Grays Reef Light

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Grays Reef Light
Grays Reef Light is located in Michigan
Grays Reef Light
LocationIn northeastern Lake Michigan, 3.8 miles (6.1 km) west of Waugoshance Island
Coordinates45°46′0″N 85°9′12″W / 45.76667°N 85.15333°W / 45.76667; -85.15333Coordinates: 45°46′0″N 85°9′12″W / 45.76667°N 85.15333°W / 45.76667; -85.15333
Year first lit1936[1]
FoundationSubmerged stone and concrete crib[1]
ConstructionSteel, reinforced concrete[1]
Tower shapeOctagonal[1]
Markings / patternWhite with black lantern[1]
Tower height65 feet (20 m)[1]
Focal height25 metre Edit this on Wikidata
Original lensThird and a half order Fresnel lens[1]
Current lens7.5-inch (190 mm)[1]
Range15 nautical miles (28 km; 17 mi).[2]
CharacteristicFl R 10s Edit this on Wikidata
RaconEdit this on Wikidata
ARLHS numberUSA-343[3]
Heritageplace listed on the National Register of Historic Places Edit this on Wikidata
Grays Reef Light Station
LocationIn northeastern Lake Michigan, 3.8 miles (6.1 km) west of Waugoshance Island
Nearest cityBliss Township, Michigan
Area0.6 acres (0.24 ha)
Built byGreiling Brothers Company
ArchitectU.S. Lighthouse Service 11th Dist.; Office of Supt. of Lighthouses
Architectural styleArt Deco
MPSLight Stations of the United States MPS
NRHP reference No.05001210[4]
Added to NRHPNovember 9, 2005

The Grays Reef Light is a lighthouse located in northeastern Lake Michigan, 3.8 miles (6.1 km) west of Waugoshance Island in Bliss Township, Michigan. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.[4]


In the 1880s, as shipments of iron ore increased through the Straits of Mackinac, shippers began advocating for better lighting of the shoals in the area.[2] In 1889, Congress appropriated $60,000 to construct three lightvessels to be moored at Simmons Reef, White Shoals, and here at Grays Reef.[2] The three vessels, designated LV55, LV56, and LV57, were constructed by Blythe Craig Shipbuilding Company of Toledo, Ohio, and were put in service in late 1891. LV57 served for every shipping season on Grays Reef until 1923, when its hull had deteriorated to a point where it was removed from service. LV103 (the Lightship Huron) served on Grays reef from 1923–27, when LV56 was transferred to the station. LV56 lasted only two years until it, too deteriorated enough to be removed from service. LV103 was returned to Grays Reef for the first part of the 1929 season, and was then replaced with LV99.[2]

By this time, with improvements in underwater construction, it had become feasible to construct a permanent light station on Grays Reef, rather than depending on a moored lightvessel.[2] In 1934, Congress approved funding for a new station. The Greiling Brothers Company was hired to construct the light station, and work began in the summer of 1934. The structure was finished in September 1936, two months behind schedule and over budget.[2]

In 1937, a radio beacon and 40 feet (12 m) tower was installed at the station; the tower was removed in 2010.[5] In 1939, the United States Coast Guard took over operational control.[2] The lighthouse was manned until 1976, when a solar-powered system was installed. The lighthouse now has a 7.5-inch (190 mm) 12-volt DC acrylic Tideland Signal optic.[2]


The Grays Reef Light is built to exactly the same plan as the Minneapolis Shoal Light, built at approximately the same time.[2] The design is a modification of one created by F. P. Dillon and W. G. Will, which was used in Conneaut, Ohio and Huron, Ohio.[2]

The light sits on a square reinforced concrete pier, 30 feet (9.1 m) high and 64 feet (20 m) on a side.[6] Atop the pier is a two-story base, 15-foot (4.6 m) high and 30 feet (9.1 m) on a side.[6] The cellar and first floor in the base were built to house diesel generators, boilers, and compressors to provide power and heat to the light, fog signal, and keeper's quarters.[2] The second floor of the base housed the keeper's quarters. The lighthouse tower is placed in the center of the building roof. The tower is 17 feet (5.2 m) tall, and tapers from 16 feet (4.9 m) at the base to 10 feet (3.0 m) beneath the gallery. The entire light is covered on the exterior with steel plates.[6] The lantern atop the tower has helical astragals, and housed a red 3-1/2 order Fresnel lens.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Inventory of Historic Light Stations, Michigan Lighthouses: Gray's Reef Light". National Park Service Maritime Heritage Program. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Grays Reef Light". Seeing The Light. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  3. ^ "Grays Reef (Lake Michigan) Light ARLHS USA-343". Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  4. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  5. ^ Dave Wobser, Grays Reef Light,, retrieved April 10, 2012
  6. ^ a b c Charles K. Hyde; Ann Mahan; John Mahan (1986), The Northern Lights: Lighthouses of the Upper Great Lakes, Wayne State University Press, pp. 106–107, ISBN 0814325548