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.
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.
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 3:30 pm (11:00, 12:00, 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30). Meet at the lighthouse.
The 30-40 minute park ranger guided tours begin at the lighthouse east porch.
Tour fee is $5 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.