Fox Islands (Michigan)

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Fox Islands
Fox Islands is located in Michigan
Fox Islands
Fox Islands
LocationLake Michigan
Coordinates45°26′32″N 85°48′36″W / 45.44222°N 85.81000°W / 45.44222; -85.81000Coordinates: 45°26′32″N 85°48′36″W / 45.44222°N 85.81000°W / 45.44222; -85.81000
Total islands2
Area6.65 sq mi (17.2 km2)
Highest elevation577 ft (175.9 m)
United States
CountyLeelanau County
TownshipLeelanau Township

The Fox Islands consist of the North Fox and South Fox islands, in Lake Michigan. The uninhabited islands are approximately 17 miles (27 km) northwest of Cathead Point near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan and about 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Beaver Island. The three islands form part of an archipelago. South Fox Island Light was built in 1867 and operated until 1959. Both islands are part of Leelanau County, Michigan, and are administered by Leelanau Township.

North Fox Island[edit]

North Fox Island.jpg

North Fox (45°28′45″N 85°46′38″W / 45.4792°N 85.7771°W / 45.4792; -85.7771 (North Fox Island)) is the smaller of the two islands, 3.32 square kilometres (3,320,000 m2; 820 acres) in area, roughly 2 miles (3.2 km) wide by 1 mile (1.6 km) long. This island was purchased by real estate magnate David V. Johnson in 1994 for $1.3 million, and the entire island was sold back to the state of Michigan for $2.2 million at the end of the year 2000. The island is currently operated as part of the Beaver Islands State Wildlife Research Area.

North Fox Island has an operational public 3,000-foot-long by 100-foot-wide turf airstrip as of 8/2015, making it accessible by general aviation. Airport designation is 6Y3.[1]

In the 1960s and 1970s, a child pornography ring was discovered operating on North Fox Island. The proprietor of the island, Francis Shelden, used his position in a large social program called the Brother Paul's Children's Mission, as well as his position as a Big Brother with the YMCA in Ann Arbor, to fly boys in his private plane to his island retreat.[2] The Ann Arbor News published a story in their weekend magazine on the proprietor's life, then published a second story when the crimes were uncovered. The crimes have long been suspected to have ties to the Oakland County Child Killer case.

South Fox Island[edit]

South Fox Island.jpg

South Fox Island (45°24′56″N 85°50′47″W / 45.4156°N 85.8463°W / 45.4156; -85.8463 (South Fox Island)) is 13.89 square kilometres (5.36 sq mi; 3,430 acres) in area, and about 5 miles (8.0 km) long and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide. As of 2001, David V. Johnson also owned about two-thirds of South Fox. The other third was owned by the state of Michigan, including the two lighthouses on the southern tip of the island. There is no ferry service to South Fox, and it has no docks, fuel or sheltered harbor. However, a private airport with a 5,500-foot (1,700 m) private runway can accommodate jet aircraft.[3]

Two generations of the South Fox Island Light stand at the southern extremity of the island. The first, built in 1867, is a brick house with attached tower; the second, a skeletal tower, is the former Sapelo Island Light, which was moved to the site in 1934.[4] The Fox Island Lighthouse Association (FILA), a non-profit organization, was formed in 2004 to aid in preservation of the light station structures.[5]

Johnson built a paved runway and a residence on the southern island. He had originally proposed swapping North Fox Island with the state for the third of South Fox that he did not own, but he settled in 2003 for a consolidation deal which traded 218 acres (88 ha) of state owned land on the southern part of South Fox for 219 acres (89 ha) on the north and central parts of the same island. This deal was finalized in March 2003.

Mr. Johnson owns 2,204 acres (892 ha) on the isolated 3,400 acres (1,400 ha) Lake Michigan island 25 miles (40 km) west of the Leelanau County coast. South Fox Island boasts some of the most spectacular freshwater maritime scenery in the world, including towering dunes, virgin cedars, and untouched beaches.

The island includes a cemetery where members of the Grand Traverse Band of Native Americans are currently buried.

Deer were introduced onto the island in 1915. Hunting is permitted on state land by permit only.


  1. ^ Namowitz, Dan (August 19, 2015). "Island airstrip reopens, fulfilling a promise". AOPA. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  2. ^ "Secrets and Lies". June 14, 2011. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  3. ^ "Airport Information". Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  4. ^ "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Michigan". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office.
  5. ^ Fox Island Lighthouse Association (FILA).

Further reading[edit]

  • "A Tour of the Lights of the Straits." Michigan History 70 (Sep/Oct 1986), pp. 17–29.

External links[edit]