News from the Greater Munising Area: A day trip to Au Sable Light Station
Although scattered clouds threatened rain, it wasn’t projected in the forecast. Now we’ve all been fooled before by the sporadic weather in the Upper Peninsula, but this time was not like the others.
It was a Sunday afternoon, overcast yet warm – a perfect day for an adventure. So, I packed a bag with several layers to prepare for the ever-changing temps and hit the open road. Dog friendly places are a must on such excursions and fortunately, there are several options in the area where my pal can tag along, including, but not limited to our destination: the Au Sable Light Station.
There’s something daunting yet romantic about lighthouses and I had never visited this one before. Surprising, as I’ve lived in the U.P. most of my life, but amazing most of all how there’s still so much to see in this peninsula.
There’s a 1.5-mile gravel trail to Au Sable Light Station, which is located near the mouth of the Hurricane River off Highway 58 – the scenic thoroughfare through the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 12 miles west of Grand Marais. The trail is a former access road that was created by the U.S. Coast Guard many years ago. There are paths to the beach below the trail where you can find remnants of old shipwrecks along the shoreline.
Lake Superior was feisty this particular day with powerful waves crashing along the beach. Though unforgiving when immersed in its wicked pull, I feel at peace when the cool water splashes against my skin from the safety of its shores.
Tall pines and birch trees hover along the path to the light station and unravel at the entrance of the grounds where the splendid 86-foot lighthouse is revealed. Built in the early 1870s, the lighthouse tower’s base diameter is 16 feet and the lens focal plane is 107 feet above lake level. A brick oil building and fog signal building were built in the 1890s. The lighthouse keepers’ dwelling is also found on the grounds.
“The original keepers’ dwelling was attached to the light tower in the back. In 1909, a new residence was built for the head keeper and the existing building expanded so it could accommodate two assistant keepers and their families, the website. One family lived upstairs and one downstairs, with separate entrances. In 1945 the U.S. Coast Guard took over, replacing the civilian keepers,” the National Park Service website says. “A third-order Fresnel lens reflected the first light, which was fueled initially by lard oil and then by kerosene. The fixed white beam could be seen 17 miles out on the lake. The lighthouse became fully automated in 1958 and transferred from the USCG to the National Park Service in 1968.”
Tours of the Au Sable Light Station are generally held seasonally, but due to COVID-19, they were cancelled this year. I’m already looking forward to visiting another time once the NPS tours are offered again.
Editor’s note: Jaymie Depew is the communications and special project assistant for the Alger County Chamber of Commerce/Greater Munising Bay Partnership for Commerce Development, Munising Downtown Development Authority and Munising Visitors Bureau.