White River Light Station

White River Light

Tucked away on a wooded dune, guarding the channel to White Lake stands the White River Light Station. Built in 1875, the lighthouse marked the entrance to the man-made channel between Lake Michigan and White Lake. Once a busy port for logging boats harvesting wood from the pine forests of Michigan, the port also served as a waterway for boats carrying vacationers from Chicago.

The port was very busy following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, as Chicago required wood to rebuild. No doubt the lighthouse was built to aid the growing number of schooners heading to and from Chicago.

White River Light Station

The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1960, and by 1970, friends of the lighthouse turned the structure into a maritime museum.  The museum remains today, and is open for tours May through October, and visitors can climb the tower for a view of Lake Michigan.

White River Lighthouse

Located just a few miles from Muskegon, Michigan, the White River Light Station is part of the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association.

Big Sable Point Light

Big Sable Point Light

We began our hike on one of the coldest mornings so far this Fall. walking into the wind along the Lake Michigan shore.  While it wasn't yet below freezing, it was bracing, especially after the four hour drive in the early morning.  Two days of rain preceded us, so we hoped for a little sun, and we were in luck.

The walk from the parking area to the lighthouse is two miles long, measured on the crushed limestone path.  We chose to walk along the beach, in soft sand, dodging waves, and with no protection from the wind. It certainly felt a bit longer than two miles, but we think getting there is a large part of the experience.

Big Sable Point Light From the Dunes

As we arrived at the lighthouse, the sun appeared more often as the dark clouds seemed to scatter a bit.  To our surprise, this late in the season, the lighthouse was open to tours, so we climbed to the top to take in the view of the surrounding dunes of Ludington State Park.

From our vantage point, we could see dozens of interdunal ponds scattered throughout the landscape. We utilized the height to plot our course through the dunes, making certain we would explore the ponds, dunes, and conifer forests of the park. Here, as in many of the parks along the Michigan and Indiana shore of Lake Michigan, dune progression is clear. The change from beach to fore dune, to dune, to savanna to conifer forest, to oak forest can all be experienced in a relatively short hike.

Distant Big Sable Point Light

Of course, what could be a short 3 mile hike through the dunes and woods of Ludington State Park, turned into an exploration for us, as we spent about five hours enjoying the trails - without seeing another person.  The volunteer at the lighthouse told us how wonderful the trails were, but she'd never gone too far from the lighthouse. It seems the visitors of this day simply wanted to get to and from the lighthouse, and not experience the best part of the park.

Morning at Big Sable Point

Built in 1876, Big Sable Point Light is one of the tallest lighthouses in the state of Michigan. There are 130 steps to the top, where two narrow hatches allow access to the lantern room.  One can walk along the outside of the lantern for beautiful views of Lake Michigan and the dunes.  The lighthouse received its steel cladding and black and white day markings in the early 1900's, when the bricks began to crumble.

The Dunes of Van Buren State Park

The Easy Way Down

The weather forecast scared most people away from the beach, but some die hard hikers still wandered around the dunes of Van Buren State Park, in western Michigan. Spotty rain storms surrounded the region, driven by unusual winds from the northeast. Locals who expect storms from the west and northwest were finding themselves trapped and drenched by surprise rain from the east.

The Edge of the Blowout

This particular dune blowout had a steep, winding, soft sand path from the main trail to the summit. With each step, the foot would sink and slide back down; progress was slow up the dune. Once on top, hikers are rewarded with a great view of Lake Michigan and the forest surrounding the dunes.

The way down was much easier.  The blowout (portion of the dune with little vegetation to hold it together) provided a wide, relatively gradual slope to the beach below - a welcomed easy hike compared to the strenuous climb up.