Visiting the remote Crisp Point Lighthouse in Michigan's Upper Peninsula long had a place on my bucket list.
I remembered hearing about an incident where two women decided to visit the place during a snowy April and became stranded along to road out to it, living for two weeks on Girl Scout cookies, cheese puffs and snow melt until someone finally found them!
Yup. Definitely sounded like our type of place!
Driving out to Crisp Point on a sunny summer day was definitely a far safer time to try the trip, and while the place was beautiful enough to allow me to capture the image that won me an "end-of-year" award from my local camera club, there is good reason that the lighthouse is pretty much only open seasonally!
The lighthouse's seasonal closing came about two weeks on October 29 as I searched through my images and memories to produce this story and remind myself again why we love visiting Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
The lighthouse sits on a stretch of Lake Superior beach that gained a reputation as part of the "Shipwreck Coast" during the early 1800s.
Remember folksinger Gordon Lightfoot's sad song relating the story of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975 in a particularly remote area?
Well, that maritime tragedy took place just 17 miles northeast of Crisp Point!
Crisp Point is also 37 miles north of Newberry, 14.5 miles west of Whitefish Point or 26 miles from Tahquamenon Falls State Park. It takes about 45 minutes to drive from the falls to Crisp Point on a sunny summer day. The drive turns off of highway M-123 at CR 500 before veering right and going 11.6 miles on Luce County Road 412 before another 6.5-mile ride through the Lake Superior State Forest that ends at the lighthouse.
The lighthouse grounds are always open, but the county does not plow CR412 during the winter months.
The visitor center (with bathrooms) does not stay open during the winter. There is an emergency phone at Crisp Point year-round, but getting a cell phone signal can prove difficult.
If you're not in the mood for getting stuck without phone service or maybe not even seeing anyone except for the occasional snowmobiler, summer and early fall will be the best time to visit the lighthouse!
Crisp Point was originally one of five U.S. Life-saving stations along the coast of Lake Superior between Munising and Whitefish Point operating during the last 25 years of the 1800s.
Boatman Christopher Crisp became keeper of the life-saving station (then called Life-Saving Station #10) in 1878. Station #10 became Crisp Point in 1883, and Crisp remained in command there until 1890.
Increased maritime traffic in the area led calls for a lighthouse at Crisp Point by 1896.
Congress fielded requests for the lighthouse every year until approving the money for it in 1902
Congress allocated $18,000 for the lighthouse construction in 1902 spent $30 for the 15-acre site for the light tower in 1903.
By 1904, a fog signal building and lighthouse stood on the site.
The lighthouse had a 58-foot-high tower equipped with a red fourth-order Fresnel lens from nearby Devil's Island that beamed out 15 miles over the lake.
The campus soon included the life-saving station and living quarters, a brick keepers' and assistant keepers' dwelling with a basement, the brick fog signal building, an oil house set away from the home, two frame barns, a boathouse, landing and a tramway to help launch surf boats.
The lighthouse was electrified and automated in 1941 to save money. By 1947, improved radio and radio technology allowed the Coast Guard to deactivate the station, and they turned the site over to the U.S. Department of Interior in 1960.
Deterioration and vandalism caused the buildings led the Coast Guard to demolish all of the structures except for the light tower and an attached service room in 1965.
Deterioration caused by the elements took a toll on the site by the 1990s when Lake Superior began to lap at the base of the tower, causing some fear that the tower might collapse.
Concerned preservationists and history buffs formed the Crisp Point Light House Society (CPLHS) in 1991 as the Coast Guard moved to decommission the light tower and turn the property over to Luce County by 1993.
The society began leasing the site and raising money for projects like the $42,000 they spent on erosion abatement in 1998. The group also cleaned, stabilized, painted the tower and built walkways to help stop further erosion at the site.
In 2009, the CPLHS began construction on a new visitors' center at Crisp Point to house displays and a gift shop to help raise money for continued repairs and maintenance.
Crisp Point supporters received a permit as a private aide to navigation in 2012.In 2013, a 300mm plastic LED marine lens in the tower, using battery and solar power, began shining each year from May 1 through November 1.
Today, close to 25,000 visitors see Crisp Point Light each year.
Volunteers serve as light keepers from June through October while visitors enjoy activities like photography, hunting for agates, watching freighters or climbing the 62 steps to enjoy the view from the top of Crisp Point's tower.
And what became of Christopher Crisp, the original life-saving station keeper at the site?
Check out this story about folks from California who sought out his nearly forgotten grave site in 2011 near Los Angeles and seeing the grave stone literally uncovered.
Having a good map with you might be a good idea when you visit Crisp Point! Check out the Michigan Lighthouse Fold Map (published in 2016) or the latest edition of Delorme's Michigan Atlas & Gazetteer.
© Dominique King 2016 All rights reserved