As Michiganders, we get an opportunity to enjoy the sun and surf without having to go to an ocean to see a wide expanse of water, enjoying sunrises and sunsets for our lifetime. The lake also provides some fine chances to look into history when Lake Michigan likes to display what it has.

One of those historical items is the former ship, the Contest, that has risen out of the dune sands to provide another reason why Lake Michigan is so cool and yet so powerful. Yes, there were several people that made the visit over the weekend to the White River Light Station Museum just west of Whitehall, but the currently closed museum allowed for visitors to venture to the shore to see history at its finest.

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My family and I made the trek to Muskegon County to check it out for ourselves. My wife and I have been to the lighthouse before, but had not been here in few years, not knowing that one of eight known shipwrecks (according to Michigan Shipwreck Research Association) were going to come out of their sandy graves for a short time. This isn't the first time that the schooner has shown up from the dunes. According to the MSRA, it's the fourth time since 1945 that it has risen from the sand and the second time in four years.

The Contest had very little history other than the large number of incidents on the waters of the Great Lakes. The ship was built in 1855 in Buffalo, New York, and went through numerous owners and fixes over the next 13 years, including a previous sinking in 1868 in Lake Erie when the ship ran aground.

As for the final time the Contest was on the waters, that is currently not known but it was at the height of Whitehall's existence. Logging pioneer and tycoon Charles Mears settled in the area. The city was originally called Mears in 1959, and became Whitehall in 1962, It became a village five years later.

The Contest's remains are just steps away from the White River Light Station, which began operation in 1875 and shortly after Mears dug a new channel to connect White Lake to Lake Michigan. The lake is fed by the White River, that snakes into the forest of western-central Michigan. The Light Station is not too hard to find, but can become tough to navigate through the small residential village of Wabaningo. There also is not too much parking and tends to overflow.

As for how long you can see the Contest, it depends on Mother Nature. As long as Lake Michigan sits low and we don't see significant droves of precipitation, the view of history will still remain until it goes back to its home for the foreseeable future.

A Walk Around the White River Lighthouse and the Contest

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