Mission Point Lighthouse, Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
Mission Point Lighthouse, Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
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Mission Point Lighthouse was as popular as ever last year, with lots of visitors checking out the historic building and museum, climbing the stairs to the tower, hiking the trails, and relaxing on the beach.

According to Lighthouse Manager Ginger Schultz, visitor traffic increased dramatically in 2022 after a couple of years of Covid-19 worries keeping folks home. By the end of October 2022, more than 20,800 visitors toured the Lighthouse. That’s an average of 120 visitor-tours per day. Ginger thanks both the weekly lighthouse keepers and the 22+ local volunteers who kept things moving along during the spring, summer and fall seasons.

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She also notes that the gift shop inside the Lighthouse has been especially busy, with more than 13,700 transactions and hundreds of 5-star Google reviews over the summer.

“It was a unique season with large groups of visitors,” she says, “but we handled the masses well and people were delighted. I’m grateful to all the local volunteers who helped this summer. I really appreciate their time and flexibility.”

This winter, Ginger is working on a new display for the museum, as well as several other projects, including securing the north-facing windows so no rainwater can enter (which happened in October), touch-up painting and deep cleaning. The wood floor has also been refinished. If you’ve been out there lately, you might have also noticed that the Christmas blizzard whipped up the beach sand into the flower gardens, along the trails, and even across the road from the open space.

New Lighthouse Non-Profit Forms

Over the past few years, a new 501(c)(3) non-profit has formed called the Mission Point Lighthouse Keepers Association (MPLKA). The group was created to let supporters know what’s going on throughout the year, to raise funds for new projects, to support educational activities such as visits from school groups, and to preserve, promote, and educate the public about our Lighthouse and other historic lighthouses.

They are currently raising funds for a Binocular Viewer that will allow visitors to view West Bay, the shores of Grand Traverse Bay, and the historical Omena Harbor across the bay, where the “New Mission” was relocated back in history. Cost estimates for the project are $5,000, and at last count, there were at least $1,000 in restricted donations for the project.

To join the MPLKA or learn more about the group, check out their website here or email i[email protected]. The cost for a one year membership is $25 for individuals and $50 for families; and a two-year membership is $40 for individuals and $90 for families. Membership and contributions are tax deductible. Membership includes:

• Merchandise Discounts
• Discount on Tours
• Membership Card
• Quarterly Lighthouse Newsletter

Water Levels Drop Three Feet

Remember a few years ago when everyone was talking about high water levels around the Old Mission Peninsula? Beaches were pretty much non-existent, and the erosion caused by high water resulted in trees toppling into the bay at the Lighthouse and the north end of Bluff Road closing down.

Read more about lake levels through the ages here, and check out these photos I took showing the difference between 2016 and 2020…

East Bay Shoreline and High Water on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
East Bay Shoreline, 2016 and 2020 | Jane Boursaw Photo

Well, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, the water level of Lake Michigan has dropped three feet since 2020, when it reached a high of 582′ above sea level. It currently sits at around 579′. Nowhere was that more noticeable than at the Lighthouse, when the water creeped up the stairs on the Lighthouse beach, causing the bench that was there to eventually be moved off the beach.

Evolution of a Bench in front of Mission Point Lighthouse | Jane Boursaw Photo
Evolution of a Bench in front of Mission Point Lighthouse | Jane Boursaw Photo

My dad always said that seven years was the magic number when it comes to water levels. If that’s the case – and if the water was highest in 2020 and has been trending down – that means we have a few more years before we hit a low level and it starts going back up again.

Personally, I’m hoping it drops low enough so we can walk out that little peninsula in front of the Lighthouse again. I loved walking out there and looking back at the Lighthouse about a quarter-mile away on the shore. Here’s a picture from 2010 when that sliver of land was so well traversed that a trail actually formed there.

Low water level at Mission Point Lighthouse in 2010 | Jane Boursaw Photo
Low water level at Mission Point Lighthouse in 2010; this trail jetted out in front of the lighthouse into West Bay about a quarter mile | Jane Boursaw Photo

1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks Jane… Water level is always is subject of concern here in Old Mission. The Lake does seem to have a periodic cycle to levels. The Army Corps of Engineers does a really good job of tracking these fluctuations. See this website for near term forecasts… https://lre-wm.usace.army.mil/ForecastData/GLBasinConditions/daily-GLWL-Graph.pdf
    You will see the lake is near its long term average level right now.
    To look at levels going back in time see https://lre-wm.usace.army.mil/ForecastData/GLBasinConditions/LTA-GLWL-Graph.pdf
    COE will tell you the lake level is driven by a balance between inflow and precipitation against outflow and evaporation, with inflow and outflow having the least affect. remember the very rainy years just prior to the last record high level on Lake Michigan. And record winter ice cover halting evaporation.
    Anyway, for the short term it looks like levels will be normal, but then who can predict the future, that’s why its called the future! And who knows if climate change will affect all this. Remember there used to a couple of thousand feet of ice over us here, and not too long ago really.

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