Monohansett shipwreck in Lake Huron

We wanted to fill you in on a little secret.

Did you know one of the most destructive sites for shipwrecks in the entire world is located in the US?

It’s not something many people know, but the Great Lakes is the final resting spot for thousands of ships. The estimated number is around 6,000. Historian Mark Thompson, who wrote Graveyard of the Great Lakes, estimates that number to be around 25,000!

You could probably guess why, right?

For one, that area was known for having incredibly dense fog, so much so that at times you could barely see your hand when you held it up in front of you. Also remember, the first modern lighthouse wasn’t invented until 1822, and ships were sailing the Great Lakes hundreds of years before that.

Then there were the surging storms and unpredictable winds. All of this was happening in narrow passageways filled with other ships, and in waters that have shallow areas you only detect once you’ve ran into them.

One of the most notorious zones for shipwrecks is on our Lake Michigan cruise. It’s a place called Door County, otherwise known as “Death’s Door”.

Balcony view from Mackinac Island, overlooking Lake Huron

You can’t get a name like that without some serious history

First, let us clear up a major misconception. That name does not come from the large amount of shipwrecks that happened there. Rather, it was coined by the French as they heard tales from the Native Americans. A war party was crossing the strait in the attempts of raiding another tribe, when a storm hit, capsized the ships and killed a third of the party.

That doesn’t mean there wasn’t destruction for others

Some say that the area has more shipwrecks than any other section of fresh water in the entire world. See, if you look on the map, it’s a pretty narrow passage. It separates Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula from the tiny islands just to the north of it. Strong currents and unpredictable winds made it so hazardous that the official 1906 Sailing Directions for Lake Michigan noted, “certain destruction awaits the craft going ashore”.

So why would ships sail there?

Staying with the map, you see it’s the chief passage between Lake Michigan and the Bay of Green Bay. It was a pretty critical channel. Ship captains accepted the risk as staying with that route saved them a lot of time.

Something like this couldn’t last too long, though. Eventually, canals were built that facilitated a much safer—and shorter—passage. The route is still used by modern ships, as they are much better equipped to handle the area.

And one of those ships would be ours! Such stories of shipwrecks and heroic sailors are not to be missed, and it’s why we include this in our itinerary. Our Magical Lake Michigan cruise takes you around Death’s Door, where we learn more about the hidden shipwrecks that dot the area. Secrets await!

Discover the mysteries of Door County and book your Magical Lake Michigan cruise now!