Forty Mile Point Light

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Forty Mile Point Light
Forty Mile Point Light Station - Michigan.jpg
Forty Mile Point Light
Forty Mile Point Light is located in Michigan
Forty Mile Point Light
Location Rogers Township, Michigan
Coordinates 45°29′12″N 83°54′48″W / 45.48667°N 83.91333°W / 45.48667; -83.91333Coordinates: 45°29′12″N 83°54′48″W / 45.48667°N 83.91333°W / 45.48667; -83.91333
Year first constructed 1896
Year first lit 1897
Automated 1969
Foundation Limestone
Construction Brick
Tower shape Square
Markings / pattern white w/black lantern
Height Tower - 52 feet (16 m)
Focal height Focal plane - 66 feet (20 m)
Original lens Fourth order Fresnel lens
Current lens Fourth order Fresnel lens
Range 16 nautical miles (30 km; 18 mi)
Characteristic white flash every 6 seconds.[1]
ARLHS number USA-303
USCG number


Forty Mile Point Light
NRHP Reference # 84001830[2]
Added to NRHP July 19, 1984

Forty Mile Point Light is a lighthouse in Northern Michigan, in Presque Isle County on Hammond Bay on the western shore of Lake Huron in Rogers Township, Michigan USA. Unlike many Great Lakes lighthouses, Forty Mile Point Light does not mark a significant harbor or river mouth. Rather, it was constructed with the intent that as one sailed from Mackinaw Point to the Saint Clair River, one would never be out of viewing range of a lighthouse.[3] With no river or harbor to use for a name, the light is named on the basis that it is 40 miles (64 km) sailing distance from Mackinaw Point.

It is part of U.S. Coast Guard District No. 9.[4]


While the Presque Isle Peninsula had been lighted since 1840, and the entrance to the Cheboygan River fifty miles to the north had been lighted since 1851, the New Presque Isle Light's range of visibility of 17 nautical miles; 31 kilometres (19 mi) and the Cheboygan Crib Light's visible range of 11 nautical miles; 21 kilometres (13 mi) left an unlighted 16-nautical-mile; 29-kilometre (18 mi) intervening stretch of coastline along which mariners had to navigate blind. In its annual report for fiscal 1890, the Board recommended that $25,000 be appropriated for the construction of a new light and fog signal at Forty Mile Point near Hammond's Bay, at the approximate midpoint between the two lights.[5]

Congress apparently was unimpressed with the request and it was five years before it was approved and funded. The plan for this light is nearly identical to the one for the Big Bay Point Lighthouse on Lake Superior that was constructed at the same time. The penury of Congress concerning light stations on the Great Lakes was not limited to Forty Mile Point. See, e.g., Port Sanilac lighthouse.

The footings are 20 inches (510 mm) limestone and the structure is 35 by 57 feet (11 m × 17 m). The integrated tower is 12 feet (3.7 m) square and 52 feet (16 m) high. The house contains two identical apartments (presumably for the keeper and the assistant keeper, but ordinarily the assistant got a smaller, not identical apartment). A unique feature is a skylight in the stairs so the keeper or his assistant could observe the light working without going outside or climbing the tower.

The light was completed in November 1896, but traffic on the Great Lakes is not a year round event, so it wasn't until the spring of 1897 that it was first lit. The station was automated in 1969 and is still operational. Foundation materials are wood pilings, and it is constructed of brick in a square shape. Markings are white with a black lantern. Another structure is attached to the tower. The original lens was a fourth order Fresnel lens /frˈnɛl/[6] designed and manufactured by Henry-Lepaute in Paris. It had six bulls-eye flash panels, and the clockwork would rotate it so that it would emit a white flash every ten seconds.[7] The lens now in place is the third or fourth such lens to occupy that position.[8]

Current operations, maintenance, viewing and events[edit]

During the Big Blow of 1905, twenty-seven wooden vessels were lost. The steamer Joseph S. Fay ran aground, and a part of its hull rests on the beach approximately 200 feet (61 m) north of the lighthouse. there is a Michigan historical marker honoring Forty Mile Light, there is a marker concerning the "Graveyard of Ships."[9] The marker states:

  • Registered Historical Marker Site L2186 was erected 2007 Forty Mile Point Lighthouse / Graveyard of Ships. The Graveyard of Ships marker states:
    • Named by seventeenth century French explorers La Mer Douce the sweet or freshwater sea, Lake Huron is the second largest of the five Great Lakes. It has over 3,800 miles (6,100 km) of shoreline and contains 30,000 islands, among them Manitoulin, the world's largest freshwater island. Violent storms on the "sweet sea" have made it dangerous for ships. As of 2006, 1,200 wrecks had been recorded. During the Big Blow of 1905, twenty-seven wooden vessels were lost. One of these, the steamer Joseph S. Fay, ran aground. A portion of its hull rests on the beach approximately 200 feet north of the Forty Mile Lighthouse. The Great Storm of 1913 was responsible for sinking many modern ships.[10]

Indeed, skeletons of ships are only a short distance from the light station. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. National Register Reference #84001830 Name of Listing: FORTY MILE POINT LIGHT STATION (U.S. COAST GUARD/GREAT LAKES TR).

The site is now a county park (well-marked) 6 miles (9.7 km) north of Rogers City on US 23.svg US 23, a/k/a the Sunrise Side Coastal Highway. A map with the lights in the area is available at lighthousesRus. The park is accessible from the highway—do not turn on to 40 Mile Point road.[11]

The lighthouse anchors one end of a 7-mile (11 km)bike path that is near and sometimes in the right of way along US 23, and runs by Hoeft State Park and to Rogers City. The bike trail was completed in late May, 2009.[12]

The lighthhouse is owned by Presque County and operated by the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse Society. The park grounds are open to the public year round from 8.00 AM to sundown. The lighthouse is open for tours from the Friday before Memorial Day through the end of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival in mid October. Tour hours are Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. More information may be obtained from the Rogers City Chamber of Commerce at (800) 622-4148.

Foghorn signal building

Importantly, the many structures that were part of the installation remain: lighthouse; Lighthouse keeper quarters; bunkhouse (newly renovated in 2006-2007),[13] foghorn signal building (the diaphone has been removed), oil house, and brick outhouse. The surrounding park also houses the wheelhouse of the first Calcite freighter.[14]

The fourth order Fresnel lens is in place and in use, and access to the tower provides a view of it and the Lakeshore.[15] The Fresnel lens is still operative, being one of only 70 such lenses that remain operational in the United States, sixteen of which are use on the Great Lakes of which eight are in Michigan.[16]

There are many recurrent events at the lighthouse. A calendar is available.[11]

Half of the lighthouse is now a museum, the other half is caretaker's quarters.[11]

Membership in the 40-Mile Point Lighthouse Society is $20.00 per year, and the Society may be reached at: 40 Mile Point Lighthouse Society, PO Box 205, Rogers City, MI 49779.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Light List, Volume VII, Great Lakes (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard. 
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  3. ^ Detroit News, Interactive map on Michigan lighthouses.
  4. ^ National Park Service, Maritime Heritage Project, 40 Mile Point Light.
  5. ^ Terry Pepper, Seeing The Light - Forty Mile Point Lighthouse
  6. ^ "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Michigan". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office. 
  7. ^ Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light - Forty Mile Point Light
  8. ^ Lens, Forty Mile Lighthouse Society.
  9. ^ Michigan Historical Markers.
  10. ^ Michigan Historical Markers
  11. ^ a b c d Forty Mile Point Lighthouse Society.
  12. ^ Modrzynski, Mike, Work begins on trail, March 23, 2009, Alpena News.
  13. ^ Bunkhouse photograph, Forty Mile Lighthouse Society.
  14. ^ Wobser, David, Forty Mile Point Light.
  15. ^ Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light - Forty Mile Point Light.
  16. ^ United States Coast Guard, Fresnel Lenses Still in Operation. See, National Park Service Maritime Light Inventory, Grosse Point Light study which disregards Forty Mile Point, and proffers a count of four remaining lenses -- it lists them -- on the Great Lakes. Sturgeon Point Light also has a lens in place, but no longer in service and open to public view, and is not on the list. However, if may be that the article is only intending to list lights that have "their original lens in situ", and by that definition, Forty Mile Point and Sturgeon Point would not be on the list, as they have a replacement lens.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Vintage image of the station