The Cheboygan Crib Light stands proudly at the mouth of the Cheboygan River, looking over the Straights of Mackinac, remembering the time it once stood out there in the open waters, guiding ships and sailors safely thru the straights.
The Light was originally built in Lake Huron in 1884 on a “crib”, (an artificial-island landfill) more than 2,000 feet from the Cheboygan shore. The Crib Light is called a “light” rather than a “lighthouse” because it did not contain a structure in which a keeper lived. The keeper lived in Cheboygan and he would take a boat daily to the crib, in all weather conditions, to maintain the kerosene-fired light. This was hazardous duty especially docking to the crib in heavy waves during a storm.
In 1903, the existing wooden structure was torn down to a depth of 12 inches (300 mm) into the water and a new sturdier concrete steel structure was erected. In 1906, the rebuilt light was severely damaged when a schooner hit it. In 1911 an automated fog bell was installed, sounding a characteristic single stroke every ten seconds.
In 1920, the Lighthouse Service oversaw the automation of the Crib Light. In the Crib Light’s new incarnation, kerosene was no longer necessary; instead, a traveling crew periodically delivered tanks of the flammable gas acetylene. A reliable pilot light burned day and night. When the sun set, the resulting drop in temperature would open a precision valve and release a flow of acetylene against the pilot light, causing the light to shine. When last Lighthouse keeper left in 1929, the old light quickly degraded.
In the second half of the 20th century, the invention of radar and other electronic aids to navigation began to render many Great Lakes navigational light towers redundant. The Crib Light was considered by the Coast Guard to be “surplus” property. In 1984, the Crib Light tower was removed from its crib and placed on its current base located on the Gordon Turner Park pier head.
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