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Port Austin Lighthouse


On August 18, 1856 Congress appropriated funds for the construction of a lighthouse located on the tip of the Port Austin Reef. This lighthouse was positioned on the critical juncture of Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron serving as a “turning point” for both northbound shipping and west bound shipping as a turn into Saginaw Bay. While interesting to view on a calm day, these rock formations are part of a network of dangerous ledges that extend two-and-half-miles offshore between the Port Austin Reef Lighthouse and the Point Aux Barques Lighthouse.

The original light and caisson were rebuilt to their current configuration in 1937, an octagon concrete caisson 80 feet across and 34 feet on each side. The focal point of the original Fourth Order Fresnel Lens at 76 ft above low water. The original Fresnel Lens was removed in 1941 and replaced with glass. The light was replaced again in 1985 with an acrylic optic, and one last time with an LED exhibitor in 2011. The lighthouse actually consists of two joined structures. The light tower, which is six stories high and contains a galley, entrance foyer, oil room, three bedrooms, a watch deck, and a lamp room; and the second structure, known as the “fog signal building”, which is attached to the tower. The fog signal building originally had a red roof with a bronze-green cornice.

In addition to marking the dangerous reef, jutting just over a mile northwest in Saginaw Bay are many ship groundings and sinkings, including the Howard M. Hannah Jr. which came to rest on the rocks during the “Great Storm of 1913” just northeast of the light. In 1953, the lighthouse was fully automated, and the last lightkeepers departed. Since that time, and until it was leased to the Port Austin Reef Light Association by the US Coast Guard, it was abandoned, save the occasional USCG servicing of the lens and related batteries and solar charging system. The lighthouse had been scheduled to be dismantled in 1984 when the association stepped forward. In 2011, the US Coast Guard applied for admission for the Port Reef Lighthouse to be added to the Registry of Historic Places.

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A 52 Weeks of Fun Fascinating Fact about Port Austin Lighthouse

The design reflected the Queen Anne Style times. The 1899 pier had cast stone quoins and the fog signal building originally had a red roof with a bronze green cornice.

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