Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
South Manitou Island
South Manitou Island is located in Lake Michigan, approximately 21 miles west of Leland, Michigan. It is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The island can be accessed by a ferry service from Leland.
South Manitou Island was popular in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries as a harbor and fueling station. This island and the Bay of Green Bay were the only places of refuge for early mariners between Chicago and the Straits of Mackinac. A 100-foot tall lighthouse, which was in operation from 1871 to 1958, marked the harbor.
The isolation of the island provided an ideal environment for growing rye, beans, and peas. Now uninhabited, most of its buildings lie in ruins.
In 1901, the United States Coast Guard built a station on the island to help ships in distress. This station is now the island's ranger station.
The island is three miles wide and three miles long. On its west side, the island is flanked by spectacular dunes. Florence Lake is its only inland lake. The island has a system of trails and campsites. Guided tours on open-air vehicles are available to visitors, but all other traffic is on foot.
A growth of Northern whitecedars on the southwestern corner of the island are among the oldest and largest in the world. The largest is 18 feet around and estimated to be over 500 years old.
The Manitou islands are surrounded by over 50 known shipwreck sites, which are popular diving spots.
Larger North Manitou Island lies to its north.
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