Pointe aux Barques, on Lake Huron at the northeastern tip of the part of Michigan known as “The Thumb,” takes its name from a French phrase meaning “point of little boats.” A dangerous reef extending almost two miles from the point was a hazard to shipping traffic heading north along the Lake Huron shore.
The first lighthouse on the point was constructed of stone in 1848, on a three-acre site carved out of dense wilderness. In addition to warning mariners of the reef at Point aux Barques, the light served to guide shipping into Saginaw Bay and the Saginaw River.
The original keeper’s house was destroyed by fire in 1849. The first tower was poorly built and had to be replaced in 1857. The new keeper’s house and attached 89-foot tower were built of the finest brick available. The light remains an active aid to navigation, making Pointe aux Barques one of the oldest continuously operating lights on the Great Lakes. The light was automated in 1934 and the last keeper left five years later. The light station property was transferred to Huron County in 2003. A nonprofit group, the Point aux Barques Lighthouse Society, was formed.
Larry Becker is the past president of the Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse Society. His wife Marolyn is a longtime volunteer and membership chair for the Society.
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Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org