Submerged Cultural Resources FAQs

What kind of submerged cultural resources are found in the Manitou Preserve?
Shipwrecks, shipwreck fragments, dock pilings, wagons, and more.

Who owns the submerged resources in the Preserve?
The State of Michigan owns all objects on the bottomlands of the preserve. This includes those also on the shoreline.

What law protects submerged cultural resources?
The Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act 451 of 1994, Part 761, Great Lakes Bottomland Preserves and Aboriginal Records and Antiquities makes it a felony to remove or disturb artifacts on Great Lakes bottomlands. Those apprehended and convicted of removing items such as cargo, portholes, anchors, or other "souvenirs" will face having their boats, cars, and equipment confiscated and up to two years imprisonment and stiff fines. The law does not restrict searching for, diving on or photographing shipwrecks. Wrecks outside of the established preserves are afforded the same protection as those within the preserves.

Does removing long submerged wood and metal objects from the water damage them?
Yes! The cells of water-saturated wood degrade when they are allowed to dry without conservation treatment. The wood crumbles and disintegrates. Long-submerged metal deteriorates when it is re-exposed to air and requires careful cleaning and stabilization. Conservation treatments are very expensive. For this and many other good reasons many newly discovered sites are kept in situ, which means onsite: to leave them where they were found.

How are museums able to exhibit fragments of shipwrecks?
Some shipwreck fragments were salvaged before the State Law was enacted. Today, permission is needed from the State Archeologist or the State Underwater Salvage Committee to retrieve artifacts. Museums can get this permission if they have the artifacts professionally conserved and make them accessible to the public through exhibits.

What is the park’s role in managing submerged cultural resources within the Preserve?
The park does not manage these resources. However park staff collects information for research files and interpretation and works with local divers and historians on documentation projects. And, of course, park rangers enforce all state laws regarding submerged cultural resources.

What do I do when I see someone else damage or remove an artifact or see suspicious activity on a boat?
Stewardship of these fragile resources is everyone’s business. If you see someone damaging or removing an artifact or engaged in suspicious activity, contact a park ranger at 1-800-PARKTIP or call the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-292-7800.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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