McGulpin Point Lighthouse & Historic Site
500 Headlands Road
Mackinaw City MI 49701
McGulpin Point Lighthouse and historic site is located adjacent to The Headlands recreational park,
both located about two miles west of downtown Mackinaw City
McGulpin Point OPEN daily through October 2014
Visit one of Emmet County’s most important historic sites May til October; admission is by donation
One of Emmet County’s most important historic sites, McGulpin Point Lighthouse and Historic Site, is open daily in the summer! Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily throughout the summer. It is located 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City.
Emmet County owns and operates McGulpin Point, which protected shipping on the Straits of Mackinac against storms, fog and rocks between 1869 and 1906. It was purchased by the county in 2008 and after improvements including replacement of the tower top and Fresnel light, it was reopened to the public in 2009. It has been restored since then to period décor inside, and a gift shop has been added that sells McGulpin and Headlands International Dark Sky Park items. Docents are on site daily. There is no admission charge to the lighthouse or to climb the tower. Donations are appreciated.
The grounds outside the lighthouse itself have also been improved in recent years, thanks in large part to the efforts of Ann Arbor-area Eagle scouts. As service projects, the scouts have improved a walking trail from the lighthouse, down the bluff to the Straits of Mackinac. There, they built a replica gazebo of one that once stood at the site. In summer 2014, the scouts will return to build a replica barn near the lighthouse. Also in past summers, McGulpin has been the site of archeological reconnaissance digs by students and staff from Central Michigan University.
Each year, the lighthouse welcomes about 25,000 visitors through the season, which is daily from the May opening through the end of September. The lighthouse is also open in October; hours will be posted online at www.emmetcounty.org/mcgulpin/
This site has a fascinating history as Emmet County’s first deeded property, and one of the first in the state. It was a significant gathering place for the Odawa Indians who were the first to call this area home. Later it was the home and property of Patrick McGulpin and his family; a number of his ancestors remain in the area today. Its long-time lightkeeper, James Davenport, kept important records of his time at McGulpin operating the light and observing vessel traffic through the Straits. Many of these points of history can be found in interpretive displays throughout the lighthouse as visitors wander from room to room. Included among the displays is a video produced by Emmet County staff that details the numerous shipwreck tragedies in the Straits of Mackinac. A self-guided cellphone tour is also available at the grounds outside.
In total, the site is 10 acres and is a half-mile north of the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. It includes 336 feet of shoreline on the Straits of Mackinac that is open for the public to explore and enjoy. The address is 500 Headlands Road, Mackinaw City, Michigan, 49701. Phone at McGulpin is (231) 436-5860 during the season.
For general information, call (231) 348-1704.
Big rock, big significance
The Mackinac Bridge is seen on a blue-sky day from the shore of Lake Michigan, near the county’s McGulpin Point Lighthouse west of Mackinaw City. The large rock in the foreground is significant; hundreds of years ago, it was under water in the Straits. Through the centuries, it has been used as a marker to determine the rise and fall of water levels in Lake Michigan.
It was described in a letter sent back to France in 1749 as being at times high and dry and at other times completely submerged. That led the letter-writer to conclude that the Straits of Mackinac rose and fell by as much as 8 feet.
The McGulpin Point rock is approximately 33.8 feet in horizontal circumference and 37 feet in vertical circumference. It is about 9 feet tall. An estimate of its weight puts it around 54 tons.
As a reminder, this shoreline and the hundreds of feet of coastline along the county’s parks at the Headlands and Cecil Bay, as well as the lighthouse property, are open for the public to enjoy, along with hundreds of acres of woods and waters.