On Lake Superior
The Historic Ontonagon Lighthouse, located by the west shore of the Ontonagon River
in Ontonagon, MI in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is open for tours.
Buy tickets right at the lighthouse or at the Ontonagon County Historical Museum, the purple building with the pink door
at 422 River Street (Highway 45) in Ontonagon.
|Lighthouse is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. from mid-May to mid-October.|
|The Ontonagon County Historical Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday from mid-May to mid-October.|
|The Ontonagon Lighthouse is furnished with period furnishings obtained by the Historical Society showing visitors what
it was like in the early 1900s.>
The Ontonagon Harbor Pierhead Light, built in 1900 to replace the original light built in 1875, is not visible from the tower because of the trees, but there is a spot where you can view the light and take some pictures.
The original 5th order Fresnel Lens from 1857 is located in the Historical Society Museum, and some of the original keepers' logs are on display.
Located by the Ontonagon River, the lighthouse can be viewed and photographed from across the river.
A Little HistoryThe present Ontonagon Lighthouse was built in 1866 to replace the original wooden structure built in 1851-52, one of the earliest lights built on Lake Superior. The Ontonagon Light originally guided sailing vessels into the harbor as they came to pick up copper and lumber from the area and bring much needed supplies.
The Ontonagon lighthouse was built "schoolhouse" style, similar to Sand Point Lighthouse in Escanaba and the Copper Harbor Lighthouse, with a cream colored brick that was also used for the Peninsula Point Lighthouse on Lake Michigan. Originally a 1-1/2 story rectangular building, an 18' square gallery kitchen was added in 1890.
You are probably wondering why the lighthouse is not right by the water. It was, but Lake Superior has changed all that. Originally built on the Lake Superior shoreline with a high basement to protect it from high waves and flooding, the lighthouse has since "moved" back from the shore as the land has filled in with deposits of sediment dropped by waves coming off the lake.
The light was deactivated in 1963 after an automatic foghorn was installed on the west pier and a battery light was located at the end of the east pier, providing entrance into the Ontonagon harbor and marina.
The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places 1975 and was fortunately transferred to the Ontonagon County Historical Society in 2003 where they are in the process of restoring and protecting it for all of us to enjoy.
Visit the Ontonagon Historical Society web
Photos by Mary Deloria, top photo courtesy of the
Ontonagon Historical Society