It's true, the waters of Lake Huron in Northeast Michigan conceal an incredible collection of 200 shipwrecks in and around Thunder Bay, chronicling the area's maritime history in a series of time capsules beneath the waves. Designated a National Marine Sanctuary in 2000, the 448-square mile Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Alpena is the only sanctuary located in fresh water, and it's practically in your backyard.
Why so many shipwrecks? Thousands of vessels traveled the Great Lakes over the past 200 years; 1,000-foot bulk freighters still ply these same routes today. These waters could, however, become treacherous in Lake Huron's unpredictable weather, its murky fog banks, and sudden gales. Busy shipping lanes and extreme weather, combined with the rocky shoals of Thunder Bay, doomed dozens of vessels in â€œShipwreck Alleyâ€ to the lake floor off Alpena, Michigan.
Want to see for yourself? For the certified SCUBA diver, simply dive in! Access to Sanctuary shipwrecks is not restricted and there are shipwrecks at a range of depths appealing to a variety of diver skill levels. Seasonal shipwreck mooring buoys mark many of the most popular dive sites, and wreck coordinates can be obtained at Thunder Bay's site. Snorkelers, kayakers, and boaters can even view the shallower wrecks from the surface.
Not certified to dive? Exhibits at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center (500 W. Fletcher St., Alpena) highlight the history, archaeology, and artifacts from Thunder Bay's shipwrecks, including exceptional underwater footage and images of the incredibly intact wrecks in the sanctuary.
To plan a trip or learn more about their exhibits, click here.
The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary's Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center is located at: 500 W. Fletcher Street, Alpena, MI 49707. Please call 989-356-8805 for additional information and hours of operation.