Isle Royale Lighthouse (Menagerie Island)


Location: Michigan
Date Built: 1875
Lodging: No
Height(Approximate): 72 Feet (22 Meters)
Active: Yes
Open For Tours: No

The scenic Isle Royale Lighthouse is located 14 miles from the Canadian border in Lake Superior on Menagerie Island, just off the coast of Isle Royale. Also known as the Menagerie Island Lighthouse, it has been helping ships navigate the area for more than 100 years. Being located on Menagerie Island, the lighthouse is included as part of the Isle Royale National Park.

Due to inaccurate information and maps, the United States acquired the landmark during the Treaty of Paris negotiations in 1783. The area was found to be rich in copper, and mining camps sprouted up around 1843. The first lighthouse, Rock Harbor Lighthouse, was built on Isle Royale in 1855 to help the ships carrying copper ore off of the island navigate the tricky waters. With the human activity the mines encouraged, fur traders and fisherman soon set up shop on the island too.

In 1872, Congress and the Lighthouse Board began a venture to build a second lighthouse. Using materials from the nearby Jacobsville sandstone quarry, a lighthouse station consisting of four separate buildings was constructed.

Standing 61 feet tall, the lighthouse has a diameter of 16 feet at its base and 10 feet at the top. Precautions such as doubling the thickness of the walls helped to protect the structure from the harsh winds and powerful waters. These walls also served to keep the moisture out. Steel shutters were used to complete the exterior fortress. Common to Great Lakes use and harbor entrances, the cast iron gallery holds a lantern that uses a white Fourth Order Fresnel Lens. You’ll find this lens on many major harbor lights. At the time of the installation, the light could be seen for 15.5 miles, contact for any emergency.

The first Acting Keeper put these safety precautions to the test in the first few days of starting his position, weathering near hurricane conditions in the reinforced walls of the lighthouse. This first keeper transferred two years later, but the next keeper, Mr. Malone, would stay in his position for 38 years. Mr. Malone would safely raise twelve children on the island, despite writing of waves so strong that they tore buildings from their foundations.

The Malone family lived off of the islands, planting a garden of radishes and lettuce with a potato patch on a nearby island. They also enjoyed fresh fish and hunted rabbits and ducks. The seagulls provided them with fresh eggs, and the Malones would often trade these items on Isle Royale or with passing ships. Unlike mainland lighthouses, offshore lighthouses had an off-season where the family could live in more favorable conditions. They would make their home on the island during the on-season, which was typically from May to November.

As it had before, the copper mines on Isle Royale began to dry out around the beginning of the 20th century. With the decreased maritime traffic and the innovation of technology, an acetylene lighting system was installed in 1913. This new system included an automated sun valve, which eliminated the need for a lighthouse keeper.

The lighthouse was in the care of the Malone family for 38 years. Today, tourists can catch glimpses of the lighthouse while sailing to Isle Royale or on boat tours of the area. Currently, the Coast Guard owns the lighthouse.











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