Grand Marais, Michigan

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Grand Marais
Unincorporated Community
Grand Marais 1.jpg
Motto: Eastern Gateway to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshores[1]
Grand Marais is located in Michigan
Grand Marais
Grand Marais
Location within the state of Michigan
Coordinates: 46°40′15″N 85°59′07″W / 46.67083°N 85.98528°W / 46.67083; -85.98528Coordinates: 46°40′15″N 85°59′07″W / 46.67083°N 85.98528°W / 46.67083; -85.98528
Country United States
State Michigan
County Alger
Township Burt Township
Elevation 627 ft (191 m)
Population (2000)
 • Total 350
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)

Grand Marais is an unincorporated community in Burt Township, Alger County in the U.S. state of Michigan. It is located on Lake Superior, and is the eastern gateway to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore via H-58.


Grand Marais, Michigan historic marker

The name Grand Marais (French: great marsh) is a reference to the large, shallow harbor, which now has a breakwater extending from the bay into the lake. The Grand Marais Outer Range Light is at its end,[2] and 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.[3] French explorers used the word "marais" to mean "harbor of refuge" as well as "marsh." Many controversies in the little town revolve around costly dredging and breakwall-repair operations.

Grand Marais was one of five U.S. Life-Saving Service Stations along the coast of Lake Superior between Munising and Whitefish Point in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was part of the U.S. Life-Saving Service District 10 (later part of District 11). The other four Life-saving Stations were Deer Park, Two Heart, Crisp Point Light, and Vermilion Point. In 1915, these stations became part of the U.S. Coast Guard. In 1939 the U.S. Lighthouse Service also merged under the control of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The community was home to the Grand Marais Air Force Station from 1954 to 1957. The station was part of the Air Defense Command, and provided general surveillance radar.


Grand Marais is the northern terminus of M-77.[4] Seney and the Seney National Wildlife Refuge are to the south.

Arts and culture[edit]

Former Grand Marais Life-Saving Station, now serving as a Ranger Station

Grand Marais is a four-season tourist destination, with snowmobiling being popular in the winter, and swimming, boating, kayaking, and fishing among the summer recreations. Points of interest and events include:

  • The former United States Coast Guard Life-Saving Station, which now serves as a ranger station. This is the station where the Coast Guard radio operator had his last communication with the SS Edmund Fitzgerald before she sank with all hands.[5] The Grand Marais Maritime Museum is located in the former keepers quarters of the station.
  • The Pickle Barrel House Museum (1926).
  • The Au Sable Light, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Muskallonge Lake State Park.
  • Sable Falls, west of Grand Marais.
  • The Gitche Gumee Agate and History Museum.[6]
  • The Lake Superior Brewing Company operates a brewery and pub at Grand Marais.[7]
  • In mid June, the harbor at Grand Marais is the site of the annual sea plane fly in, hosted by the Grand Marais Pilots Association on behalf of the National Seaplane Pilots Association.[8]
  • In mid July, the harbor is the site of the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium, a multi-day event which attracts sea kayakers from around the country. It is billed as "the largest and oldest sea kayaking symposium on the Great Lakes."[9]

We Hear You America contest[edit]

Grand Marais Michigan, with a population of about 300, gained national attention[10] early in 2011 when it became the leader in a national contest sponsored by Reader's Digest. Visitors to the We Hear You America web site had the opportunity to "cheer" for any community in order to win recognition and cash prizes.[11] Grand Marais' harbor was officially deemed a Harbor of Refuge because it was the only lifeline a sailor had along the dangerous shipwreck coast of Lake Superior. Years of neglect had caused deterioration of its harbor breakwall, allowing sand to fill in, but the cost to repair it seemed prohibitive.[12] Grand Marais attained 1,281,724 "cheers" and won the top municipal first prize of $40,000 in the contest, as well as notoriety for its plight in a Reader's Digest article.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Grand Marais Chamber of Commerce website". Grand Marais Chamber of Commerce. 
  2. ^ Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Grand Maris Light.
  3. ^ United States Coast Guard, Fresnel Lenses Still in Operation[permanent dead link].
  4. ^ "Michigan highway ends, M-77 picture.". 
  5. ^ Hunt's Guide to the Upper Peninsula, Grand Marais Maritime Museum.
  6. ^ "Home Page". Gitche Gumee Agate and History Museum. Retrieved May 2015.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  7. ^ Pure Michigan, Grand Marais.
  8. ^ "Sea Planes Splash-In, Grand Marais, MI". 
  9. ^ "Great Lake Sea Kayak Symposium". 
  10. ^ a b Staff. "Grand Marais Wins Contest". The Evening News. Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Archived from the original on February 16, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011. 
  11. ^ We Hear you America
  12. ^ "Grand Marais Harbor & Breakwall Restoration Project". 

External links[edit]