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Manitou Island Light Station Preserve


Acres: 93
Established: 2004
County: Keweenaw
Category: Public Nature Area

Our most isolated nature area, the Manitou Island Light Station Preserve is located on the eastern tip of Manitou Island, about 3 miles off the eastern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. At roughly 1,000 acres, Manitou Island is uninhabited and largely covered with a dense undergrowth of Canada yew and plants uncommon to the mainland due to the absence of browsing deer and moose. Boreal forest, spruce bogs, and alder wetlands cover the island; there is one inland lake. The Manitou forest appears magical, with tree branches dramatically draped with 'old man's beard,' a grey-green lichen. Rare plants are found in the interior and along the rocky shoreline.

The Keweenaw Land Trust acquired the 93-acre property from the U.S. Government under the auspices of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. In addition to the dense and unmanaged forests, the property includes the historic light station structures. Construction of the light station was authorized by Abraham Lincoln in 1861 and the modern lamp in the tower is a functioning aid to navigation maintained by the US Coast Guard. A brick storage building was added in 1895, and a concrete fog signal building in 1930. The station was automated in 1953 and sat vacant for many decades before being acquired by KLT in 2004. Work continues to stabilize and rehabilitate the structures for interpretive use.

Beyond the romance of a lighthouse, contributing to the ecological significance of the Preserve is the remarkable number of birds that use the island as a refuge during spring and fall migrations. Thousands of raptors, water, and land birds pass overhead and rest at Manitou as they navigate the skies over Lake Superior. Members of the Copper Country Audubon frequently use the station as a staging area to count birds during the spring migration season.

The Preserve is open to the public for rock collecting, kayaking, bird watching and visiting the light station grounds, but getting to the island is challenging due to frequently treacherous waters off the Keweenaw's tip and lack of a protected harbor. Hiking on the island is limited due to the thick undergrowth. A wooden dock is located about half a mile to the west of the light station, connected by an minimally maintained woods trail. If you wish to visit the island, please be prepared for sudden weather changes and have emergency supplies on hand. The light station buildings are generally not open to the public except under prior arrangements with the KLT. If you would like to schedule use of the structures or have skills and expertise that would be valuable in their rehabilitation, please contact the KLT office. Our goal is to provide more opportunities for use of the structures as efforts for adaptive reuse are further along.

More information on the history of the light station can be found on Terry Pepper's Seeing the Light webpage.






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