Ships lost in the treacherous Manitou Passage lie beneath the waves near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. All of these shipwrecks fall within the Manitou Passage State Underwater Preserve. This protects Michigan's rich underwater history for future generations.
2024 Lake Michigan water levels have exposed many shipwreck parts. Please view these wrecks safely from the beach. Walking on wrecks can damage the historic artifact. Your safety is at risk from rusted metal, exposed nails, and unstable structures.
Fragments of wrecks can sometimes be found on the beaches. If you find these pieces, please leave it is and contact the National Park Service. The National Park Service is aware of wrecks in the following areas, and does not need to be notified. Please notify the Lakeshore if wrecks appear to be vandalized or damaged.
Unknown shipwreck at the North Bar Lake outlet to Lake Michigan
Unknown shipwreck south of the Lake Michigan Overlook
Please respect these shipwrecks, as they may be the final resting places of those who were on board. When diving, it is important to leave all submerged underwater resources undisturbed. Both state and federal laws have stiff penalties for violators of this rule, so please enjoy, do not destroy.
Today, the Francisco Morazán is the best known shipwreck in Sleeping Bear Dunes. This ocean freighter originally launched in 1922 as the Arcadia in Hamburg, Germany. After serving on both sides during World War II, it was registered as the Francisco Morazán in Liberia in 1959.
The Morazán routinely carried goods between Europe and the Great Lakes. On November 27, 1960, the ship left Chicago with over 1,000 tons of hides, canned chicken, phosphate, aluminum, bottle caps, shampoo, toys, and more. Also onboard was the captain, Eduardo Trivizas, his pregnant wife, and an international crew of 14 sailors.
After leaving Chicago, a snowstorm blinded the ship in the night. It drifted off course and ran aground about 300 feet off of South Manitou Island. Ironically, the Francisco Morazán ran aground right over the remains of the steamer Walter Frost, which had wrecked in the same place 57 years earlier.
Captain Trivizas sent out a distress call, which was picked up by Coast Guard vessels Sundew and Mesquite. He reported that his ship was in no danger of sinking, but water was pouring into the cargo area. The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw decided to evacuate the captain's wife, leaving the rest of the crew on the damaged vessel.
Bad weather prevented salvage ships from retrieving the Francisco Morazán's cargo. The Mackinaw brought the crew to the mainland on December 4. Salvage attempts were abandoned soon after, and the ship was left on the shoal to decay.
Today, the partially submerged wreck of the Francisco Morazán is visible from South Manitou Island. Visitors wishing to see the wreck should take the trail to the Old Growth Cedars.
This wood freight schooner was built in 1863 at the request of John Kelderhouse. He was the brother of Thomas Kelderhouse, one of the founders of Port Oneida. The ship was named for their two younger sisters, Jennie and Annie.
In the ship's nine years of service, it suffered severe damage and twice needed repairs to its masts. Before its final journey, the Jennie and Annie took on a load of corn in Chicago. As it sailed through the Manitou Passage on its way to Buffalo, a storm rolled in.
On November 12, 1872, the Jennie and Annie drove ashore north of the village of Empire, where wind and waves tore the ship apart. Of the ten-person crew, only three survived.
Pieces of the Jennie and Annie occasionally wash up on the beaches of Sleeping Bear Dunes. In 1980, the bilges of a sailing vessel appeared on the shore between North and South Bar Lakes. In 2012, a wooden keelson (one of the structural components of a ship) washed up in the same area.
Rising Sun, 1917
Originally called the Minnie M., this freight steamer was renamed Rising Sun by the religious sect, House of David. They bought the ship in 1913 to carry passengers and supplies between their communes of High Island and Benton Harbor.
On October 29, 1917, the Rising Sun was heading south through the Manitou Passage. Onboard were potatoes, rutabagas, lumber, and 14 passengers. Shortly after midnight, while navigating through a blinding snowstorm, the ship hit a rock. This impact broke off the ship's rudder, making steering impossible.
The Rising Sun was about 200 feet from shore, and had 5 lifeboats. Captain Charles Morgan ordered the able-bodied sailors into the first lifeboat. He knew that boats often capsized near shore, and that the sailors would need to help the second lifeboat of women and children.
Fred Baker, a Port Oneida farmer, alerted the Coast Guard of the shipwreck using his recently installed telephone. A lifesaving crew arrived at about 10 am the next morning. At first, it seemed everyone had safely evacuated the ship, but the captain soon realized one was missing. An old man had slept through the entire incident and was left behind! Luckily, the Coast Guard was able to rescue him with ease.
Today, the wreck of the Rising Sun is visible beneath the waves off of Pyramid Point.
Three Brothers, 1911
The Three Brothers was a wooden steamer owned by William, James, and Thomas White. The ship was used to transport lumber for a Boyne City dealership the brothers also owned.
On September 27, 1911, the Three Brothers was on its way to Chicago when the hull began to leak. By the time it entered the Manitou Passage, several feet of water had entered the hold. Realizing the ship would inevitably sink, the captain ordered the crew to turn towards South Manitou Island.
The ship's fireman, standing in waist-high water, kept the engines running at full speed. The Three Brothers hit the shore of South Manitou Island with enough force to crack the stem post and scatter its lumber across the beach. The gamble paid off, however, leaving the ship only 200 yards from the South Manitou Lifesaving Station. All 13 crew members were saved.
In the decades that followed, the Lake Michigan sands completely covered the Three Brothers. Divers assumed the ship had been torn apart by ice. However, in 1996, park rangers Dave Wilkins and Dave Nigel arrived to South Manitou to prepare for their summer season. They discovered that Sandy Point had shifted, and that the wreck of the Three Brothers was visible in the shallow water off shore.
The Three Brothers is easily accessible by divers, as it sits in water that is only 5 to 45 feet deep. Unfortunately, this accessibility has also resulted in vandalism. The ship's carved wooden pillars, brass fittings, and some of the crew's personal items are now missing.
An impressively large vessel for the time, the Westmoreland left Milwaukee, WI for its final voyage on December 6, 1854. Its cargo included oats, flour, grass seed, and supplies for the general store on Mackinac Island. There were also 34 crew members and passengers on board.
As the ship entered the Manitou Passage, ice froze the sides and upperworks. The extra weight dragged the vessel down. Soon, the Westmoreland began taking on water, extinguishing its engine fires. The crew tried to bail out the engine room as the gale pushed the ship southeast, but the situation was helpless.
Around 2 am on December 7, the captain ordered everyone into the three yawl boats. One boat capsized shortly after launching, and another overturned near the shoreline. Two people failed to reenter the lifeboat, and 15 went down with the ship. There were 17 survivors.
The wreck of the Westmoreland sank beneath the waves later that afternoon. In 1872, Captain Paul Pelkey returned to the wreck site. He'd served as an officer on the Westmoreland and planned to retrieve its cargo. Pelkey located the wreck and reported it was in good condition. He announced plans to raise it the following summer, but never returned.
The location of the Westmoreland was lost for over a century. However, in 2013, local diver and historian Ross Richardson discovered the wreck in Platte Bay. The ship is remarkably well preserved, and lies within the protective boundary of the Manitou Passage State Underwater Preserve.
This shipwreck reappeared in January 2012. It is the same fragment that has been on the beach for at least 7-8 years. Winds and waves expose the fragment and move it along the shore.
This fragment was reported ashore in the fall of 2010 following a multiple-day autumn wind storm blowing from the Southwest. It may be the mid section of a tug boat.
Park visitors can walk to the sites of these fragments. From the Sleeping Bear Point Maritime Museum, you can walk south along the beach 30-40 minutes. You can also park at the end of Sleeping Bear Drive, hike the Dune Trail to the blow out ( 1/4 mile), turn down to beach and then walk a 1/2 mile south.