Photo courtesy of Leelanau Historical Society and Museum

Photo courtesy of Leelanau Historical Society and Museum

History of the light

The North Manitou Shoal Light is an offshore lighthouse in Leelanau County, Michigan.  It sits one mile offshore of North Manitou Island in Lake Michigan, and eight miles offshore of Leland, Michigan.  The lighthouse is a steel structure that stands on a foundation made of a “crib” embedded into the lake floor that is filled with concrete and rock.  Given its construction design, the lighthouse is known locally as “The Crib”.

The lighthouse was completed in 1935.  It marks the shoal (or shallow area) off the southern tip of North Manitou Island for ships passing through the Manitou Passage.  Prior to The Crib’s operation, a lightship (a ship carrying a light that anchored in the lake) was used to mark the shoal for ships from 1910 to 1935.

Prior to 1980, the lighthouse was manned by a three man crew of members of the U.S. Coast Guard.  Each member served on the lighthouse in a three week rotation, with two weeks on and one week off.  In 1980, the lighthouse was fully automated and the coast guard crew was removed from it.  Since then, the lighthouse generally has remained empty, but for the colony of double-crested cormorants who make it perch there during the summer.

The lighthouse has a red light that flashes in 15 second intervals, a fog horn that sounds in 20 second intervals when conditions warrant, and a radar transporter beacon that emits a morse code "n" on radar screens for passing ships.

Given its location, many people pass by The Crib on their way to visit the Manitou Islands.  The lighthouse also can be seen and heard from the islands and the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore around Leland and Glen Arbor, Michigan.  The lighthouse is beloved by many in the local, historical, lighthouse, and othercommunities, and many have expressed a great desire to see if rehabilitated.  At the same time, many recognize that its restoration will be a challenging task that requires a commitment of much effort, time, and resources.

NMLK is excited to lead and work with others to complete the job!


To get a sense of what lies ahead for the North Manitou Light Keepers,
take a look at this gallery of photos from their First Site Visit to the Crib in September, 2016.

Click photo to move ahead in the gallery.