Last week, I posted about Sand Point lighthouse. Just down the road sits another lighthouse, but one that receives far fewer visits.
The Stonington Peninsula splits Lake Michigan’s Little Bay de Noc and Big Bay de Noc. If you venture to the very tip of the peninsula, you reach Peninsula Point. Now, this a fairly out of the way spot. Most of the peninsula is national forest, with the small city of Stonington home to just a few hundred people. The majority of those who drive the area either live in the smattering of houses along the lakeshore or head to one of the several boat ramps. A few will venture all the way out to the point. To give you some idea of the remoteness of the area, the last mile to the old lighthouse is a two-track dirt road running along the bay with occasional pullouts for those times you encounter someone coming in the other direction.
The shoals that stretch far out into the lake are the defining feature of the Stonington Peninsula. If you were an ore freighter or a lumber hauler plying the waters back in the day, this is something you wanted to avoid at all costs. To keep all this shipping safe, construction started on the Peninsula Point lighthouse and keeper’s house in 1865. However, the light went out in 1936 with the construction of other lighthouses in the area. Ownership of the spot became public, but a fire consumed the keeper’s house in the late 1950s, leaving only the lighthouse tower structure.
The tower is open at Peninsula Point lighthouse, and you can take a spiral staircase all the way to the top. Once there, the crystal clear waters of Lake Michigan spread out before you, moving from the lighter blue of the shallow shoals to the deeper hues of the big lake.
Another interesting aspect of the peninsula? The rocks contain fossils estimated to be from the Ordovician Period, so around 450 million years old. These aren’t big dinosaurs, though. Instead, you’ll find small marine fossils like brachiopods. Long ago, a shallow, tropical sea covered the area, and dead organisms ended up between layers of mud that eventually formed bedded dolostone and shale. When these rocks are exposed, they break easily, making the fossils simple to spot, especially along the shoreline. They are in almost every rock you pick up.
Peninsula Point gets attention from more than humans, too. For some reason known only to Mother Nature, it’s become staging point for a variety of migrating animals and insects. In the Fall, for example, monarch butterflies gather here to make the flight over the water to Wisconsin on a migration route. I love that part of the year. For a few weeks, the butterflies are all over the area, making their way down an invisible highway they’ve been following for millenia. Birds get in on the act, too. You can see an amazing variety at Peninsula Point, and it has the local reputation of a birder’s paradise. We weren’t birding during our hours long visit, but we still saw dozens of bluejays, several flickers, and a group of bright orange orioles.
It’s hard to tell from the pictures unless you look closely, but a low fog had formed the day we drove to the point. From time to time when the wind blew, you could watch the wisps of cloud roll in and over land. You can’t help but feel taken back to a time when the lake was a mysterious thing, when wind, waves, and fog could deprive your senses as conditions on the water changed from one minute to the next. The remoteness of the point only adds to the effect. When you’re alone there with the lapping waves, chirping birds, and the old lighthouse tower, you might as well be in 1865. Or in the Ordovician!
Location: Peninsula Point, Delta County, Michigan