Photographer: Keith W. Churill

Photographer: Keith W. Churill

Cheboygan Crib Light

Cheboygan, MI

Built :  1884, 1910, 1984

Construction :  Octagonal, Cast Iron

Status : In-active

Location : Cheboygan, MI - Gorden Turner Park

Height : 40 feet

Access : Car, parking near the light.

Directions: From US-23 in downtown Cheboygan, turn North on Huron Street and follow to the Gordon Turner Park. Follow the boardwalk along the beach to the lighthouse and pier.

 Cheboygan Harbor: By the late 1870's, Cheboygan had extensive business established in timber, lumber, lath, shingles, cedar telegraph poles, fence posts, cord wood and farm products. In 1878, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had dredged the mouth of the Cheboygan River allowing the larger class of propeller vessels to use the harbor. Cheboygan's water-born commerce reached it's peak in 1889 with 748 vessels using the harbor. By 1916, commerce had dropped to only 77,455 tons of cargo. Today the harbor is used extensively by pleasure boats and is the home port of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinac.

Left: In the distance you can see the modern, cylindrical steel light tower at the end of breakwater. Fitted with an automated aircraft type beacon, a flashing red signal on 4 second intervals is produced with a lens focal plane of 25 feet.

The original location of the Cheboygan Crib Light was 2,300 feet beyond the end of the breakwater on the West edge of the channel.

Also in the photograph, to the right of the modern light and on the horizon, you can see the Fourteen Foot Shoal Lighthouse and the Southern tip of Bois Blanc Island.

Lighthouse History: With water-born commerce at it's peak in the 1880's, an aid to navigation at the entrance to the Cheboygan River was in great demand. Funds were appropriated for construction of a pier head beacon in late 1883.

In 1884, work began with the construction of a wood crib on shore. Once complete, it was towed into position at the channel entrance and submerged with the addition of crushed limestone. The crib was then capped with oak timber framework that would provide an oil storage room below the tower. The frame work was then planked with timber to a deck level of 11 feet above water.

The cast iron light tower was installed on October 15, 1884 along with the cast iron spiral staircase. The tower was securely bolted to an oak ring anchored into the cribs timber framework.

Photo courtesy of: U.S. Coast Guard

Next was the installation of 2 1/2 inches of pine paneling. This would provide insulation and prevent condensation on the cast iron plates. To help light the lower section of the tower, glass panels were installed in the lantern room floor. A pot-bellied wood stove was installed on the lower level.

The tower was capped with an octagonal, cast iron lantern. The lantern has a copper roof and an 18 inch diameter ventilator ball. A red Fourth Order Fresnel lens was then installed with a kerosene lamp of 159 candlepower and a visibility range of 10 miles. The clockwork mechanism would produce a beacon of a 1/2 second flash followed by a 2 second eclipse at a lens focal plane of 36 feet above lake level. The beacon was first exhibited on November 1, 1884. At this time the lighthouses day-mark was brown.

This lighthouse was originally constructed without keeper's quarters on site. An Assistant Keeper was assigned to maintaining this lighthouse with the Keeper of the Cheboygan Range Lights his Supervisor. The Front Range Light provided living quarters for both. This separation from the light would make it's keeping very involved. Heading out 1/4 of a mile to the light every night, regardless of the weather conditions and hauling supplies up the ladder would prove difficult at times. Tending the light through the night was almost like staying in a closet, the small tower with a wood stove for heat did not leave much room. Once daylight arrived, the keeper would then head back to shore for rest at the Front Range Light.

In 1892, boat davits were installed by crew from the Detroit Depot. This would allow the keeper to lift his boat up onto the crib not only protecting it from the crashing waves but easing the transfer of his needed supplies.

Photographer: Roy B. Westin

In 1897, a small dwelling was constructed next to the tower giving the keeper much more room for maintaining the light. Additional protection from Lake Huron's wave action was needed, piles were added for the keeper's boat along with 17 cubic yards of riprap around the perimeter of the crib.

In 1898, a new lamp was installed increasing it's visibility range to twelve miles.

In 1899, due to rotting wood, the entire crib deck was replaced and to slow erosion, an additional 135 cubic yards of riprap was added to the crib's perimeter.

The lighthouses day-mark was changed in 1901 to increase it's effectiveness. The tower was re-painted white with a contrasting bright red lantern room roof.

A majority of the crib was reconstructed in 1903. The wooden structure was in very bad condition and needed to be replaced. First he light tower was removed. The timber framework of the crib was then removed to 1 foot below the water level. The remaining part of the crib, always submerged, remained well preserved in Lake Huron's cold freshwater. A concrete pier was the constructed on the remaining crib material. Faced with masonry, it contained a new oil storage room and a cellar below the new dwelling. The light tower was re-installed and Iron hand railings were added to the piers perimeter.

An automated fog bell with a characteristic of a single stroke sounding every 10 seconds was installed in 1911.

The lighthouse was automated in the late 1920's. The kerosene lamp was replaced with an Acetylene Sun Valve System.

On August 6, 1929, the last keeper assigned to the Cheboygan Crib Light left the structure.

By the early 1980's the Cheboygan Crib Light had decreased considerably as a needed aid to navigation. At that time, after evaluating the condition of the structure, the Coast Guard made a decision to scrap the iron tower and dynamite the crib.

Many residents of Cheboygan voiced their opinion in an attempt to save the century old landmark. The Coast Guard agreed to donate the tower to the City of Cheboygan for display as a historical attraction. It's new home was to be on the West breakwater off Gordon Turner Park.

Restoration: Ryba Marine of Cheboygan received the contract to relocate the tower and remove the crib. In the 1984, the tower was lifted from the crib and transported to it's current location on the breakwater. The crib foundation was removed with Lake Huron now at a depth of 10 feet over the crib. The glass windows were replaced with Lexan for safety reasons, and the tower was given a new coat of white paint. As seen in the above photos, the windows and door frame received a historically inaccurate coat of bright red paint.

The Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association set to work in August, 2001, re-caulking all joints on the structure and replacing the Lexan windows. They also re-painted the tower bringing it back to it's original day-mark with a white tower, gray gallery and red roof & ventilator ball.


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