Michigan protects more than a dozen shipwreck areas

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The hold of the Grecian shipwreck. Photo: NOAA/Thunder Bay Marine Sanctuary.

By Carl Stoddard
Capital News Service

More than a dozen underwater preserves along Michigan’s Great Lakes coastlines have been established to protect hundreds of shipwrecks.

The Michigan Underwater Preserves Council lists the following state-designated sites:

– Alger Underwater Preserve, which stretches from just west of Munising to Au Sable Point and includes Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The council says the preserve is the final resting place for at least eight shipwrecks.

– De Tour Passage Underwater Preserve, a narrow strait between the eastern end of the U.P. and Drummond Island, home to more than a dozen wrecks, the council says.

– Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve, where at least eight wrecks and even a sunken Ford Pinto can be found, including one wreck that lies in just 6 feet of water, according to the council.

– Keweenaw Underwater Preserve, which wraps around the U.P.’s Keweenaw Peninsula on the southern shore of Lake Superior, holds about a dozen wrecks and artifacts dating to the 1800s, the council says.

– Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve, which the council calls “one of the richest areas in Michigan for shipwreck diving.” The preserve – home to 11 wrecks – is around the North and South Manitou Iislands in Lake Michigan and next to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

– Marquette Underwater Preserve, location of more than a dozen wrecks, is split into two parts. The Marquette section borders 24 miles of U.P. coast, extending into Lake Superior. The second part is around the Huron Islands, rocky outcroppings rising from Lake Superior in Marquette County, the council says.

– Sanilac Shores Underwater Preserve, which runs along Lake Huron from near Lexington in the south to just north of Forestville in Sanilac County. At least 16 shipwrecks lie within this preserve.

– Southwest Michigan Underwater Preserve, on the shores of Lake Michigan, runs southward from the Holland area to near the Indiana border, the council says. About a dozen wrecks are submerged within the preserve.

– Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve is in the turbulent waters around Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. “The straits has a well-deserved reputation as a dangerous area to navigate,” the council says. “Over the years large numbers of ships have foundered in the straits. Many have yet to be discovered.”

– Thumb Area Bottomland Preserve, running from the Harbor Beach area to Port Austin, is home to at least 22 major wrecks, according to the council.

– Thunder Bay Underwater Preserve also is home to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the first such federal sanctuary in the Great Lakes. Thunder Bay harbors “at least 99 known shipwrecks and possibly another 100,” according to Stephanie Gandulla, volunteer coordinator for the federal sanctuary.

– West Michigan Underwater Preserve, the state’s newest submerged preserve, is the final resting place for at least 10 sunken ships, the council says. The Lake Michigan preserve extends from just north of Big Sable Point near Ludington to just south of Grand Haven.

– Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve, west of Sault Ste. Marie, covers the Lake Superior coast west of Whitefish Point and most of Whitefish Bay. The preserve is the graveyard for “a long list of historical shipwreck sites,” the council says.

Shipwrecks also lie in protected waters of the Isle Royale National Park Preserve, which  the National Park Service manages. The federal underwater preserve surrounds Isle Royale National Park, a 45-mile-long island in Lake Superior. The frigid waters around the  island hold at least 10 shipwrecks, the council says.

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