Ferry, Ship & Lighthouse Facts

  • A hand-cranked chain ferry carries pedestrians across the Kalamazoo River at Saugatuck.
  • The oldest surviving lighthouse in Michigan is the Fort Gratiot light, built in 1825 near Port Huron.
  • The Livingston Memorial Lighthouse on Belle Isle is the only marble lighthouse in the nation.
  • Michigan has more lighthouses (124) than any other state in the nation.
  • Michigan has more than 100 ports serving recreational, ferry, and commercial interests.
  • Michigan's 21 ferry services provide access to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Canada, and several islands.
  • The oldest operating ferry service in Michigan is the Arnold Transit Co., which started business in 1878.
  • Michigan has 39 commercial cargo ports handling more than 92 million tons of cargo in an average year.
  • The first steamboat to ply the Great Lakes was the Walk in the Water in 1818. It traveled between Detroit, Mich., and Buffalo, N.Y.
  • The largest freighter currently working on the Great Lakes is the Paul Tregurtha. She is 1,013 feet 6 inches long.
  • When launched at Ecorse, Mich. in 1958, the Edmund Fitzgerald was the largest freighter on the lakes at 729 feet long.
  • Michigan's commercial ports handle more than 92 million tons of cargo each year.
  • The world's last coal burning passenger steamship still operates between Ludington, Mich. and Manitowoc, Wis.
  • More than 83 million tons of cargo pass through the Soo Locks every year. That's more tonnage than passes through the Suez and Panama canals, combined.
  • Many Michigan rivers once were used to transport saw logs to mills. This use of the rivers by long ago lumbermen still determines whether a river is considered navigable for legal purposes.
  • The railroad car ferries that connected Michigan's two peninsulas pioneered the use of bow propellers on ice breaking ships. Duplicates of the ferries were built for use in Russia and other Arctic nations.