Friday, July 01, 2011

Little Sable Point Lighthouse

Little Sable Point Lighthouse
1000 px here.

Summer. Finally. Need a place to go and enjoy? Head for the water.

Dr. Beach - Stephen Leatherman, director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University - evaluated (some) of the beaches on the Great Lakes (he admits he hasn't seen them all) and put two from Michigan in the top five, with Sleeping Bear at No. 1.

For years, he resisted because his expertise was ocean beaches. But finally, when even colleagues from the Great Lakes started needling him at conferences about why his influential annual Dr. Beach ranking of top-10 U.S. beaches excluded the Great Lakes, he changed his mind.

Announced today, the top-five Great Lakes beaches list named Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore beaches No. 1. The area was praised for its "variety of beaches with fine to grainy sand and clean, clear water."

Sleeping Bear's gorgeous sand helped it win, Leatherman said. Although the sand on Great Lakes beaches is mostly quartz, just like the ocean, "it does vary," he said. "Ohio has more minerals in their sand, darker sand. The Michigan side of Lake Michigan has remarkably fine sand."

The rest, in order, are Lake Erie's Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pa.; Sand Point Beach at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore; Lake Huron's Bayfield Main Beach in Bayfield, Ontario, and Lake Michigan's Oak Street Beach in Chicago. The Freep has an interactive map that shows the top five and their readers' picks from 2007, and they are inviting you to name your favorite beach for this year's poll.

I would say "anything along the west coast" - but I've been to some of the others on that map in the UP, and it's all good. A special mention goes to Silver Lake State Park above, home of the Little Sable Point Lighthouse. I stumbled upon it by pure chance last year. Just south of Pentwater, it has a big beach, wasn't too crowded, and very nice dunes to play on. The lighthouse is open to the public for tours, and it is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Little Sable Point Lighthouse 480The lighthouse was designed by Col. Orlando M. Poe and has been described as "A classic Poe tower." The design used 109 1-foot-diameter wood pilings to be driven into the sand, capped by 12 feet of stone as a stout base for the brick tower. The walls of the tower are 5 feet thick at the base and 2 feet at its zenith.

Following the loss of the Schooner Pride in 1866, public outcries for a light at this locale were finally heard and heeded. Congress approved funding in 1871, but construction was delayed until 1874 due to lack of roads to the site.

The station was originally named "Petite Pointe Au Sable Lighthouse", which is the name used on most official records; officially, however, the name was changed in 1910. Although commonly called "Little Sable Point Light", it is listed by the National Park Service as "Little Point Sable Light".

After mariners complained that it was hard to see the brick, they painted it white in 1900. It stayed that way for 75 years, and then they sand-blasted it back to the natural color. I was surprised at how old it actually is - it looks very good for its age. Unfortunately I hit the beach right around 5PM, and that's when the tours close, so I didn't get a chance to go in and check it out.

Maybe someday...