Preserving Michigan's Underwater Past

ArchaeologyA variety of state agencies partner in the stewardship of Michigan's submerged heritage. The State Archaeologist in the State Historic Preservation Office determines the archaeological research potential, historical significance and interpretation of artifacts found on Great Lakes bottomlands. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is responsible for the recognition of recreational opportunities; and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is responsible for enforcement of safe-boating and anti-theft laws. Together, these agencies oversee one of the strongest underwater preservation programs in the United States.

The fourth partner in Michigan's maritime heritage preservation is the public: families on vacation, avocational scuba divers, charter boat operators, business owners, and many others who value the history represented by the vessels and recognize the importance of preserving them.

Michigan has a network of underwater preserves where snorkelers, scuba divers, and boaters can explore the wreckage of many types of vessels. The DEQ offers information on all Michigan Underwater Preserves.  

In October 2000, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) designated a national marine sanctuary in Thunder Bay at Alpena. The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve is the only NOAA freshwater marine sanctuary. In addition to the collection of shipwrecks to explore offshore, a visitor center welcomes those who prefer to stay on dry land. Administration of the sanctuary is a partnership between NOAA and the State of Michigan.