If you were to ask someone, “What’s the largest lake in Michigan?” you’d probably hear the names of three or four of the Great Lakes given in response. But the largest lake completely within the boundaries of Michigan is Houghton Lake in the middle of the state’s lower peninsula. At eight miles long and four miles wide, Houghton Lake has over 22,000 acres of water and is a fisherman’s paradise.
Back in 1962, Hazen Randall put up an 87-foot lighthouse on the northern shore of Houghton Lake near the outlet to the Muskegon River. Randall was an artist/designer who erected several buildings in the area, including a castle-like home that still operates as the Story Book House Bed and Breakfast. His lighthouse burned down in the early 1990s. A 325-foot radio tower erected in 1937 served as kind of an unofficial lighthouse until it was removed last December.
But Houghton Lake has a new, honest-to-goodness lighthouse, thanks to Heights Marina owners Gary Daniels and Denise Maynard and some friends. The 32-foot (35 feet including the weathervane) wooden tower serves not only as a handsome landmark on the lake’s western shore, but fulfills a needed safety function as well. The working lighthouse is at the end of a 325-foot pier that had been hit numerous times by boaters, especially at night.
A local resident, retired General Motors tradesman Bill McConnell, built the tower in two 16-foot sections in his garage. Previously, the largest lighthouses McConnell had built were three-foot ones given away as gifts.
“The reaction has been awesome,” says Daniels. “So many people come by and take pictures of it - they love it. They think it’s the greatest thing that’s happened on the lake in a long time.”
This story appeared in the
April 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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