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Huron Islands Wilderness

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A small lighthouse along the coast at the top of a large rocky head, surrounded by small trees.
Library image #33: National Historic Register Landmark Lighthouse built in 1868.


The United States Congress designated the Huron Islands Wilderness (map) in 1970 and it now has a total of 147 acres (146.85 acres, technically). All of this wilderness is located in Michigan and is managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.


The Huron Island Wilderness is located on the Huron National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge was created in 1905, when President Theodore Roosevelt designated the 8 small islands a national bird sanctuary to protect large colonies of nesting gulls. All of the Refuge’s islands are managed as Wilderness. Lighthouse Island is the only island open to public access.

The eastern most island is known as Cattle Island in memory of the livestock marooned there in 1860 when a cargo ship, the Arctic, ran aground. This incident prompted the construction of a lighthouse on the West Huron Island, also known as Lighthouse Island. The lighthouse was completed in 1868 and is still active today.

The islands are sheer granite outcrops which rise nearly 120 feet above the Lake Superior waterline. In some areas the bare granite still shows deep grooves left by retreating glaciers, while in other areas the thin soil layer supports a ground cover with gnarled red and white pines, balsam fir, and white birch. On Lighthouse Island you will also find remnant plants from past light keeper’s gardens.

Wildlife is scarce during the winter months, only snowshoe hare and small mammals are year-round residents. Occasionally, other mammals may wander across the winter ice to explore, but they seldom take up residence. However, the islands are critically important for colonial nesting birds and they serve as a resting site for birds migrating across Lake Superior.

A half mile trail leads from the boat dock to the lighthouse and a 1 mile trail will guide you to the north end of the island.

Planning to Visit the Huron Islands Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

West Huron Island (Lighthouse Island) is open to the public during daylight hours. All other islands are closed to public entry.

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