Passage Island Light


U.S. Lighthouse Board
Working Party of Men
44 ft.
Fourth Order Fresnel
7.5" (190 mm) acrylic lens
48°13'27"N 88°21'57"W


he most important of Isle Royale's light stations is Passage Island. Marking the narrow passage between Isle Royale's Blake Point and Passage Island, the light primarily guides Canadian ships traveling between Sault Saint Marie, Michigan, and Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. The ships traveling this route "set their course to thread the needle" in reference to this narrow passage which is only 3-1/4 miles wide.

As early as 1871 the U.S. Lighthouse Board requested an appropriation from Congress for the construction of the station. With the discovery of silver deposits on Lake Superior at Silver Islet, Ontario, north of Isle Royale, there was a sharp increase in shipping in the area. An appropriation of $18,000 was made by Congress in 1875 with the condition that the Dominion of Canada reciprocate by constructing a light on Colchester Reef, east of the mouth of the Detroit River, on Lake Erie. This condition delayed the plans to build Passage Island Light Station.

By 1880 the Dominion of Canada had made sufficient progress in the preparations for the Colchester Reef Light, so that actual construction could begin on Passage Island Light. The keystone was set in 1881 and the light was activated on July 1, 1882, three years before Colchester Reef. The station was originally equipped with a mechanical fog bell located in a small separate structure. The fog bell was replaced in 1884 by a 10" steam-powered fog whistle. When the station was established in 1882, a fixed red fourth order lens utilizing an oil burning wick lamp was used. On September 24, 1897, the original equipment was removed and replaced with a flashing white light. In 1912 a steel light tower, with electric light, was erected at Blake Point to help mark the narrow passage between Isle Royale and Passage Island. In 1913 the intensity of the light was increased to 50,000 candlepower when it was converted from an oil wick to an incandescent oil vapor utilizing a mantle. In 1928 the light was electrified. The station was manned as recently as 1957 and on December 20, 1978, it was fully automated.

Media Gallery

Video courtesy of Terry Pepper, Executive Director, Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association.

Historic American Building Survey

Hover Over Survey Sheet

Cloud Zoom small image
  • 2345



  1. Tour of Passage Island Light Station. Prod. Terry Pepper and Dick Moehl. Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, 2013. Digital Video. Appears with permission.

  2. The documentation of the Light Stations of Isle Royale was undertaken by the Historic American Buildings Survey, Robert J. Kapsch, Cheif, HABS/HAER, and Paul D. Dolinsky, Chief, HABS; The Midwest Regional Office of the National Park Service, J. Andrew Ketterson, Chief of Cultural Resources; and Isle Royale National Park, William O. Fink, Superintendent. The project was directed by Joseph D. Balachowski and Frederick J. Lindstrom, HABS Staff Architects and Project Leaders. The project was completed by Judith E. Collins, Supervisory Architect, the Savannah College of Art and Design; David E. Naill, Foreman, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Denise A. Hopkins, Lawrence Technological University; and Michael A. Kraeling, Southern College of Technology. If reproduced, please credit: Historic American Buildings Survey, National Park Service, name of delineator, and date of the drawing.