St Helena Lighthouse on St. Helena Island is only ten miles west of Mackinac Island. You can see it to the west from the Mackinac Bridge.
Due to the natural harbor on the north shore it has been particularly important for both Native Americans and Voyageurs to seek shelter from Lake Michigan's raging seas during its notorious strong storms throughout the spring, summer and especially in the fall months.
There are other light houses in the vicinity due to the dangerous waters of the Straits of Mackinac. Round Lighthouse is in the Mackinac Island Harbor. Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse is in Mackinaw City in the lower peninsula.
While the natural harbor is deep the dangerous shoals around the island on the eastern and western sides make the passage into the harbor very dangerous.
One of the worst was St. Helena Shoal which would rip a ship's hull straight across. It lurked just below the surface for around two miles making the western side unsafe to most ships. Between 1850 and 1960 the harbor became quite active with sometimes over fifty ships being in the harbor while Lake Michigan storms were making the sea unsafe to travel.
Finally, in 1872 Congress agreed to provide $14,000 to construct a Lighthouse at the island's Southeast point.
If you are interested in learning more about its history read Terry Pepper's detailed St Helena Lighthouse page on his website.
Thank goodness for the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keeper's Association (GLKKA) who obtained a thirty-year license in 1986 to begin the hard task in restoring this beautiful lighthouse.
There have been many volunteers but the most loved are the Boy Scouts of America with troops from Ann Arbor and Calumet coming every summer since 1989 to continue the restoration.
In a recent New York Times article (August 15, 2010) it discusses how the stewardship of all Lighthouse are now in the hands of dedicated volunteers. Click here to read this great and interesting article about the many volunteers for the St Helena Lighthouse.
Due to its location being on Lake Michigan the buildings are exposed to the ravages of the lake. Volunteers are desparately needed to help with their three-day work sessions in the summer and one day walkabouts that are held each year. It's a great way to make your vacation also a rewarding one!
Marcia & Kathy's Insider Tip: For more information about the GLLKA and its need for donations of money, supplies or labor contact them at www.gllka.com. They will give you all the information about the St. Helena working weekends and walkabouts.
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