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Lighthouses evoke images of beacons warning passing ships of dangerous ocean shoals. But lighthouses are not the exclusive domain of ocean coastlines. These maritime lifesavers have a long history of guarding the Great Lakes and other lakes throughout the world.
There are more than 200 active lighthouses dotting nearly 1,1,00 miles of coastline along the Great Lakes, and shipwreck museums (Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum) preserve and commemorate the ships that succumbed to the fury of Great Lakes storms.
Let’s explore some of our favorite lake lighthouses.
Lake Champlain Memorial Lighthouse, Crown Point, New York
The Champlain Memorial Lighthouse on Lake Champlain continues a silent vigil over a narrow passageway connecting New York and Vermont.
The lighthouse was built in 1858 to aid in navigation and to commemorate Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer who first sailed the 271,000-acre lake in 1609. The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1912 in a neoclassical style with eight columns surrounding the original structure.
France contributed a bronze bust of Champlain by famed sculptor Auguste Rodin, and a bronze statue by American sculptor Carl Auguste Heber adds to its grandeur.
The Crown Point lighthouse was deactivated in 1926 with the completion of the Champlain Bridge, the first bridge to connect New York and Vermont across Lake Champlain. Today, the lighthouse is open to visitors as a Crown Point State Historic Site.
Verona Beach Lighthouse, Oneida Lake, New York
Covering more than 51,000 acres, Oneida Lake is the largest lake located entirely within the state of New York. The Verona Beach Lighthouse stands sentry on the east end of Oneida Lake, one of three lighthouses built in 1916 due to the success of the original Erie Canal which opened in 1825.
The need to accommodate larger ocean-going ships spawned construction of the New York Barge Canal, completed in 1918, which passed through Oneida Lake and Onondaga Lake. Each of the three lighthouse towers (Verona Beach, Frenchman Island, and Brewerton) was designed to stand 85 feet tall, but the Verona Beach Tower curiously ended a little lower at 84.5 feet.
The New York State Canal Corporation owns and maintains the three lighthouses. The Verona Beach Lighthouse Association has lovingly restored and preserves this historic landmark. Although widely photographed, public access to the top of the tower is restricted, due to a series of ladders about 80 feet straight up!
Lake Havasu Lighthouses, Arizona
The most recognizable sight around 20,400-acre Lake Havasu is the London Bridge, moved from England to this unlikely location in 1971. But Lake Havasu is also the location of 27 lighthouses that provide navigational aid to boaters.
Each lighthouse is a smaller replica of well-known lighthouses, such as the West Quoddy Lighthouse in Lubec, Maine, and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
The original Lake Havasu Lighthouse, standing 17 feet tall at the entrance of the Lake Havasu Marina, provided the inspiration for the Lake Havasu Lighthouse Club to begin the ambitious project of erecting replica lighthouses as navigational aids.
Other replicas include Minnesota’s Split Rock, North Carolina’s Currituck, New Jersey’s Barnegat and Sandy Hook, Ohio’s Vermillion, California’s Table Bluff, Michigan’s Alpena, and Maine’s Mount Desert Rock. Get your camera ready for this photographic adventure.
Lake Winnebago Lighthouses, Wisconsin
Lake Winnebago is the largest natural freshwater lake, by volume and surface area, located entirely in Wisconsin. Navigating on this large lake (137,780 acres) can be dangerous in bad weather. Six lighthouses guide modern boaters, including:
Fond du Lac Light is best known, located on the lake’s southern end in the town of Fond du Lac. Built in the 1930s, this lighthouse stands 56 feet tall and is open for self-guided tours in season.
Bray’s Point Lighthouse is located on the western shore where the Fox River enters the lake. Built in 1909, this lighthouse is now on private land.
The Neenah Lighthouse (also known as the Kimberly Point Lighthouse) is located on the northwest shore in the town of Neenah. Built in 1945, this lighthouse is not open for tours, but its fishing dock is open to the public.
The Asylum Point Lighthouse was built in 1940 and stands 31 feet tall. Although no longer in operation, this photogenic lighthouse is located on the lake’s western shore on an island separating North and South Asylum Bay.
By far, the most recognizable sight around 20,400-acre Lake Havasu is the London Bridge, moved piece-by-piece from England to this unlikely location in 1971. But Lake Havasu is also the location of…