Explore Lake Michigan Shipwrecks Like a Local

Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes of North America, holds a fascinating secret beneath its waves. Its waters serve as the final resting place for an estimated 1,500 shipwrecks. These sunken vessels form an underwater museum, each with a unique story to tell about the region’s maritime history. Explore these Lake Michigan shipwrecks in the blog below!

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The Allure of Lake Michigan Shipwrecks

The allure of exploring Lake Michigan’s shipwrecks lies in the tales they hold of human endeavor, tragedy, and time’s relentless passage. From schooners and steamers to fishing boats, these shipwrecks span the centuries, many dating back to the early 1800s.

Swallowed by the water from ferocious storms, high waves, or fire, what remains of these vessels are wooden ribs, rusted iron hulls, and scattered artifacts. These relics provide glimpses into the past, offering valuable insights into the vessels’ construction, the lives of their crew, and the circumstances surrounding their demise.

How to See the Shipwrecks

The good news for history enthusiasts, divers, and even casual tourists is that some of these shipwrecks are accessible and visible. Here’s how you can see them:

Scuba Diving

Scuba diving is the most direct way to explore the sunken treasures of Lake Michigan. The lake’s relatively cold, fresh water helps preserve the wrecks, some of which are in surprisingly good condition. Popular dive sites include the Home, a ship that sank in the late 1800s and now rests near Milwaukee, and the SS Francisco Morazan, a cargo ship grounded off South Manitou Island.

Before embarking on a dive, it’s crucial to remember that scuba diving can be dangerous, especially in the challenging conditions often found in the Great Lakes. Always dive with a buddy, stay within your certification limits, and pay close attention to weather conditions.


For those who prefer to stay closer to the surface, snorkeling is a great option. Several shipwrecks lie in shallow water near the shore, making them accessible to snorkelers. One such site is the wreck of the James McBride, a brig that ran aground during a storm in 1857. The wreck now lies in water less than 15 feet deep near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Glass-Bottom Boat Tours

 If you’d rather stay dry while exploring Lake Michigan’s shipwrecks, consider a glass-bottom boat tour. These tours allow you to view the wrecks through clear panels in the boat’s floor. Some tours even use remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) equipped with cameras to provide close-up views of deeper wrecks.

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Exploring Lake Michigan’s shipwrecks offers an exciting adventure into the past. Whether you’re an experienced diver, a history buff, or a curious traveler, these underwater time capsules provide a unique way to connect with the region’s rich maritime history.

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