Six Straits Area Lighthouses Welcome Summer Visitors

Michigan has more lighthouse than any other state (at nearly 120) and the Straits of Mackinac is home to more than a dozen of these historic navigational aids. Standing majestically against the backdrop of the Great Lakes, these lights remain a testament to the state’s early maritime history.

Throughout the Mackinaw City region, six of these lighthouses are open for public tours—including White Shoal and Spectacle Reef for the first time ever.

Public tours are also available throughout the summer inside these lights:

Other lighthouses in the area, viewable from the water, include:

Those who want to get out to see the off-shore lighthouses can make reservations for excursions offered through Shepler’s Ferry, including an “Eastbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Westbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Extended Eastbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Extended Westbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Evening Lighthouse Cruise” and “Les Cheneaux Lighthouse Experience.” Or, head further up the St. Mary’s River toward Sault Ste. Marie for even more lighthouse viewing aboard the Soo Locks Upper Lighthouse Cruise.

When visiting the marina in St. Ignace, also be on the lookout for this active light:

With so many lighthouses, you’ll certainly need several days to see them all. Makes plans for an overnight stay in Mackinaw City at, then begin mapping out your historic tour of the Straits Area historic beacons.

SAVE THE DATE: August 7 is National Lighthouse Day!

Snow Trekking in the Straits

According to, “From Europe to North America to Asia, people began using snowshoes over 4,000 years ago out of a basic need explore new territories and to find food in the winter…the great success of snowshoes for winter travel was first observed by European explorers with Northeastern tribes such as the Huron and Algonquin, which led subsequent trappers, hunters, and surveyors to adopt snowshoes as their own.”

Here in Michigan, early French explorers and missionaries are said to have learned of these winter accessories from the Native Americans who had been well established throughout the Great Lakes region. While today snowshoeing is more of a winter pastime, it was vital to survival here centuries ago.

Craig Wilson, historian with Mackinac State Historic Parks, created a short YouTube video which shares a bit more information: “Snowshoeing at the Straits of Mackinac”

In our modern era, Iverson’s has been handcrafting snowshoes in the Upper Peninsula village of Shingleton (115 miles from Mackinaw City) since 1954…celebrating 65 years in 2019.

“It started back in 1954 when Clarence Iverson began building his snowshoes for the State of Michigan,” according to the company’s website. “His premise was simple: reduce expended energy by walking on top of the snow, not through it. His designs provided maximum weight distribution for optimum flotation. News soon spread of the Iverson snowshoe, and demand expanded the company into the consumer market.

“Clarence was very picky. He only used the finest materials–premium Michigan White Ash, full grain rawhides, and pure copper hardware. These components are expensive, but well worth the cost when you find yourself in extreme conditions, or when it’s time to pass your Iverson’s on to the next generation.”

Today, Iverson’s handcrafts 17 models of snowshoes which can be purchased online or at retail outlets including The Locker Room in St. Ignace or Kings Fish Market in Naubinway (50 miles northwest of Mackinaw City, in the Upper Peninsula).

Michigan is home to thousands of miles of trails open to snowshoeing and according to the Michigan Department of Transportation, “you can snowshoe anywhere on state land that is open to the public,” but please, if you’re using trails groomed for cross country skiing walk net to the tracks so as to not disturb them for skiers.

So, where can you snowshoe in the Mackinaw City area?


Created in 1980, the longest hiking trail in the U.S. is managed by the National Park Service and passes through 10 National Forests, with some 800 miles in Michigan. The 46-mile section between Petoskey and Mackinaw City (which skirts the lakeshore through Harbor Springs, Good Hart and Cross Village) includes 14 miles of trails within Wilderness State Park. With varied terrain and four seasons of beauty, the trail is a popular route for snowshoers. The village of Mackinaw City is even one of the handful of “Trail Towns” throughout the state, offering a haven for recreationalists to relax before or after a day on the trail.


An Emmet County Park on the Straits of Mackinac, the Headlands property is made up of nearly 600 acres of forested lands, four miles of trails and two miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline including Michigan’s only Dark Sky Park. The trail network offers hours of inspiration among hardwoods and ferns in the warmer months, and spectacular snowshoeing throughout the winter. There is even a guided trek planned for Saturday, February 3 at 2pm.


Located along the shoreline southwest from downtown Mackinaw City, this state park boats over 20 miles of winter trails throughout the 10,000-acre wilderness, with over 26 miles of shoreline open for exploring. It is advisable to bring a compass since this State Park is, as its name implies, in the wilderness especially in the winter months. It is possible to get lost if you venture off the trails or if you get caught in a winter-time squall off Lake Michigan, and cell service is often limited.


While there is no access to the regular parking lot at this seasonal attraction, you can park near the entry area and access the hiking trails from there (at no charge). Situated on over 600 acres of beautiful forests, wildflowers and scenic views, this property has 1.5 miles of trails including a half-mile nature trail that borders the creek and passes two scenic overlooks from where the Straits of Mackinac and Mackinac Island can be viewed.


In addition to offering winter canoeing, kayaking or rafting trips down the Sturgeon River, this Indian River company (just 30 miles south of Mackinaw City) also offers snowshoe rentals for those looking to hit the trails or get off the beaten path.


Looking to keep warm while out on your trek? Be sure to outfit yourself in stylish hats, gloves and apparel (including the noted Mackinaw coat) made by Stormy Kromer (also a UP company). Read more in our Facebook Note: What is a Mackinaw? (including three local retailers who sell Stormy Kromer items).

NOTE: Saturday, January 11, 2020 is the 28th Annual “Pure Michigan Winter Trails Day” presented by the Great Lakes Winter Trails Council …a chance to get out and explore all that the state’s natural wonders have to offer!


Photo Source: Experience Michigan magazine.

Shedding Light on the Haunted Lighthouses Near Mackinaw City

Michigan is home to more than 120 lighthouses and the Straits of Mackinac boasts nearly two dozen of those lights—and a handful of THOSE are rumored to be haunted.

Among the most spirited beacon is the crumbling Waugoshance Shoal Light which stands in ruins off the coast near Wilderness State Park. Built in 1852 there are rumors that one man lost his life during the construction of the light—although no documentation can be found to verify this. Two keepers did lose their lives during their years of service here: Thomas Marshall in 1886 and John Herman in 1900.

A life-long bachelor, Herman had two loves in his life…alcohol and a good practical joke. As the story goes, on October 14 Herman was returning to the light from an all-night bender in Mackinaw City when he thought it would be funny to lock his assistant keeper in the tower. When the assistant was finally released (hours later, thanks to being “rescued” by another nearby keeper), he went in search of Herman to settle the score. But, the keeper was never found. It was commonly believed that he had fallen over the side of the crib and drowned. His body was never recovered, but for the next 10 years his spirit was known to harass other keepers at the light—knocking chairs out from underneath the men, rattling silverware in the drawers, shoveling coal into the fire and such. It became so bad that keepers refused service at this remote light.

Recent research however shed light on the REAL story behind Herman’s death. The 41-year-old had been on Mackinac Island that October under the care of a doctor. He actually died on October 14, 1900 of a heart attack. He was buried on the island, most likely in St. Anne’s Catholic Cemetery, although the location of his grave is unknown.

Casual accounts of ghosts have also been reported at McGulpin Point Lighthouse and St. Helena Island Lighthouse (located west of the Mackinac Bridge).

Heading down the Lake Huron coastline toward Alpena brings you to the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, which operated from 1840 to 1871. The first ghost encounters here date back to the early 1990s, after the civilian keeper George Parris passed away. His spirit was reported on more than one occasion by his wife, Lorraine, who stayed on for many years and who still lives in the area. Medium Tammy Schuster said she has also encountered a ghost while touring the lighthouse, but she believes it to be that of a man named Don S. Olds, who wrote a series of poems about the light during the 1930s. This light, as well as the New Presque Isle Lighthouse just north of it, operate as museums and are open seasonally. Distance to Presque Isle: 76 miles.

North over the Mackinac Bridge, you can head toward Lake Superior toward Point Iroquois Lighthouse and Whitefish Point Light Station, both with multiple tragedies and documented spirits.

The shoreline along Point Iroquois in Brimley was the site of a massive Native American massacre in 1662 and the spirits of those slain on that horrific day are among those who walk the rocky coast here. Then, in 1919, the SS Myron sank in a November storm taking the lives of all 17 crew (the only survivor was the captain, who floated in the pilot house to Canadian waters before being rescued). Perhaps the ghosts here belong to those lost seamen. Another ghost here is that of a child, encountered on at least one occasion by a paranormal who was visiting the light in the 1990s. Turns out a three-year-old girl was attacked and killed by a bear nearby in the summer of 1948. This lighthouse operates as a maritime museum and is open for seasonal tours (the grounds are open year-round). Distance to Point Iroquois: 59 miles.

Of course, the most noted incident in Paradise was the November 10, 1975 sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, just 15 miles from Whitefish Point. The entire crew of 29 were buried in the depths of Lake Superior that day, in an area known as “Shipwreck Alley” and the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes.” Several of Michigan’s nearly three dozen paranormal groups have visited this site and documented all kinds of activity.

There is even one video online which shows an apparition of a child scurrying across the doorway in one of the rooms in the lighthouse. It is believed the ghost is that of the Bertha Endress Rollo—granddaughter of one-time keeper Robert Carlson, captured in her upstairs bedroom. Robert and his wife, Anna Maria, served at several Great Lakes lighthouses including Marquette Harbor (which is also haunted by the ghost of a young girl, speculated to be that of Cecilia Carlson—Robert and Anna’s daughter (and Bertha’s mother). This lighthouse complex is operated by  the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society and is open for seasonal tours. Distance to Whitefish Point: 81 miles.

Following US2 west and then south to Gulliver is Seul Choix Point Lighthouse where Captain Joseph Willie Townshend makes his presence known quite regularly. He died at the light in 1910 of suspected lung cancer and to this day, the whiff of cigar smoke can be detected by visitors and volunteers at this remote light. He’s also been known to appear in the mirror of an upstairs bedroom or to move silverware around in the kitchen. As many as four other ghosts have been documented at this light, including two women, one other man and a child—Townshend’s granddaughter. This lighthouse is maintained by the Gulliver Historical Society and is open for seasonal tours. Distance to Seul Choix: 90 miles.

Interested in learning more about Michigan’s ghostly beacons? Check out Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses by Dianna Higgs Stampfler, released in March 2019 from The History Press / Arcadia Publishing.

Discovering Michigan’s Majestic Waterfalls

By definition, a waterfall is “a perpendicular or very steep descent of the water of a stream” or “a place where water flows over a vertical drop or a series of steep drops in the course of a stream or river.”

Many people think you need to be in the western United States to see waterfalls, but in fact, Michigan is home to more than 300—most of them in the wooded areas of the Upper Peninsula and easily accessible via a day trip from Mackinaw City.

Without question, the state’s largest and most noted waterfall is Tahquamenon Falls in Paradise just 80 miles from Mackinaw City. The centerpiece of the 50,000-acre Tahquamenon Falls State Park, the Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi with a drop of nearly 50 feet and more than 200 feet across with a water flow of more than 50,000 gallons per second.

The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which stretches for 42 miles along Lake Superior between Munising and Grand Marais in Alger County (120-130 miles from Mackinaw City) is home to several popular waterfalls. According to the National Park Service website, “most of the waterfalls in this area are the result of water running over a shelf or cliff of hard limey sandstone called the Au Train Formation. This geologic formation resists erosion better than the softer sandstone layers just below it.”

At Munising Falls you can walk the paved 800-foot trail up a shaded sandstone canyon along Munising Creek to the base of the falls, where two sets of stairs lead to platforms to view the 50-foot waterfall as it drops over a sandstone cliff.

The Miners Falls Nature Trail offers views of the Miners Basin and Miner Falls (pictured), which drops about 50 feet over a sandstone outcrop, creating the park’s most powerful waterfall. There are 64 steps down to the lower viewing platform at the falls.

Bridalveil Falls is viewed best from the water, but can be seen at a distance from the lower Miners Castle overlook or from the west end of Miners Beach.

Located about one mile west of Grand Marais, on Alger County Road H-58. Sable Falls tumbles 75 feet over several cliffs of Munising and Jacobsville sandstone formations on its way to Lake Superior. The first viewing platform is down a long staircase of 169 steps. The trail continues past the falls for about a half-mile down to a rock beach where Sable Creek flows into Lake Superior.

Spray Falls plunges about 70 feet over the Pictured Rocks cliffs directly into Lake Superior. This remote waterfall is best viewed from the water as there is limited viewing access from the North Country Trail. The 1856 shipwreck “Superior” lies at the base of the falls in 20 feet of water.

Laughing Whitefish Falls is considered by many to be the most spectacular of Michigan’s falls. The falls cascade through a picturesque gorge with old growth white pine and hemlock towering above. The falls can be reached by a moderate (.6 mile) hike through beech-maple forest.

Ocqueoc Falls, along the Ocqueoc River, is the only recognized waterfall in Michigan’s lower peninsula. It is also the only universally-accessible waterfall in the United States. Located 46 miles southeast of Mackinaw City (between Cheboygan and Rogers City in Presque Isle County), Ocquoec also provides approximately six miles of hiking and biking, along three marked loops. You can even swim in the falls, where the Ocqueoc River has cut a channel through the limestone bedrock that underlays the entire region.

Please use caution while hiking to waterfalls. Stay on the trails and watch for uneven footing.

Celebrate National Bike Month (May) in the Straits Area

Whether you are a fan of road biking or trail riding, the Straits Area of Michigan offers some of the state’s greatest cycling opportunities.

Because of the area’s low traffic volume and great scenery, there is an abundance of great road routes. A good source of information about these routes can be found by referring to Michigan Department of Transportation’s Road and Trail Biking Maps. The maps can be viewed on line, purchased through the website, or picked up at various locations including most chamber and visitor bureau offices and at the Top of Michigan Trails Council’s office in Petoskey (1687 M 119).

The U.S. Bicycle Route System includes two important routes in the Straits area. This is a national network of regionally and nationally significant bicycling routes spanning multiple states. The purpose of the U.S. Bicycle Route (USBR) numbering system is to facilitate travel between states on road routes identified as suitable for long-distance cycling. U.S. Bicycle Route 10 is a 193-mile route that connects St. Ignace and Iron Mountain in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The route utilizes the wide paved shoulders along US-2. U.S. Bicycle Route 35 is a 500-mile route that runs from Indiana through Michigan to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, generally following the Lake Michigan shoreline and through the eastern Upper Peninsula.

Mackinac Island is a great place to cycle and is only a ferry ride away from either Mackinaw City or St. Ignace. The ride around the island is eight miles, and the paved road borders the water nearly all the way. The interior of the island with its Victorian homes and great vistas is open to cycling, but there are substantial hills to climb to get there. It’s a pleasure to road ride without the worry of automobile traffic, which is not permitted on the island.

Michigan’s two peninsulas can be toured on bicycle with connection by ferry to and off Mackinac Island or by use of the Mackinac Bridge. Bicycles are not permitted to ride on the bridge, but the Mackinac Bridge Authority will transport cyclists across one of their official vehicles for a fee of $2.00 per bicycle). If you are traveling northbound, there is a phone at the south end of the bridge to call for a pickup. If you are southbound, go to the service window in the administration building and ask for assistance.

In addition to road riding in and near St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula, the St. Ignace to Trout Lake Trail runs 26 miles. The surface is unimproved which means the trail can best be navigated with a mountain bike.

Rail trails offer cyclists a safe way to pedal off-road to access scenic spots and to travel from one community to another in the Straits area. Michigan has more rail trails than any other state in the US—2,439 miles. Of those miles, many are in the Straits area, including three great trails within the trail network of Top of Michigan Trails Council (TOMTC). These compacted crushed limestone trails can be navigated with any bike, with the exception of road bikes with thin tires.

The North Central State Trail runs 16 miles from Mackinaw City to Cheboygan, then 48 miles from Cheboygan to Gaylord. The North Eastern State Trail connects Cheboygan to Alpena (70 miles). The North Western State Trail, the newest of Northern Michigan’s rail trails, runs from Mackinaw City to M 119 just north of Petoskey (32 miles). These rail trails are compacted crushed limestone with the exception of eight miles of asphalt paved trail from Alanson to M 119. At M 119 you can ride seven miles north to Harbor Springs or south 19 miles through Petoskey to Charlevoix on the Little Traverse Wheelway, a paved asphalt trail with a total distance of 26 miles.

Maps of these trails are available at the TOMTC office (near the intersection of the North Western State Trail and the Little Traverse Wheelway). Maps are also available in most area chamber and visitor bureau offices. They can also be found at the organization’s website:

This summary was prepared by the Top of Michigan Trails Council, whose mission is to advocate for trails in the Northern Lower Peninsula. TOMTC will host their second annual “Lake to Lake Tour” utilizing their trail network to facilitate pedaling from Lake Huron (Alpena) to Lake Michigan (Petoskey). This tour will take place September 14-16. The Trails Council also will host a Festival of Races (marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K) on Saturday, May 26. These running races will take place on the Little Traverse Wheelway. For more information about these events, or to learn more about the work of TOMTC, email or call (231) 348-8280.

PHOTO SOURCE: Michigan Traveler.