LANSING – Some trails lead out of the woods by a lake. Some climb a dune for a panoramic view.
And many – more than you probably thought – lead to a shipwreck with a story on a beach.
This summer could be great for viewing shipwrecks on shore, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts the water levels in Lakes Michigan and Huron could be nearly 2 feet below records set in 2020.
Michigan’s fascinating maritime history is not limited to old lighthouses or restored lifeboat stations.
The state is blessed with accessible wrecks that don’t require an air tank or wetsuit to view — just a pair of hiking boots, a paddle or snorkel, and a mask.
The heart of shipwreck territory is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, but there are others, including a wreck in Thompson’s Harbor State Park in Près Isle County and further offshore in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. of the upper peninsula.
Michigan’s shoreline wrecks are constantly changing, driven by wave action, shifting sand, and Great Lakes water levels.
High and dry for easy viewing this summer will be one of Michigan’s newest exposed wrecks, the jenny and annie.
The 137-foot schooner, built in 1863, was rounding Sleeping Bear Point in November 1872 when high winds blew her into the shallows and reefs of Lake Michigan’s famous Manitou Passage. The ship, her crew of 10 and a cargo of corn ran aground 9 miles south near Empire. Only three crew members survived.
Gone forever? Barely. For the past two summers, a significant piece of the hull has been visible on a beach in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Here’s a land-lover’s guide to other great Michigan wrecks:
City of Boston: Built in Cleveland in 1863, this 136-foot-long wooden steamer also featured a mast – and a story of bad luck.
In 1868, it collided with another steamer and sank in the Strait of Mackinac. When the steamer was raised 125 feet two years later, it was the deepest rescue ever attempted in the Great Lakes up to that time.
After being rebuilt in Cleveland, the ship returned to service as a river barge, finally meeting its end on November 4, 1873, in a blinding snowstorm.
It was carrying flour and corn when it ran aground on a sandbar just off the Green Point Dunes Nature Preserve in Benzie County. The raging waves soon broke the hull and the crew abandoned ship.
The remains of the ship are to the west of the reserve’s beach access stairway, 150 to 200 feet from shore, depending on the water level. It is fished in 7 to 8 feet of water, with its stern buried in the sandbar and its bow sometimes less than 4 feet below the surface of the lake. Snorkeling is easy and visitors can see the outline of the bow in the clear water from the reserve’s second observation deck.
James McBride: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a graveyard for shipwrecks, including this 121-foot brig built in 1848 and lost in October 1857. A November 2014 storm swept away a 43-foot-long section of the James McBridemaking it the largest shipwreck ever to appear on the park’s shore.
Francisco Morazán: On November 27, 1960, this Liberian freighter left Chicago for Holland with 940 tons of cargo, a crew of 13, its captain and his pregnant wife.
The next day, the ship encountered 40 mph winds, snow and fog that caused a virtual whiteout.
The captain thought he was rounding Beaver Island, more than 100 miles away, when he ran aground on the south shore of South Manitou Island.
A Coast Guard cutter and helicopter rescued the 15 people, but left the wreckage behind to be forever battered by Lake Michigan.
Today it is the most popular destination for campers on the island. The wreck is also popular with kayakers who bring their boats on the ferry.
American Union: This 186-foot three-masted schooner was one of the largest sailing ships to sail the Great Lakes when launched in 1862. Her size ultimately led to her demise when she encountered a deadly storm in 1894 that l beached at Thompson’s Harbor State Park, northwest of Alpena. The crew was rescued and today the wreckage lies a quarter of a mile from shore in 10 feet of crystal clear Lake Huron water.
The remains of the hull provide viewing opportunities for divers and kayakers.
AuSable Reef Wrecks: From the Hurricane River Campground in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, visitors can head east on the Lakeshore Trail past several shipwrecks and then back to the AuSable Lighthouse built to protect ships.
The first wreck, the Marie Jarecki, is just outside the campsite. The wooden bulk carrier was carrying iron ore and ran aground on AuSable Reef in July 1883. When other boats were unable to tow it, the ship was battered by Lake Superior.
Her remains are just offshore and it’s hard to see if there’s any lapping on the surface of the lake.
But a hike further up the trail leads to the woods and ironwork of two shipwrecks half buried in the sand.
The first is the sitkaa wooden freighter that ran aground and broke in two in 1904.
The second is the Gale Staplesbuilt in 1881. The wooden freighter was laden with coal when it ran aground on the sandy reef in 1918.
America: On June 6, 1928, this tourist ship was loaded with crates of fresh fruit and 48 passengers as it left a resort town on Washington Island in Isle Royale National Park and, less than a half -mile, struck a reef.
It sank in full view of hotel workers and horrified guests returning to the dock.
No fatalities occurred, but bushels of fresh fruit lay aground for weeks after the crash.
Even more unusual, the ship sank upright, with one end less than 3 feet below the surface of Lake Superior.
Curious visitors can rent a canoe from Windigo and paddle from Washington Harbor to the North Gap, where a buoy marks the location of the vessel. Lake Superior is so clear it’s amazing to see everything in sight from a canoe seat.Jim DuFresne is the editorial director of MichiganTrailMaps.com and an MSU Journalism School alumnus.