Tawas Point Light

Tawas Point Light is located in the Tawas Point State Park off Tawas Bay in Lake Huron in Baldwin Township in Northern Michigan.


In 1850, Congress appropriated $5,000 for the construction of a lighthouse. In 1852, construction started, and the lighthouse was commissioned in 1853. After the lighthouse was built, many problems were encountered. Shifting sands caused the point to be extended by nearly a mile. The original light was a 5th Order Fresnel lens, later upgraded when the building was replaced. Moreover, the structure was failing, and a ship disaster in the 1870s led to the decision to construct a new lighthouse in 1875. In 1876, construction was completed, with a final cost of $30,000.

It was originally known as Ottawa Point. The name was officially changed to Tawas Point in 1902. The point is a substantial hazard to navigation. Additionally, because it is tucked behind the point, Tawas Bay is an ideal shelter from storms, wind and waves out of the north and northest. The point juts out into Lake Huron, and has been getting much larger over time. A map is available, which shows the accretion. The original light was begun in 1852, and completed in 1853. The light was fueled at various times by lard oil, then kerosene, and the current light is of course now electric. This is the second lighthouse on the point.

The tower is 70 feet (21 m) tall including the base, with a diameter at base of 16 feet (4.9 m) and a diameter at parapet of 9 feet 6 inches (2.90 m) It is constructed of a brick outer wall, and an inner wall: 24 inches/8 inches thick, respectively. There is an air space between walls of 24 inches (610 mm). The tower has in place a Fourth Order Fresnel lens (pronounced /freɪˈnɛl/). The light can be seen for 16 miles (26 km), and has a lens focal plane 70 feet (21 m) above Lake Huron’s average water level. The Keeper’s House is 43 feet (13 m) long and 26 feet (7.9 m) wide.

It is currently being remodeled by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, with the assistance and contributions of the Friends of Tawas Point State Park. The downstairs eventually will become a museum for the lighthouse and the upstairs becoming a mini-cabin available for rent by the public. The house is itself available for one and two week stays (for a fee, and with an agreement to act as a trained volunteer). Volunteer keepers will stay for up to two weeks.

Because of its popularity, picturesque form and location, it is often the subject of photographs, and even of needlepoint illustrations.

The Tawas lifesaving station has recently been saved and renovation continues.

The Fresnel lens is still operative, being one of Only 70 such lenses that remain operational in the United States, sixteen of which are use on the Great Lakes of which eight are in Michigan.

Current events

An enlarged replica called the "Tri-Centennial Light of Detroit" is modeled after the Tawas Point Light, was built at Tri-Centennial State Park. The lighthouse is 63 feet tall, and marks the harbor entrance. "The new safety light tower is believed to be the first conical brick structure of this type built in Michigan since 1892 and serves as a tribute to Michigan's Great Lakes maritime history."


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