Shipwreck Management in Michigan's Great Lakes

by Catherine J. Cunningham, Michigan Dep of Natural Resources, Lansing, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Coastal Zone '91


From the year 1679, when Sier de la Salle's legendary trading ship, the Griffin set sail and disappeared on its maiden voyage, to 1975 when the Edmund Fitzgerald went down in Lake Superior's Whitefish Bay, over 6,000 major vessels have been lost to the icy waters of the Great Lakes. Much of the history of the Great Lakes is closely tied to the ships which have plied and been lost in the Lakes' unpredictable waters. These shipwrecks contain a wealth of information on Great Lakes maritime history. In recent years, appreciation for the historical and recreational significance of these shipwrecks has grown. In 1980, the State of Michigan passed legislation that established formal procedures for the salvage of underwater artifacts and provided for the preservation of abandoned property on the bottomlands of the Great Lakes. This legislation also provided for the creation of 'State Underwater Preserves' in areas with historically significant concentrations of shipwrecks and unique geological features. With the designation of the Alger Underwater Preserve along the south coast of Lake Superior in 1981, Michigan became the first Great Lakes state to establish an Underwater Preserve and has since become an acknowledged national leader in the protection and management of shipwreck resources. Michigan now has seven designated, and two proposed Bottomland Preserves which comprise approximately five percent, or 2,052 square miles of Michigan's Great Lakes Bottomlands. Michigan's Underwater Preserves are areas set aside for the protection of natural, historical and archaeological resources. .

Subject Headings: Lakes | Coastal management | Ships | Historic preservation | Legislation | History | Archaeology | Bays | Great Lakes | Michigan | United States | Lake Superior

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