July 2007: Lighthouse Park


Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan

Old Mission Peninsula is an 18-mile appendage that splits Lake Michigan's Traverse Bay neatly in half. Presbyterian Minister Peter Dougherty arrived in 1838 to establish the missionary for which the peninsula would be named. As settlers arrived they discovered ideal growing conditions on the narrow land moderated by the surrounding waters of Lake Michigan. Getting the crops to market was not so easy as growing them, however, thanks to a series of rocky shoals around the tip of the peninsula.

Congress authorized funds for the building of a lighthouse here in 1859 but the Civil War prevented construction until 1870. A keeper was stationed here until the 1930s when a navigational marker was built on the shoals in the lake. The Mission Point Light remains the focal point of the park that was created by the state of Michigan after World War II. The lighthouse sits directly on the 45th parallel - halfway between the equator and the North Pole. 

The trail system stitches several paths into a loop of a couple miles around the tip of the peninsula that works through woodlands and along the shore of Lake Michigan. This is easy hiking for your dog on mostly level terrain with plenty of opportunity for your dog to visit the waters of the lake.  

Look for distinctive wood-burned trail markers as you go. This is a passive recreation park with activities limited to hiking and beachcombing. The lighthouse is not open to the public as it is used as living quarters for township employees.

This time of year on Old Mission Peninsula is cherry harvest time. Stop and pick your own or grab a fresh quart at a roadside farm stand. If you prefer your cherry trees for the blossoms come back in early spring and admire the miles of orchards marching over the hillsides. 

From Route 31 in Grand Traverse, take Route 37 north to the end of the 18-mile penisula.