The Round Island Light
is a lighthouse
located on the east shore of Round Island
in the shipping lanes of the Straits of Mackinac
, which connect Lake Michigan
and Lake Huron
. Because of its color scheme and form -- red stone base and wood tower -- it has been likened to an old-fashioned schoolhouse. Ferries
regularly pass it on their way to (and from) Mackinac Island
, and it is a recognizable icon of the upper Great Lakes
The Round Island Light was built of painted brick
in 1895 by a predecessor agency of the United States Coast Guard
. It served as an active, manned lighthouse and fog signal in 1895-1947. It was abandoned in 1947 and replaced by an automated light tower located in the adjacent Round Island Channel
. In abandonment, the light tower deteriorated at the hands of salvagors and vandals. The structure's deterioration neared the point of no return in 1972
when a storm caused a corner of the light tower to collapse.
This event spurred preservation efforts. Round Island Light was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in September 1974, and was added to the list of registered Michigan historic sites in 1978 (see below). Emergency work to stabilize the light tower structure was conducted in the 1970s, but the light tower remained gutted and inoperative. Restoration work was conducted in 1995 by the Friends of the Round Island Lighthouse and led by the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association (GLLKA), aided by Boy Scouts of America Troup 323. The work was partially funded by the state of Michigan, with the help of funds from a special license plate developed by the state to raise donations for lighthouse restoration. As a result of the success of this restoration work, the Coast Guard granted permission to relight the Round Island Light. The light was relit in 1996.
The Round Island Light is a registered Michigan historic site and is the focus of an official Michigan Historical Marker erected in 1978, Registered Site No. L0107. The text of the marker notes:
- The Round Island Lighthouse, seen south of this site, was completed in 1895. Operating under the auspices of the United States Government, this facility was in continuous use for fifty-two years. It was manned by a crew of three until its beacon was replaced by an automated light in 1924. A sole caretaker occupied and operated the station from 1924 to 1947. Following the construction of a new automatic beacon near the breakwater off the south shore of Mackinac Island, the lighthouse was abandoned. The United States Forest Service now supervises the structure which is located in the Hiawatha National Forest. The lighthouse serves as a sentinel for the past, reminding visitors of the often precarious sailing and rich history of the Straits of Mackinac.
Because Round Island is not accessible to most visitors, the "Round Island Lighthouse" historical marker is located on Biddle's Point on nearby Mackinac Island, within easy view of the light tower.
A private boat is, of course, the best way to see this light close up. Short of that, Sheplers Ferry Service out of Mackinaw City offers periodic lighthouse cruises in the summer season. Its "Eastbound Tour" includes passes by Round Island Light, Bois Blanc Island and Light, Poe Reef light and Fourteen Foot Shoal Light. Schedules and rates are available from Shepler's.
Round Island Light is one of 149 lighthouses in Michigan. Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state. See Lighthouses in the United States.
Light in popular culture
It was prominently featured in the 1982 movie Somewhere in Time
Because of its picturesque color and form, and its location near Mackinac Island (in the path of passing ferries) and the Mackinac Bridge, it is often the subject of photographs, and drawings. Even needlepoint illustrations have been created.
A children's book written by Robert A. Lytle is titled Mackinac Passage: Mystery at Round Island Light (Paperback) ISBN 0971269238; ISBN 978-0971269231.
- Aerial photos, Round Island Light, marinas.com.
- Brisson, Steven C. (Mackinac State Historic Parks chief curator), "A brief history of Old Mackinac Point Light," Mackinac Parks.
- Aerial photo of Round Island Light.
- Detroit News, Interactive map on Michigan lighthouses.
- The Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association.
- Harbour lights on Round Island Light.
- Lighthouse Central, Photographs, History, Directions and Way points for Round Island Light, The Ultimate Guide to Upper Michigan Lighthouses by Jerry Roach (Publisher: Bugs Publishing LLC - 2007). ISBN 978-0-9747977-2-4.
- Lighthouse Digest, Upper Peninsula Lighthouses, Round Island Light (University of North Carolina).
- Lighthouses in the Mackinac Straits.
- Map of lighthouses in northern Lake Michigan.
- Map of Michigan Lighthouse in PDF Format
- National Park Service , Maritime Heritage Program, Inventory of Historic Lights, Round Island light.
- Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Round Island Light.
- Postcard (old) of Round Island Light.
- U.S. Coast Guard 's complete list of Michigan lights with photographs and descriptions, including Round Island Light.
- Volume 7, US Coast Guard Lightlist (PDF).
- U.S. Lighthouses, Round Island Light.
- West Michigan Tourist Association, Round Island light.
- Wobser, David, Boatnerd.com on Round Island Light, with links to pictures.
Bibliography and further reading
- "A Tour of the Lights of the Straits." Michigan History 70 (Sep/Oct 1986), pp. 17-29.
- Bibliography on Michigan lighthouses.
- Brisson, Steven C. (Mackinac State Historic Parks chief curator). Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse: A History & Pictorial Souvenir (1/29/2008).
- Crompton, Samuel Willard & Michael J. Rhein, The Ultimate Book of Lighthouses (2002) ISBN 1592231020; ISBN 978-1592231027.
- Hyde, Charles K., and Ann and John Mahan. The Northern Lights: Lighthouses of the Upper Great Lakes. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1995. ISBN 0814325548; ISBN 9780814325544.
- Jones, Ray & Bruce Roberts, American Lighthouses (Globe Pequot, September 1, 1998, 1st Ed.) ISBN 0762703245; ISBN 978-0762703241.
- Jones, Ray,The Lighthouse Encyclopedia, The Definitive Reference (Globe Pequot, January 1, 2004, 1st ed.) ISBN 0762727357; ISBN 978-0762727353.
- Noble, Dennis, Lighthouses & Keepers: U. S. Lighthouse Service and Its Legacy (Annapolis: U. S. Naval Institute Press, 1997). ISBN 1557506388; ISBN 9781557506382.
- Oleszewski, Wes, Great Lakes Lighthouses, American and Canadian: A Comprehensive Directory/Guide to Great Lakes Lighthouses, (Gwinn, Michigan: Avery Color Studios, Inc., 1998) ISBN 0-932212-98-0.
- Penrod, John, Lighthouses of Michigan, (Berrien Center, Michigan: Penrod/Hiawatha, 1998) ISBN 9780942618785; ISBN 9781893624238.
- Penrose, Laurie and Bill, A Traveler’s Guide to 116 Michigan Lighthouses (Petoskey, Michigan: Friede Publications, 1999). ISBN 0923756035; ISBN 9780923756031
- Pepper, Terry Seeing the Light: Lighthouses on the western Great Lakes. .
- Putnam, George R., Lighthouses and Lightships of the United States, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1933).
- Wagner, John L. Beacons Shining in the Night: The Lighthouses of Michigan. Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University. .
- Wagner, John L., Michigan Lighthouses: An Aerial Photographic Perspective, (East Lansing, Michigan: John L. Wagner, 1998) ISBN 1880311011; ISBN 9781880311011.
- Wargin, Ed, Legends of Light: A Michigan Lighthouse Portfolio (Ann Arbor Media Group, 2006). ISBN 9781587262517.
- Wright, Larry and Wright, Patricia, Great Lakes Lighthouses Encyclopedia Hardback (Erin: Boston Mills Press, 2006) ISBN 1550463993.
- United States Coast Guard, Aids to Navigation, (Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1945).
- United States Coast Guard, Aids to Navigation Historical Bibliography.