Port Austin Lighthouse

Port Austin Lighthouse (or Port Austin Reef Light) is a lighthouse off the shore of Lake Huron, about 2.5 miles (4.0 km) north of Port Austin, Huron County Michigan sitting on a rocky reef (shoal), which is just north of the tip of the Thumb and a real hazard to navigation.


The original plans were for this lighthouse to be built on shore. The crib was built in Tawas.

The Station was established and the light first lit in 1878, and its pier was modified in 1899. It is still operational and is automated. The foundation materials are a pier, and the tower is constructed of yellow brick, with buff markings. It is octagonal, 60 feet (18 m) tall, with an attached keeper house. However, the focal plain is 76 feet (23 m). It originally had a fourth-order Fresnel lens (pronounced /freɪˈnɛl/) by Henry Lepaute of Paris and installed in 1899. The optic was 300 mm glass. In 1985 the lens was replaced by a 12-volt solar-powered Tideland Signal 300 mm acrylic optic, which eliminated the need to maintain the submarine cable.

Current status and activities

In 1990, volunteers from the Port Austin Reef Light Association engaged in an "heroic effort" to oust a colony of seagulls that had taken over the building, and then screened and reroofed it. Restoration efforts continue. Decking has been covered with galvanized metal shingles, and painted in the bright red that is historically accurate. Railings were affixed to the access ladder, and safety chains edging the deck were replaced. Installed also were a new brick chimney and 18 new windows. In 1990, PARLA's license to renovate the structure was extended through 2020.

Current restoration continues by the Port Austin Reef Light Association.

The light is not open for tours. It is a long and difficult trip to the light, which is always hindered by the reef, and often by the fog. However, it is possible to photograph the lighthouse from shore, although it takes a long lens or digital zoom.

According to the Coast Guard, the light is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, but it has not been listed. It is not listed on the State historic register, either. The site includes adjacent bottom lands. A two story on shore lighthouse keeper's house still exists.

In June 2011, the General Services Administration made the Port Austin Light (along with 11 others) available at no cost to public organizations willing to preserve them.

Specialized further reading
  • Baranski, Connie. "The Port Austin Reef Lighthouse." Central Michigan University Term Paper, 1970.
  • Port Austin Reef Lighthouse journal, 1909-1917.