CONSIDER BEING A LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER THIS SUMMER
People of all generations and backgrounds agree, the charm of a lighthouse is hard to resist. Fortunately for those of us living in Muskegon County, we don’t need to. Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state in the country, and Pere Marquette beach hosts a tower that you can climb locally. For a more intimate experience, you can even work onsite as a lighthouse keeper. As a lighthouse keeper, volunteers take their own personal tours up, down, and throughout the majestic tower at Muskegon South Pierhead Light, leading visitors from all over the world and sharing tidbits of Muskegon’s fascinating maritime history along the way.
The existing Muskegon South Pierhead Light conical steel tower replaced the wooden rear range beacon light in 1903, utilizing the original, historic lantern room from the previous 1870 lighthouse structure. Several days a week this summer, docent-led history tours are offered up 54 steps to the top of this 48 foot tall, ironclad tower. Views of award-winning Pere Marquette beach, the forests of Muskegon State Park, waters of Muskegon Lake and of course, Lake Michigan await visitors at the top. Unfortunately, both the Muskegon South Breakwater Light and the breakwater walkway to the light are currently closed due to critical restoration needs.
The Muskegon South Pierhead Light is open May through October and is accessible through a visitor pathway between the Coast Guard and NOAA stations, with free lighthouse parking available at the beach and alongside Margaret Drake Elliott Park. Visitors frequently hesitate at the entrance to the public access, due to the Homeland Security and No Trespassing signage which can prove intimidating to those who do not know their way to the pier. The Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, the 501c3 nonprofit which owns both lighthouses at Pere Marquette, works hard to develop community sponsorships to help finance increased signage. In the meantime, visitors are encouraged to follow directions available on the MLC website and the temporary signage which directs the public to the lighthouse on the days that tours are in operation.
The cost to climb the tower is four dollars for those 12 and older and two dollars for those 11 and under. All admissions go towards restoration and preservation projects at the lights. For safety purposes, however, visitors must be 3 foot tall in order to climb and sturdy shoes are recommended. Climbers ascend two spiral staircases to the Watch Room and several portholes provide beautiful views of the Muskegon channel and the Muskegon South Breakwater Light along the way. The final level to the top boasts a shipman’s ladder which requires a certain level of confidence, but the views that await the brave-hearted are well worth the climb.
Volunteer lighthouse keeper afternoon shifts are only five hours long, with sunset tours lasting four hours. You can commit to as few as one shift a summer or as many as you’d like to suit your schedule and interest level. Keeper duties include greeting visitors, sharing history, selling admissions and limited gift shop items and inevitably, taking photos for visitors who revel in the exquisite views from the top of the tower. Other volunteer opportunities exist in marketing, photography, grant and genealogy research. If you have a skill set that you think would benefit the organization, you are encouraged to write the Executive Director, Cindy Beth Davis- Dykema at muskegonlights@Gmail.com or to simply call 844 – MLIGHTS to discuss ways that you can get involved and share your passion for the lights.
Memberships to the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy start at $15 for those who volunteer, and benefits include unlimited climbing for the season as well as liability insurance for the times that volunteers are serving at the tower. If you are interested in supporting lighthouse restoration at both Muskegon towers, but do not have the time in your schedule to volunteer, memberships begin at $25 and provide unlimited climbing as well as free passes for friends or family to accompany you. Corporate donor levels include such perks as exclusive sunset tours and multiple passes for employees or family members. Full member benefits can be seen online at www.muskegonlights.org or by simply following Muskegon South Pierhead Light on Facebook.
The unique benefit of having two operational lights in Muskegon gives our community even more bragging rights as a tourist destination. Step back in time as a visitor or a volunteer, and help keep Michigan’s lighthouse history alive by becoming involved with the Muskegon lights.
The Muskegon South Pierhead Light opens for lighthouse tower tours Memorial Day weekend!
2017 Season Opening and Blessing of the Boats Kickoff |Saturday, Sunday and Monday, May 27, 28 and 29 | 1-5 p.m.
Lighthouse Tower Tours Regular Season Schedule
June: Monday, Friday and Saturday- 1-5 p.m.
July & August (through Labor Day): Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 1- 5 p.m.
Additionally in July – Saturday evening Sunset | Tours 5-8 p.m!
SPECIAL EVENTS AND OPENINGS PLANNED FOR 2017
Tuesday, August 7, National Lighthouse Day Celebration and Sunset | Opening 5-8 pm
Special Saturday Sunset openings scheduled between Labor Day through Halloween
Trick or Treating at the Lighthouse on Halloween, Tuesday, October 31
Saturday, August 19, 18 p.m. at Muskegon South Pierhead Light
Mark your calendars for Muskegon’s Bright Lights Festival, with extended hours of operation, featuring local music, storytelling, free fitness classes, and a children’s chalk art contest!