May 23, 2011

Harsens Island Range Lights

So, after our accidental discovery of The Colony, we are off to our original destination--Harsens Island.  I grew up on the east side of the state and have never been to Harsens Island, it's about time to check it out and see what all the talk is about.  That is one of the many reasons our lighthouse explorations are so fun.  They take us to all kinds of places that we would probably not otherwise explore.  There are so many great small towns in our great state that we still have yet to discover.
Harsens Island is on the east side of the mitten.  (For those of you out-of-staters, that's how we refer to our lower peninsula.)  It's located at the top of Lake St. Clair and at the mouth of the St. Clair River.  There are some full time residents, but the island mostly consists of summer homes and vacationers.  
The boys were super excited to ride on a car ferry.  It was their first experience being in a car mini van and on a boat at the same time! The only bummer, in their minds, was that it was only about a two minute ride.  Champions Auto Ferry runs continuously 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, from Algonac to Harsens Island.  It's $7.00 per vehicle, round-trip.

waiting for the ferry
here it comes!
two minute ferry ride
view from the ferry

The island has two sets of range lights--Harsens Island Range Lights and St. Clair Flats Range Lights.  Three out of four of these lights would be best seen by boat, but since we don't have access to a boat on the east side of the state we did it by car mini van.  

location-Harsens Island, MI
active beacons-fixed green light
players-Jen, Lincoln, Spencer, Jackson and Grandpa

The first ones we visited were the Harsens Island Range Lights.  These were built in 1935 to assist ships entering the St. Clair River from the north end of Lake St. Clair.  They have fixed green lights on them.  The rear range light is a little bit more inland, up on a hill.  It's very easy to see from the road.  It looks like a skeletal tower with white panels on two sides of it and stands at 104 feet tall.

The front range light is on private property.  It's much shorter version of the rear range light , it stands at 44 feet tall.  This one is right on the water, so it would be much better to view by boat.  We just parked on the street for a couple minutes to take a few pics.  The house on the right is the owner of the lighthouse.  In 2001, he bought the light station at a government auction.  He has a long dirt driveway with a chain at the end.  I don't blame him.  I wouldn't want a bunch of strangers coming up on my property, either.

location-Lake St. Clair, MI
built-1859, rebuilt-1875
active beacons- front range-yes, automated
                            rear range-no, deactivated in 1907
players-Jen, Lincoln, Spencer, Jackson and Grandpa

The second set of lights we viewed from Harsens Island were the St. Clair Flats Range Lights. These are located of the southeastern tip of Harsens Island.  These lights would definitely be better viewed from the water.  Fortunately, Manya let us borrow her serious camera with a zoom lens.  
Construction on these lights began in 1855 and their service  began in 1859.  Their job was to guide ships into the fresh water delta.  The front range light stands at 23 feet tall and the rear range stands at 40 feet tall.  When ships have them both lined up in their view they are in the correct position to safely make the trip between the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair.   Both of the lights are made of brick and were stationed on cribs constructed of wood and stone.  They did not hold up very well in the elements.  The front range had to be dismantled and rebuilt in 1875, because it was leaning too much.  Unfortunately, they did not rebuild the crib and it began to lean again.  In 1990,  the crib was reinforced with steel and limestone by the Save Our South Channel Lights group.  They are an all volunteer group dedicated to saving and restoring these lights.  In 1996, they had a permanent sea wall built around the front range light.  The rear range light somehow has managed to stand the test of time and not succumb to the elements.  However, the Save Our South Channel Lights group is actively working on preserving both of these lights and one day plan to have tours of both lights.  Both St. Clair Flats Range Lights have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Front Range Light
Rear Range Light
St. Clair Flats Range Lights

We had a great time checking out these four range lights while on Harsens Island.  But, the fun is still not over we are off the Marine City to check out the Peche Island Lighthouse.  After our ferry ride back, of course.

Does any one else have kids that love to be on boats, no matter what kind?  Does any one else have any Harsens Island memories or maybe even got up close to these lights from the water?

1 comment:

  1. monya doesn't let burnett brew blog borrow that cam. hmmm...


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