A visit to Ottawa County's Grand Haven will find bustling activity along the waterfront. Here you'll find Michigan's longest river emptying into Lake Michigan after smoothly gliding along the breakwater pier. The Grand River offers opportunities for fishing fleets, Coast Guard vessels, and pleasure boaters to ply their transports out onto the big lake. Whether visiting the beach to relax or play volleyball, one can't help but notice the mesmerizing sight of the breakwater.
The Pierhead Lights of Pentwater
Photo by Todd & Brad Reed Photography
The North and South Pierhead Lights of Pentwater serve as beacons to guide pleasure boats into Pentwater’s harbor during the busy summer season.
Pentwater Lights History & Facts
Established in 1890 and 1873 respectively, the lights have undergone numerous changes throughout the years. Between 1856 and 1858, Charles Mears and his crew excavated a shallow channel that would allow boats to haul lumber from his mill out to Lake Michigan. The steamer DAYLITE became the first large vessel to navigate through the channel into Pentwater Lake. As more mills moved into the area, Mears and Michigan senators lobbied for harbor improvements, finally receiving the funds in 1867. These improvements included widening and deepening the channel, along with extending the piers. It was determined that a light was now needed to help guide vessels into the channel. A 12-foot timber-frame was built in 1873 on the south pier, and contained a red Sixth-Order Fresnel lens, visible for 8 1/2 miles. Local resident Francis McGuire became the first keeper of the Pentwater Light, and after four years, his wife Annie took over the job.
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The Army Corps of Engineers replaced the timber piers with concrete in 1937, and the South Pierhead Light was replaced by a steel skeleton tower. Fifty years later, in 1987, a tower was erected on the north pier, and outfitted with a 300mm flashing green Tideland Signal optic; it also included a fog signal.
The current South Pierhead Light stands 25 feet tall, with the North Pierhead Light at 17 feet tall. Each is considered one of the few remaining pier range light systems located on the Great Lakes.
West Michigan Lighthouse Locations…
- Ludington’s North Breakwater Light — Walk the half-mile long pier to West Michigan’s most popular lighthouse.
- North Pierhead Lighthouse in Manistee — At the Manistee beach.
- Little Sable Point Lighthouse — Located at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes.
- Big Sable Point Lighthouse — Located in the Ludington State Park.
- Pentwater Pier Head Lights — At the channel to Pentwater Lake.
- Grand Haven Lighthouse — The Grand Haven lighthouse is at the mouth of the Grand River.
- White River Light Station in Whitehall — Operated by the Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers.
Directions to Pentwater Pierhead Lights
Take US-31 into Pentwater. Turn west on Lowell Street at the north end of town, and head 1/2 mile to Charles Mears State Park. There you can walk the beach to the pierhead light.
Discover More West Michigan Lighthouses...
Built in 1875, the White River Light Station is one of four lights operated by Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association. Located in Whitehall, Michigan (about 40 minutes south of Ludington), the Light Station is situated between Lake Michigan and White Lake.
he black-and-white striped, 112 foot lighthouse at the Ludington State Park stands proudly on the shores of Lake Michigan and remains a testament to lighthouse keepers of the past. Big Sable Point Lighthouse was honored as 2013 Featured Lighthouse of the Year for the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival.
You've seen it in numerous photographs, and it is now ranked #1 lighthouse to visit in Michigan...plus The Weather Channel voted it one of the top 10 lighthouses to see in the United States! The North Breakwater Light is Ludington's focal point, and a great place to watch the sunset or wave at the S.S. Badger carferry as it cruises out onto Lake Michigan. The breakwall leading out to the light is a popular venue for fishermen and those who enjoy walking the mile-long round trip.
Lighthouses symbolize safety, a fascinating maritime history — and have a romantic nature about them. Our area of West Michigan along the Lake Michigan shoreline has its share of these wonderful structures, from Manistee's North Pierhead Lighthouse down to Little Sable Point Lighthouse at Silver Lake.
One of the most symbolic icons of Manistee is the North Pierhead Lighthouse located between the 1st Street and 5th Avenue beaches. Standing watch over Lake Michigan waters, the North Pierhead Lighthouse welcomes boaters and is a reminder of Manistee’s great maritime history. First built in 1869, it burned in the Great Fire and a new one was constructed in 1872.