Point Iroquois Lighthouse
at the Entrance to the St. Mary's River and the Soo Locks.

This lighthouse stands watch where Lake Superior begins its treacherous rush into the St.lighthouse Mary's River. The Ojibwa Indians massacred a group of invading Iroquois warriors at this location in 1662, giving the point its original Indian name. It was noted by the early explorers, but did not become significant until the St. Mary's Falls Ship Canal opened in 1855.

Ships passing from Lake Superior into the canal came close to Point Iroquois, through a narrow passage between the sandy shores on the American side and the reefs on the Canadian side.

The original Congressional appropriation of 1853, provided $5,000 to build a light either at Point Iroquois or on an unspecified island in Lake Michigan near the Straits of Mackinac. The Lighthouse Board decided that the Lake Superior light was more urgent and a simple wooden house with an attached tower was completed in 1855.

The Point Iroquois Light was first illuminated in 1857 and its Fourth Order Fresnel lens shone over one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world: the entrance to the St. Mary's River and the Soo Locks. Point Iroquois became busier with each passing year, and the personnel and facilities required to run the station grew accordingly. In 1870 the house and tower were completely rebuilt, and in 1902, a two-story rectangular brick house was added to the residence to provide housing for the assistant keeper at a total cost of $18,000.

keepers dwellingThere was a group of children at the station and the government sponsored a school at the point. The children of local fishermen also came here to school, so the point became a meeting place for local residents. One of the children who spent nearly all of her childhood at the Point Iroquois Lighthouse was Betty Byrnes Bacon, and she later wrote a wonderful narrative of her life at the point, Lighthouse Memories: Growing Up at Point Iroquois in the 1920s. Betty's story is so descriptive that you are constantly reminded that this was not only an official facility, with all of its rules and regulations, but also an old fashioned homestead, where residents had to preserve food, chop wood, and pump up cold water to be heated for baths in front of the fire.

For over 100 years the Point Iroquois Light performed its duties, but in 1962 its light was extinguished in favor of a beacon farther out in the water.

Today, the lighthouse and 65 foot tower have been renovated thanks to the cooperative efforts of the Bay Mills / Brimley Historical Research Society and the National Forest Service. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The lighthouse, now a part of the Hiawatha National Forest, rests on a bluff above Lake Superior, wooden walkways lead to the beach, and the shore here is littered with unusual driftwood and banded agates. The large two-story house is white, with a red roof sloping over all the gables and additions. The attached brick tower, also white, is topped with a black parapet and lantern room. The conical tower is 16 feet in diameter at the base, stands 51 feet tall to the lantern deck and 65 feet high overall. Visitors can climb 72 steps spiraling to the top of the tower for a remarkable view. The panorama, needless to say, is impressive, as you can see almost the entire coastline of Whitefish Bay and miles out into Lake Superior, including any freighter that happens to be passing by. The historical society has renovated the interior of the house, and antiques and memorabilia have been arranged to show what life was like during this lighthouse's heyday. Informative displays fill several rooms, and the gift shop sells lighthouse theme souvenirs and a wide variety of books on Michigan's nautical and natural history, including Lighthouse Memories.

The museum and gift shop are open from May 15th through October 15.
Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily.
Hours may vary, so call (906) 437-5272 for a current schedule.

The 65-foot tower is also open to the public during those times. From its top you have a commanding view of the sandy shoreline as it stretches out of sight, and of Canada, across the water to the north.

Directions: In Brimley where M-221 deadends at Lake Superior, turn left onto 6 Mile Rd. (called Lakeshore Dr. near the lighthouse) and go about 7.5 miles.

For additional information contact the Hiawatha National Forest
Sault Ste. Marie Ranger District
Phone: 906-635-5310

 

Back to Lighthouse Page

Back to the Upper Peninsula Traveler

Back to Home Page: Exploring the North

Copyright 1997 by the webmaster for Exploring the North. All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under the Copyright Act of 1976, as Amended, this web site may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner. Unless authorized by the webmaster of Exploring the North, Inc., reproduction of any web page or pages on the Exploring the North website for placement on the internet is a copyright infringement. All right, title and interest in and to the material on the web pages, the web site, in whole or in part, and in and to this url and the urls contained within, is the property of vivian wood, the webmaster for Exploring the North, Inc. Website created on an Apple G-4.