Poe Reef Light
By Dave Wobser

Built in 1929, about 2 miles off shore of Cheboygan, Michigan in Lake Huron, to mark a dangerous shallow area. The light is located in the South Channel that is used by ships passing between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The channel runs between Bois Blanc Island and the Michigan mainland.

The reef was formerly marked by four different lightships beginning in 1893. The lightships were NO. 62, NO. 59, NO. 96, and NO. 99. Poe Reef is one of two reefs that provide hazardous passage through the South Channel. The other is Fourteen Foot Shoal.

A 25-foot square, 3-story building topped by a smaller, square fourth story, sitting on a 64-foot square concrete pier. The first level is painted black, the second and third painted white, and the fourth level is black.

The Fifth Order Fresnel lens has a focal plane 71 feet above Lake Huron, and is housed in a red roof lantern.

The station is identical to Martin Reef Lighthouse which was built in 1927, except that Martin Reef has an all white paint job. The same crew that built Martin Reef built Poe Reef light.

Prior to automation, the crew of the Poe Reef Light operated the Spectacle Reef Light by radio control.

The light is visible from Gordon Turner Park, in Cheboygan, Michigan, at the mouth of the Cheboygan River, but is best viewed form a private boat.

This light was one of eight designed by General Orlando M. Poe.


Who was this person, Orlando M. Poe, who designed and built so many Great Lakes lighthouses?

Orlando Metcalfe Poe was a native of Navarre, Ohio, born in 1832. He graduated from the Military Academy at West Point in 1856. Poe served as a surveyor and engineer to several units during the Civil War. He was General Sherman’s Chief Engineer during Sherman’s ‘March To The Sea’. After the end of the war, Poe remained with Sherman as an engineering aid.

Poe was named District Engineer for the Eleventh Lighthouse District, in 1890, and during the next ten years he designed the eight lighthouse towers that honor his name. They are located at Presque Isle (1870) on Lake Huron, on Lake Michigan’s South Manitou Island (1872), Grosse Point (1873) in Evanston, Illinois, Au Sable (1874) on Lake Superior, Wind Point (1880) near Racine, Wisconsin; Outer Island (1874) in the Apostle Islands, Little Sable (1874) on Lake Michigan, and Seul Choix near Manistique, Michigan which was not completed until 1895.

In addition to the eight familiar "Poe-Style" lighthouses, he also designed the Spectacle Reef Light in northern Lake Huron.

In 1883, Colonel Poe was made Superintending Engineer of the Soo Canal. The first Poe Lock was built by Poe, but not completed until 1896 after his death, was named for him, as was the second Poe Lock built in 1968.

Poe died in Detroit on October 2, 1895, before completion of the first Poe Lock, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Click on image to enlarge

Photograph by Dave Wobser

Location: Cheboygan, Michigan
Date Built: 1929
Active: Yes

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