Marilyn Turk
Some charged a fee to enter and/or climb. A few suggested donations. Some lighthouses had knowledgeable tour guides who not only gave you the history of the facility, but also told stories about the keepers who’d served there (my favorite part).
We also visited two privately-owned lighthouses turned bed and breakfasts, whose owners enjoyed telling about their efforts to take care of their lighthouses and the costs involved.
Yes, they were all different. Unique even. But what they had in common was 1) their original purpose – to guide mariners and 2) their current existence due to someone or some entity taking care to preserve them.
Sand Hills Lighthouse, photo by Chuck Turk
As I reminisce about the diversity of the lighthouses, I’m so thankful I had the opportunity and the freedom to visit them. And equally thankful to live in a country where we have the freedom to preserve such an important part of our history.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Cor. 3:17