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Saginaw River Rear Range Light....
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Saginaw River Rear Range Light
(lighthouse is NOT accessible by land - view map)

Bay City Boat Lines offer free cruises up the river and pass the light house, you have to check there schedule for the free ones. If you do go try and get a early am cruise (best time to take pictures) morning sun shines on the lighthouse so there are no shadows.

The first Saginaw River Light was erected in 1831. In this time period, a large quantity of lumber was being exported from the heart of Michigan to the east coast (traveling through the Erie Canal.)

In 1867, the Army Corp of Engineers arrived to dredge out the channel so that larger vessels could come through the river. When they were done, the light was no longer well placed to allow boats to navigate the entrance. Funding requests, negotiations for land, and contractural issues delayed work until 1876 when the new light could be erected in a Range Light configuration.

The Front Range Light was constructed atop a square timber crib just off the western river bank, and took the form of a 34 foot tall white painted pyramid timber frame structure similar in design to that being used for pierhead beacons throughout the district at the time. With its upper half sheathed, a small enclosed room was thus created beneath the gallery for the storage of oil and supplies, and in which the Keeper could seek shelter while tending the light during inclement weather conditions. The gallery was surrounded with an iron safety railing and capped with a prefabricated octagonal cast iron lantern. Seated atop a cast iron pedestal within the lantern, the Light's sparkling new fixed white Sixth Order Fresnel lens sat at a focal plane of 37 feet, sending its light 8 ½ miles out into the bay.

The rear range light was constructed 2300 feet south of the mouth of the river. Eleventh District Engineer Major Godfrey Weitzel's design for the combined rear range tower and dwelling was unique. Consisting of a large elevated concrete base supporting a combined brick dwelling and tower, the swampy ground in the chosen site first required the driving of timber piles deep into the ground to provide a solid foundation on which timber forms for the concrete base could be erected and filled. Atop this concrete foundation, a square two-story Cream City brick keeper's dwelling 26' 6" in plan was constructed. Integrated into the northwest corner of the dwelling, a tapered 53' tall square tower with double walls housed a set of prefabricated cast iron spiral stairs. Winding from the cellar to the lantern, these stairs also serving as the only means of access to the first and second floors by way of landings on each floor, each outfitted with tightly fitting arch-topped iron doors designed to stem the spread of fire between floors. A timber deck supported by timber columns encircled the dwelling at the first floor level, providing easy and dry access to all sides of the structure. The living quarters consisted of a kitchen, parlor and oil storage room on the first floor, and three bedrooms above. The tower was capped with a square iron gallery, supported by five cast iron corbels on each of its four sides. An octagonal cast iron lantern was installed at its center, with a fixed white Fourth Order Fresnel lens placed at a focal plane of 61 feet.

The light stayed active, and the residence for the Coast Guard facility until the 1970's when the Coast Guard Station was moved across the river in order to have more space. The station stayed empty until 1986 when Dow Chemical, who owned the surrounding land, purchased the facility and boarded it up.It is generally believed (but not well documented) that the Saginaw River lighthouse was the first place where Range Lights were installed.

More details are available in the article on Lighthouses.

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Larry Lienczewski - Bay City, Michigan-48706 (989) 684-7943
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