Middle Island Light

Middle Island is a small island, halfway between Kelley's Island and Pelee Island, in the middle of Lake Erie. It is the southern-most point in Canada.

The southernmost point of Middle Island is at a latitude of North 4140'53". Twenty-seven U.S. states lie all or partly north of this point, as does Rome, Italy. Thirteen states are entirely north of this latitude (Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Michigan, Maine, Wisconsin, Oregon, South Dakota, New Hampshire and Vermont)

It once was the site of a lighthouse, built in 1872 and deactivated in 1918. The cost of the new lighthouse was $5,748. It was exhibited for the first time on September 17, 1872. The 49-foot pyramidal square tower burned sometime after 1955, but its stone foundation is visible.

Although situated in Canadian waters, Middle Island was, for many years, under private American ownership. In July 1999, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, with the support of Parks Canada and other contributors, purchased Middle Island at an auction in Cleveland, Ohio, for $1.3 million (CDN). The island was then donated to the Canadian national park system on September 6, 2000, and is part of the Point Pelee National Park of Canada.

Middle Island's infamy grew during Prohibition, when underworld booze runners turned the quiet isle into a hub for smuggling beer and liquor into Ohio from Canada. Gangster Joe Roscoe built a small, seven-bedroom hotel there with a casino in its basement.

When Prohibition ended in 1933, the mansion was converted into a hotel and during summer months drew up to 200 visitors a day to the island via tour boat or airplane. The hotel's kitchen boasted the finest pheasant dinners in the region. At one time a stately mansion adorned the island as well and after Prohibition, it was rumored to be a brothel.

Unfortunately, today neither the hotel, the mansion nor the lighthouse exist. Only a few stone remnants remain of each. Prior to 1950, an airstrip ran the length of Middle Island, with its start and end being in the water. The runaway has long been overgrown with vegetation and shows no sign of having been there.

The small, uninhabited island, to the southwest of Pelee Island, and can be seen from the beach at Fish Point. It is an important stop in birds' and butterflies' migration routes. Cormorants, birds that resemble black ducks, nest on the island in high numbers. The island is blanketed in Double-crested Cormorants, at least during the breeding season. These birds defend their nests up in the trees by vomiting rotting fish and any other gross, recently ingested item onto intruders!!

During the last decade no improvements have made to the island and, except for a cormorant cull in 2007, it is now a nature preserve. Officially, Middle Island is not open to visitors and its only inhabitants other than cormorants are ghosts from the past.


Click on image to enlarge

March, 1955 by Ronnie Beatty
courtesy Bruce Beatty

Location: Lake Erie, between Kelley's Island and Pelee Island
Date Built: 1872
Active: No longer exists

Open to

No. Gone except foundation. Wildlife preserve.


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