Shipwreck legends come to life at Whitefish Point

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, located in Whitefish Point along Lake Superior, offers historic insight into nature of different shipwrecks in the lakes, as well as the tales of the men and women who survived. (Courtesy photo)

Submitted by the West Michigan Tourist Association 

WHITEFISH POINT — The 80-mile stretch of shoreline between Whitefish Point and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has come to be known as Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast.

More than 200 ships have come to a watery grave in this area, including the mysterious wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The Fitzgerald, once the largest ship operating on the Great Lakes at 729’ in length, was fighting toward Whitefish Bay when it vanished just 17 miles northwest of Whitefish Point. This all happened, not so long ago, on Nov. 10, 1975.

For many people, the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald has “come to represent all shipwrecks on the Great Lakes,” according to Great Lakes maritime historian Fred Stonehouse. However, the Fitzgerald is just one story and the lakes have many shipwreck tales to tell. For most visitors to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, these human stories can be shocking, both in the dramatic nature of the wrecks themselves and in the heroism of the men and women who survived.

The museum is located on the site of the oldest operating lighthouse on Lake Superior, which has been guiding ships around Whitefish Point since the U.S. Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. Visitors can find out what it was like to be a lighthouse keeper, growing up at a lighthouse, the dangers a lighthouse keeper and their families faced and more at the restored Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters, just beneath the shining light itself.

The history and stories of the U.S. Coast Guard Lifeboat station at Whitefish Point bring to life the tales of rescues in storm-tossed waters, as well as the work-a-day life for the men who came to be known as Storm Warriors, inside the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.

An ongoing shipwreck research and discovery program makes the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum a unique non-profit/cultural institution. Each newly discovered wreck becomes the basis of a new history to interpret and story to tell.

To learn more, or to plan your visit, search the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum website,, or call 800-635-1742.

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