Location: Lake Michigan
Coordinates: 45°47′10″N 85°5′28″W
Year first constructed: 1850
Year first lit: 1851
Foundation: Timber crib filled with stone/concrete
Construction: Brick encased with iron boilerplate
Height: 63 feet
Lens: Fourth order Fresnel
Light Distance: 16 miles
Light Character / Interval: Fixed white varied by white flash / 45 seconds
Nearby Lighthouses: White Shoal, Grey's Reef
Lighthouse Keepers: Click Here
This treacherous area of Lake Michigan was the location of the first Lightship, stationed on Waugoshance Shoal in 1832. It was used to help guide the many ships through the area, now known as Wilderness State Park. In 1851, the Lighthouse Board decided to replace the Lightship with Waugoshance Lighthouse. The crib was rebuilt with massive limestone blocks that are five and one half feet thick in 1867-70. A conical brick tower sits above the burned out shell of a round 2-story dwelling. The tower was encased in iron plates to protect the deteriorating bricks, but the iron work has fallen into Lake Michigan over the years.The lighthouse served until 1912, when its services were replaced by White Shoal Lighthouse to the north. In it’s glory the Waugoshance sported red and white horizontal stripes. Also, it has one of only three remaining “birdcage” lanterns left on the lakes and is considered one of the most endangered lighthouses in the world.
Waugoshance Lighthouse is also renown for a very haunting tale. During the 1800′s, it was kept by John Herman, a lighthouse keeper well known for his practical jokes and heavy drinking on the job. Legend has it that one night while in a stupor, he locked his assistant in the lantern room as a practical joke. When his assistant finally found his way out, Herman was no where to be found. Many believe he fell into the lake as he was never seen again. Future lightkeepers who knew the history, refused the assignment. Those that did, reported to have had their chairs kicked out from underneath them when they fell asleep. Strangely, one keeper reported that coal was shoveled into the boiler with no one around.
During World War II Waugoshance Point to the east along with the islands off the point and the abandoned lighthouse were designated as the Waugoshance Point Target and used for tactical bombing and strafing practice as well as for experimentation with, then a Top Secret program, involving radio controlled "drone" aircraft. Planes were flown out of the Naval Air Station at Traverse City (now Cherry Capital Airport). Evidence of this military usage can still be found in the area. Shell fragments and motor parts are occasionally uncovered. The fuselage of a target plane can be seen from the point parking lot. Since 1951, this area has been a nature wilderness reserve and study area.
Waugoshance Lighthouse Preservation Society was established in 1998 as a 501c3 non-profit organization. We are currently working to raise funds to stabilize the aging lighthouse structure and recently were transferred ownership from the United States General Services Administration to our grassroots non-profit. After 106 years the lighthouse has made the move from disposable government property back to its place as an architectural and historical monument of the Great Lakes.
Since we are a grassroots, volunteer-run organization with the limited budget, many items needed to help us preserve our lighthouse must either be donated or acquired. All donated items are subject to a tax deduction benefit on your behalf. Please get in touch if you have any of the items below, or know someone who might!
Official WLPS Lighthouse Tender
Since the lighthouse is only accessible by boat (or by snowmobile in the winter) we are in need of a boat that would allow us to make regular trips to the lighthouse to check on the security of the remaining structure and to ferry supplies. We suggest the tender be a safe open-water passage maker with a deep-v hull shape (18′ minimum) and be of aluminum construction. This boat will also need to be launched by a trailer.
Marine Safety Equipment
USCG approved lifejackets, flares, handheld VHF, etc.
Our board members are pleased to present programs on the history and restoration effort of the lighthouse to your school, historical society or tour group. Please contact us and include information regarding presentation date, group size and location.