Big Sable Point Lighthouse
In the early days before the Big Sable Point Lighthouse was built, Ludington has one of the most unusual fog-signal system to warn sailors. It consisted of a metal horn made in the shape of a long bugle and was located next to the railroad tracks. Whenever fog rolled in from the lake, a steam locomotive was brought to the mouth of the horn and periodically the train gave a blast on its whistle. Magnified by the horn, the train whistle could be heard for many miles out on the lake.
Construction of the one hundred and twelve foot conical shaped brick tower began in early 1867 and was completed in June 1900. The lantern room was equipped with a third order Fresnel lens, and a fog-signal building was built nearby. The fog-signal building was lost to erosion in 1941. The tower was painted white with a contrasting black band around the middle to make it more visible during the daylight.
Cream city brick was used in the construction of the tower as well as the one and half story lighthouse keepers building which had a full basement. The keepers dwelling housed both the keeper and his assistant and was connected to the tower by a covered passage. The Head Keeper's quarters took up the entire first floor and consisted of an oil storage room, kitchen, living room and a single bedroom. The Assistant Keeper's quarters where on the second floor which consisted of two bedrooms, a kitchen and living room.
In July 1909, a Second Assistant was authorized at the station. The original keeper's dwelling was remodeled to accommodate the new assistant and his family. The lighthouse station today is much as it was after the renovation.
In 1900 the tower and keeper's dwelling had become so severely deteriorated, that the tower up to the watchroom, was encased with steel plates. Then the space between the brick and plates was filled with concrete and the keepers dwelling was cemented. The watchroom was also encased with steel in 1905.
In 1933, a road was built for accessing the lighthouse. In 1943 a seawall was built around the tower to prevent erosion. Big Sable was the last Great Lakes light to become electrified in 1949. In 1968, the Fresnel lens was transferred to the Rose Hawley Museum in Ludington and replaced with a 300 MM automated lens, which eliminated the need for a keeper. The Rose Hawley Museum is now located at White Pine Village, just south of Ludington.
Directions: From the junction of US-31 and US-10 just east of Ludington, go west on US-10 (Ludington Avenue) about 3.6 miles to M-116 (Lakeshore Drive). Turn left (north) onto M-116 and go 6.4 miles to the entrance to Ludington State Park. The drive is very picturesque. An annual or daily sticker is required for entry. From the registration building, continue straight ahead to the first intersection after you cross the Big Sable River. Continue straight a few yards to the parking area for the Lighthouse Trail. The beginning of the trail is about a block away, at the north end of the campground, at a green gate between lots 74 and 75. Follow the trail about 1/2 mile to a yellow gate, and from there it is about one more mile to the lighthouse.
An alternate route is to turn left at the intersection after crossing the Big Sable River and go about a block to the beach house parking area. From there you can walk north up the beach a little more than 1.5 miles to the lighthouse.