Digest>Archives> May/Jun 2012

New Event! The First Annual Michigan West Coast Lighthouse Festival


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Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Ludington, Michigan. ...
Photo by: Sandy Clement

The Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association (SPLKA) is hosting Michigan’s first lighthouse festival to be held on the western side of the state that borders Lake Michigan and they are inviting you to join in the fun.

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Dawn’s early light at Big Sable Point Lighthouse ...
Photo by: Ceil Heller

The event, to be held on Saturday, June 2nd and Sunday, June 3rd, will include open towers at five lighthouses that will be open for extended hours to accommodate visitors and will even include, for those who so desire and register ahead of time, a guided charter bus tour that will transport guests to the four lighthouses under the auspices of SPLKA, or a five hour boat trip, or just tour on your own.

The event will include live music, an artisan craft fair, down-town historic homes tour, entertainment at the lights, children’s arts and crafts, chalk art contests, and activities for the entire family.

The event will offer opportunities to visit the spectacular Big Sable and Little Sable Lighthouses (both boasting over 100 foot tall towers) and climb the Ludington North Breakwater Lighthouse and the White River Lighthouse Station. Cindy Beth Davis-Dykema, Executive Director of SPLKA said, “This will be an excellent, fun, as well as educational, opportunity to take in the view from two of the tallest lighthouses in Michigan, visit the rarely open Manistee Pier Lighthouse and take advantage of transportation out to the remote Big Sable Point Lighthouse, and enjoy a slice of West Michigan maritime history as our shoreline communities celebrate ‘Maritime Magic’ on the white, sandy beaches of Lake Michigan.”

Big Sable Point Lighthouse

Nestled among jack pines, just a quick two-mile walk along a breathtaking trail, stands Big Sable’s noble black and white tower. At over one hundred feet tall, this historic beacon is a huge attraction for its owner, Ludington State Park. The1867 lighthouse and grounds are operated by SPLKA, a non-profit which proudly manages four historic lighthouses within a thirty mile stretch of Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Since 1987, their mission has been the restoration, preservation, education, and accessibility of their lighthouse charges. SPLKA also operates a Volunteer Keepers program which allows its members the opportunity to live and work within the lighthouses completely free of charge during the six month season, May-October. Visitors are welcome to explore the grounds, tour the original Keeper’s Quarters which have been converted into a Gift Shop, stroll along the sand dunes, or climb the tower.

Ludington North Breakwater Light

Just down the shore from Big Sable stands the Ludington North Breakwater lighthouse, another charge of SPLKA’s and a partner with the City of Ludington. This 1924 light is also open for tours and tower climbs and boasts a vibrant green light from its tower. The Breakwater lighthouse is at the end of a half-mile walk down the pier, and is exquisite in its design. Volunteer Keepers are welcome at this light as well, and enjoy living accommodations just within Ludington State Park.

Little Sable Lighthouse

Just south of Ludington is a magical world of seventy-foot sand dunes and evergreen forests. Here, burrowed amidst the Silver Lake State Park sand dunes, stands the spectacular Little Sable Point Lighthouse. Easily the busiest of these four lights, the 1874 tower stands alone at the edge of Lake Michigan, over a hundred feet tall and still harboring its original 3rd order Fresnel lens. In 2010, thanks to a Federal Coastal Zone Management grant, the Pathways to Illumination project was completed. This well-paved pathway leads through what once was a steep dune climb that inhibited many visitors from making it to the light. Here you’ll again find friendly SPLKA Volunteer Keepers welcoming you to climb the tower and take in the extraordinary views of forest and dunes that surround you. Educational tours are free to school and civic groups and are available by appointment. Groups are warmly received by staff and volunteers who love to share their Michigan maritime knowledge!

White River Light Station

New to SPLKA in 2012, is the picturesque and charming White River Light Station, built in 1875 by Captain William Robinson. Captain Robinson and his family served as the keepers at White River for 47 years, making him one of the eldest keepers in the State of Michigan. The White River Light Station now serves as a physical reminder of the rich nautical history of West Michigan. The lighthouse has been converted to a museum and opens to the public annually, June-October. Plan a visit to the museum and climb the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse tower, browse the many 19th and early 20th century photographs, and examine the collection of nautical artifacts, look out across Lake Michigan as the lighthouse keeper did a century ago.

This story appeared in the May/Jun 2012 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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