South Manitou Island Light
By Dave Wobser

Located on the south end of South Manitou Island, to mark the southern entrance into the Manitou Passage, between the islands and the Michigan shore.

The Manitou Passage is a protect passage on the route between Chicago and the Straits of Mackinaw. It has been an important area since the early 1800’s. South Manitou Island has one of the few deep water harbors on the route and served as a re-fueling station for early steamers that burned hardwood for fuel. The island was an important source of hardwood fuel for lake steamers and the natural harbor is a refuge for ships.

The first lighthouse was built here in 1839 and the two-story existing dwelling was built in 1858. The present tower was built in 1871 to replace a shorter 1858 tower. The white, conical brick tower is 104 feet tall, topped by a black iron lantern room and walkway. The tower is a typical Poe-style tower noted for the four arched windows under the gallery and wrought-iron brackets supporting the gallery.

The station was decommissioned in 1958 and the lantern room is empty. Tower is open to climb on National Park Service tour.

South Manitou Island is part of the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, and is reached by ferry from Leeland, Michigan. The ferry makes one round trip per day, and overnight camping is permitted on the island. The only wheeled vehicles on the island are the guided tour vehicles of the National Park Service. The trip to South Manitou is worth the days time it takes. In addition to the lighthouse, there are buildings remaining from the South Manitou Life Saving station and other remains from the island’s heyday as a port.

Click on image to enlarge

Photograph by Dave Wobser

2006 Views by Jim Lindholm

Location: South Manitou Island, Michigan
Date Built: 1858
Active: Yes

Open to

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