There are few more beautiful or scenic landscapes in the Midwest than the northern part of Michigan's lower peninsula on the banks of Lake Huron. Here, the settlers who came from
northern Europe have retained much of their culture and made the region
appealing to visitors in search of quiet, unspoiled solitude.
Presque Isle, a thin strip of land along Lake Huron between Alpena and
Rogers City, boasts four unique sentinels in close proximity. The first is
Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, built in 1840, 'new' Presque Isle Lighthouse,
first lighted in 1870 and a pair of range towers complete the Presque Isle
sentinels. The approach was deemed so treacherous to mariners, that it is
said that many a captain chose not to enter the harbor when a "mean
Nor’wester was a-gusting."
Rather than make repairs to the first Presque Isle tower and keepers
quarters in the 1860s, the Lighthouse Board decided to remedy the needs at
Presque Isle by constructing a taller light at the tip of the peninsula
about a mile to the north. At the same time, the two range lights were
commissioned to guide vessels into the harbor itself.
The "new" Presque Isle light was authorized by President Abraham Lincoln,
and was slated to be more than twice the height of the old 38-foot tower.
Built on a slight rise at the new site, the sentinel stands 113 feet above
its surroundings today. Outfitted with a magnificent Third Order Fresnel
Lens, the beacon can be seen for more than 25 miles. It is still a vital
aid to navigation for commercial vessels heading to Lake Michigan and Lake
Superior, and the original lens remains in operation today.
The conical brick tower is painted white and the top of the lantern is
red. It has an attached, 1½ story Cape Cod keeper’s quarters that has been
restored and houses a museum and gift shop. A larger museum is located in
the old lighthouse, which was decommissioned in 1871 when the new sentinel
was lighted. The Fourth Order Lens once used in the older sentinel is on
For lighthouse enthusiasts, Presque Isle is a font of important lighthouse
and nautical history. There are few comparable areas where four sentinels
can be visited in an afternoon. The lore of the area is as rich as the
historic beacons themselves.
There are many stories from years ago of mysterious happenings and
sightings. Even today there have been strange occurrences reported. With
automation, there are no longer keepers on the premises, so it stands to
reason that the ghosts of keeper’s past might maintain a vigil on stormy
Autumn in the region is colorful and appropriately observed, so portraying
the New Presque Isle Light with a décor of bright pumpkins and the
presence of its "ghostly visitors" makes for a delightful interpretation.
This beautiful new addition celebrates more than a popular observance, it
pays homage to a heritage that lives on in an unspoiled, romantic
shoreline that is well off the beaten path.
For more information about the Presque Isle Lighthouses, contact the
Presque Isle Township Parks & Recreation Committee at (517) 595-2653.