Lighthouses are some of my favorite places to visit. And, you’ll find them everywhere. They’re on cliffs like Split Rock in northern Minnesota, or on gorgeous beaches like Cape Hatteras, or even in a city like the Little Red Lighthouse underneath the George Washington Bridge.
Crisp Point Lighthouse origin story
Crisp Point is a Lake Superior beacon on the northern edge of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This part of Lake Superior is know as “The Shipwreck Coast.” So, the need for a lighthouse was obvious.
In fact, several lighthouses, including the famous Whitefish Point Lighthouse were built along this stretch of coastline.
The lighthouse at Crisp Point was built in 1903-04 and the beacon was first lit in May of ’04. The lighthouse took its name from Christopher Crisp, a Life Saving Station keeper who was supposed to be incredibly brave.
Getting to Crisp Point Lighthouse
Speaking of bravery, you need to be a pretty hearty soul if you want to visit Crisp Point. An 18 mile road, much of it a rocky two track you could barely call a road, is the only way to reach the lighthouse. If it has rained recently, the road can be a muddy, impassable mess.
The first time Karen and I visited the lighthouse, we came upon a couple cars stopped on the road. A large tree had fallen in a recent storm and one of the largest branches was blocking the road. Five or six of us got out of our cars and pushed the branch far enough to the side so we could pass. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was a beast to get it out of the way.
At the end of the road was a makeshift parking lot. In reality, it was just the end of the road where people parked. From there, it was a gorgeous hike along the remote beach to the lighthouse.
Crisp Point Lighthouse renovation
Back then, the Crisp Point Lighthouse was in bad shape. It had been neglected for years. The keeper’s quarters had long since been destroyed and the lighthouse itself was in danger of falling into Lake Superior due to erosion.
Today, the Crisp Point Light Historical Society operates the lighthouse and cares for the grounds. They have saved the lighthouse from erosion by hauling in thousands of tons (!) of rock. The CPLHS has also built a boardwalk on the beach, a visitor center, and completed renovations on the tower.
And, the Crisp Point Light Historical Society oversaw the relighting of the lighthouse’s beacon which had been decommissioned in 1993.
And that crazy 18 mile drive to the lighthouse? t’s still there, but the historical society extended the road to the lighthouse grounds and built a proper parking lot.
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
On November 10, 1975, the USS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior during a storm. The ship was lost about 17 miles from Crisp Point. All 29 people on board died and their bodies were never recovered.
Singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot read about the tragedy in Newsweek and was inspired to write the hit song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
Crisp Point daytrip
The northern part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is remote. But, you can make a daytrip of Crisp Point from Sault St. Marie or from the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
Some folks make a trip of visiting the Life Saving Stations at Crisp Point, Vermillion Point, Two Hearted River, Deer Park, and Grand Marais.
But, my preferred day trip is to visit Crisp Point and then Whitefish Point Lighthouse. Whitefish Point Lighthouse has a unique erector set style and is much more accessible than Crisp Point. There is also a nice visitor center and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum has the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald on display.
Foodie Upper Peninsula
I’ve written about pasties, the delicious hand-held meal. It’s available all over the U.P. and in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan.
If you’re going to Crisp Point, some of my fave pasty locations like Lawry’s are quite a drive (3 hours or so). But, pasties are everywhere in the U.P. When you’re filling the tank, you might even find them at the gas station.