GLM Anchor

- U.S. Lighthouses -

Port Austin Reef Light

Marine men have long known that the waters surrounding Point aux Barques, at the tip of Michigan's "thumb" where they must make their turns, conceal many hidden dangers. Historical wreck reports and more modern underwater surveys are evidence to the destruction and death that these reefs and shoals, some extending miles out into the lake, have brought to vessels sailing these treacherous waters.

Rising from the waters 2 1/2 miles north of the Port Austin Harbor of Refuge, and looking much like a misplaced castle, stands the Port Austin Reef Light. Construction began in July, 1878, atop an 80 foot diameter concrete caisson to mark the deadly Port Austin Reef and the Fourth Order Fresnel lens was first lit on September 15th of that year. The original 57 foot wooden tower was replaced with a 60 foot double walled tower in 1899. The light was brightened to 4,000 candlepower in 1915 by upgrading to an incandescent oil vapor unit. In 1939 electricty was run to the light and, again, output was increased by installing a 25,000 candlepower electric bulb. In 1941 the original Fresnel lens was removed and, in 1953, the last lightkeeper left when Port Austin Reef Light became automated. In 1985 the light turned to solar power.

For over two decades the light was deprived of the daily care that her lightkeepers once provided. Vandalized and deteriorating, the Coast Guard began making plans to have the light dismantled and replaced with an iron skeleton frame light. The good people of Port Austin were having none of that. Forming the Port Austin Reef Light Association the group soon obtained a five year lease from the Coast Guard. Through their determination and hard work in restoring the fog house and six story light tower the lease, thankfully, has been extended through the year 2020.

Singer/Songwriter Dan Hall sums it up quite nicely with..
"When the seas boil hard in wind and foam
In the terrors of the night
Better than an angel in the east
Is the bright Port Austin Light."

("Port Austin Light"; CD - "It's Quiet Where They Sleep"
2004 GBA Productions, Grand Blanc, MI)


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This page last updated on  Wednesday, April 22, 2015
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