Au Sable2 resized

Au Sable Lighthouse, MI, photo by Chuck Turk


Their skeletons still remain, a warning to those who get too close, a reminder of the fury of the lake, and a testimony to the need for a lighthouse.

Who would guess one of North America’s most beautiful shorelines would be one of the most deadly? Only those who had the misfortune of falling victim to its unseen dangers could testify – if they survived.

shipwreck near Au Sable Point

Shipwreck remains near Au Sable Point

The reef at Au Sable Point along Lake Superior’s “shipwreck coast,” is a shallow ridge of sandstone in places only six feet below the surface and extending a mile from the shore. Once one of the greatest dangers facing ships along the southern shore of Lake Superior, the reef was known as a ship trap and claimed many ships, including the passenger ship Lady Elgin in 1859.

In 1874, the Au Sable Point lighthouse was built to warn of this danger and to provide a light in an eighty-mile stretch of darkened coastline between the Whitefish Point Light and the Granite Island Light.

Shipwreck2, photo from National Park Service

All that remains of a ship wrecked near Au Sable


Although the lighthouse was a major coastal light, the station was as isolated as an island. Besides supply visits from the lighthouse tender, the station’s only link to civilization was a winding, narrow foot path twelve miles along the dunes to Grand Marais, Michigan, and this path was impassable during stormy weather when waves washed over the dunes. Life in such isolated conditions took its toll on the first two keepers who resigned from lighthouse service two years later.

The next keeper, Napoleon Beedon, was a seasoned Lake Superior Keeper with twenty years of lighthouse tending experience. Beedon arranged to have his wife Mary appointed as his assistant. Their first winter at the lighthouse was a true test of their spirits. Beginning on December 8, 1876, the day started with a light northerly breeze which by 5 PM had churned into a frightful storm that blew down 50 trees around the station.

In his station log book, Beedon recorded that he feared “the lighthouse and tower would be blow down as they shook like a leaf. The wind was NN West, snowing and freezing. It was the worst storm I ever saw on Lake Superior.” Three years at the station was all the couple could stand, before they too, resigned from lighthouse service.

Au Sable Lighthouse, photo by Marilyn Turk

Au Sable Lighthouse, photo by Marilyn Turk

Finally, three keepers and their families were assigned to the light station, providing companionship in the isolated location. Although the brick keeper’s house attached to the lighthouse was large, it was crowded with so many people until another keeper’s house was built.

The lighthouse was automated by the Coast Guard in 1958, and the property became part of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Although the keepers are gone, the light is still active, still warning ships of the unseen dangers below the surface of the lake.

The Bible mentions light over 200 times, referring to God as the creator of light, His Word as light and God Himself as light. Like a lighthouse, His light guides and reveals.

“He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with Him.” Daniel 2:22

View from Au Sable lantern room showing fog horn building looking toward Pictured Rocks, photo by Marilyn Turk

View from Au Sable lantern room looking toward Pictured Rocks, showing fog horn building below, photo by Marilyn Turk