St. Clair Flats South Channel Range Lights
By Colt Edin and Neil Schultheiss

Lake St. Glair has two lighthouse structures built before Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States. They still stand today just off the southeastern tip of Harsens Island.

Construction of the Old South Channel Range Lights started in 1855 and finished in 1859. These lights guided ships into the fresh water delta once known as the Venice of America.

The front light began to lean in 1875 and was dismantled and rebuilt on the same stone and timber crib that it had been built on originally. It has remained but is again leaning and in very bad condition from erosion of the base.

In 1871 the St. Clair Cut Off Channel was dredged allowing some of the high volume of shipping traffic to by pass the South Channel. Improvements to the Cut Off Channel in 1907 made the South Channel Obsolete.

A group was formed to save the lights. Save Our South Channel Lights is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that was formed to accomplish this. In 1990, the group placed a steel cell around the base, reinforced and filled it with limestone for temporary support until a permanent seawall could be built. In the fall of 1996, a permanent seawall was completed around the front light island.

The rear light was built on the same type of crib but has weathered the elements over the years. There was a large keeper's house on the island surrounding the light that was taken down in the early 1930's. Vandalism has played a part in the overall deterioration and, combined with age and the elements, the rear light is also in need of major foundation work.

The lights have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. These lighthouses that were seemingly doomed in the mid 1980's are now in good and able hands.

Click on image to enlarge

Photograph S.O.S. Channel Lights Association

2006 Photos showing restoration progress - Herm Klein

Click images for larger view

2008 Photos by John VanProeyen

Rear Light tower         Front Light tower

Location: Lake St. Clair, Michigan
Date Built: 1859
Active: No

Open to


Restoration by the S.O.S Channel Lights

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