Grand Island East Channel Light

Munising, Michigan | C.1868

Photo Credit: Larisa Svintsitski

Thoughts of shipwrecks might conjure up images of deserted islands or abandoned pirate ships at the depths of the ocean floor. The Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse has also witnessed its fair share of devastating shipwrecks…off the coast of Michigan. Located on Grand Island in Lake Superior, this rustic beaut is situated near a stretch of land so treacherous that it’s known as Michigan’s “Shipwreck Coast”.

The largest of the Great Lakes of North America, Lake Superior boasts 31,700 SF of surface area — and has a history that’s equally expansive. The indigenous Ojibwe’s name for the Lake translates to the “great sea,” and it’s not hard to understand why. Long before the Lighthouse’s 1868 construction, scores of Native Americans, explorers, and sailors had underestimated its tumultuous waters.

For centuries, roaring northern gales and unexpected waves tormented mariners who attempted to navigate through Lake Superior, causing hundreds of shipwrecks and giving credence to the coastline’s daunting nickname. But beginning with the 1848 construction of the nearby Whitefish Point Light Station, nine lighthouses were created to collectively warn waterbound travelers of the Lake’s power.

Among these was the Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse. Designed as a wood-frame building, the Lighthouse guided vessels past sand bars and beckoned them safely into the harbor of Munising, Michigan. It operated for nearly 50 years before it was deemed obsolete, due to the capacity of new range lights that had been built nearby.

Though the inside of the Lighthouse was abandoned, this proud structure never left its post. The original still stands today under the care of East Channel Lighthouse Rescue, a community group formed to save it from neglect. The group has pledged to maintain its rustic appearance, so passersby can continue to bear witness to this historic beacon, and honor its original lustre and shine.

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