Au Sable Light Station

Au Sable Light Station
Au Sable Light Station

NPS photo


Located within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, this picturesque lighthouse stands on Au Sable Point on the south shore of Lake Superior, approximately 12 miles west of Grand Marais, Michigan.

Built in 1873-1874, the light tower's base diameter is 16 feet with a height of 86 feet. The tower extends 23 feet underground and is anchored in bedrock. A brick oil building and fog signal building were built in the 1890s. All of the buildings on site, along with the tower and keepers' quarters, make up the light station.

The original keepers' dwelling was attached to the light tower in the back. In 1909, a new residence was built for the head keeper and the existing building expanded so it could accommodate two assistant keepers and their families. One family lived upstairs and one downstairs, with separate entrances. In 1945 the U.S. Coast Guard took over, replacing the civilian keepers. In total, the light station was continually staffed for 84 years, until the Coast Guard left in 1958.

A third-order Fresnel lens reflected the first light, which was fueled initially by lard oil and then by kerosene. The fixed white beam could be seen 17 miles out on the lake. The lighthouse became fully automated in 1958 and transferred from the Coast Guard to the National Park Service in 1968. The lighthouse still operates - a smaller, solar-powered light now sits on the catwalk railing and shines over Lake Superior every evening.

The national lakeshore also preserves other maritime sites.


Visiting the Au Sable Light Station
To visit the Au Sable Light Station, travel to the Hurricane River Campground located 12 miles west of Grand Marais on Alger County Road H-58. Park in the day use parking area near the bridge.

It is a 1.5 mile walk (one way) to the lighthouse. From the parking lot, walk east through the campground from the picnic area near the Hurricane River mouth. The trail continues past the campground on the historic U.S. Coast Guard access road to the light station. Be alert for occasional staff vehicle traffic. On the beach below the trail, exposed shipwreck remains dot the shoreline. Watch for the signs and steps to the beach along the access road. Pets are permitted on the access road to the light station and on the station grounds. Bicycles are not permitted on this road.

NOTE: On hot, humid days in summer with a south wind, biting flies in this area can be fierce and can ruin your visit to the light station. Consider wearing loose-fitting long pants and socks before starting down the trail.


Open Transcript


[Music] [The photograph displays a red brick house with attached white light tower on a small cliff above the water. The title: A View From the Top – Au Sable Light Station is displayed in front of the photo. Above the photo the words Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore are displayed, along with the National Park Service arrowhead symbol.]

[Photograph of tall white light tower over green trees] Welcome to the Au Sable Light Station located in the eastern portion of the park at Au Sable Point. This tower and house were first built in 1874 as a result of a combination of dangerous elements to the mariners and ships that sailed Lake Superior.

[large dark storm clouds looming over shoreline and water] These elements included strong storms, [white capped waves break along shoreline] that could produce large waves, [white fog tendrils appear over clear calm water] thick dense fog [underwater rock ledges seen through clear water], and an underwater sandstone reef.

[photograph and video of white light tower beginning at the base and then panning to the glass enclosure at the top.] We are going to climb the tower so that you can enjoy the view of Lake Superior, the surrounding shorelines and the Grand Sable Dunes. To to enter the light tower you first pass through this heavy metal fire door. The door was always kept closed except if someone was passing through it. About 90 steps will take us up this ornate circular wrought iron staircase to the watch room. The watch room has three windows looking north over lake superior, east over the shoreline and the Grand Sable Dunes and south over the forest.

[Music] [photograph a brilliant blue lake with sand dunes in the distance through an ornate white window frame.] The keepers could use this room when not servicing the lamp which is located one more level up through this hatch.

[photograph of white oval hatch and metal ceiling with black wrought iron circular staircase leading to it.] [Music] As we climb 10 more steps up the circular staircase from the watch room into the lower lantern Room. we see the green pedestal that the third order Fresnel lens rests upon. Also at this level are five ventilators located in the wall which are used to adjust the airflow in the lower lantern room.

[Photograph of brown circular small vent inset and wood paneled wall. Photograph of brass plate mounted on a green pedestal with the name of the French company who built the lens: L.Sautter & Company constructeurs A Paris.] Fresnel lenses were one-of-a-kind items and were only manufactured in Paris, France.

[Music] [various photographs and video of tall circular lens constructed of rings of prisms stacked on top of each other.] A third order lens could magnify the light through a series of prisms so they could be seen up to 17 miles away. Each prism was set at a slightly different angle so that through the process of reflection and refraction it could capture the light and redirect it. Fresnel lenses came in many different sizes known as orders. This third order lens weighs approximately two thousand pounds, while the largest, a first order lens could weigh as much as thirteen thousand pounds.

From the lower lantern room we can also access the outside catwalk through another metal door. From the catwalk we can work our way around the outside of the top of the lighthouse enjoying views of Lake Superior, the surrounding forested countryside and towards the east, the Grand Sable dunes which rise about 300 feet above Lake Superior.

[Music] [photograph of sunset over large lake taken from the top of a lighthouse, with a red roof and green trees in the foreground.] Although the Fresnel lens is no longer used, this has been a continuously functioning lighthouse. And today [photograph of red brick house and attached white light tower with colorful sunset, clouds in the background] [Music] [photograph of led style light on black railing with sunset over large lake in the distance.] this small led light continues to serve as a warning to the mariners of Lake Superior. [Music] [photograph of tall white light tower in red brick house against blue sky with the words for more information, visit displayed in front of the photo] [image of National Park Service arrowhead symbol in front of black screen]

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4 minutes, 45 seconds

Take a tour of the Au Sable Lighthouse. Climb the tower, take in the views, and learn about why it was built.

(To view other videos and learn more about the park, check out our YouTube channel!)

Summer Lighthouse Tours

Au Sable Lighthouse tours are scheduled Wednesday through Sunday from mid-June through the end of September or through early October (as staffing permits). No tours on Monday and Tuesday. Tours begin at 11 am and run through 4:30 pm (11 am - 12 pm - 1 pm - 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm).

The 30-40 minute park ranger guided tours begin at the lighthouse east porch.

Tour fee is $3 for those 6 and older. Exact amount is required (no change provided). Fees are payable at the start of the tour.

Light station visitors are reminded that the area includes very sandy soils, narrow sidewalks, and steps to access the buildings.
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    Au Sable Light Station Podcasts - A Virtual Tour
    This podcast series begins with shipwrecks along the trail from Hurricane River Campground to the Au Sable Light Station. Enjoy this virtual tour if you are not able to visit in person, or download the podcasts to enhance your on-site visit.



    Last updated: January 29, 2021

    Contact the Park

    Mailing Address:

    P.O. Box 40
    Munising, MI 49862


    (906) 387-3700

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