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Thunder Bay

David J. Ruck/NOAA

Thunder Bay
National Marine Sanctuary

Thanks to Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (NMS), the first sanctuary in the Great Lakes, America’s treacherous ‘Shipwreck Alley’ transformed into a destination of maritime heritage and culture and a major economic contributor to its community.

Along the shores of Alpena, MI, Thunder Bay NMS includes a heavily-trafficked stretch of water infamous for unpredictable weather, murky fog banks, sudden gales and rocky shoals. That nickname that sailors gave this area in the 1800s is justified. It’s home to one of the nation’s best-preserved, nationally-significant collections of shipwrecks. More than 100 wrecks have been discovered and more than 200 likely exist, kept intact by Lake Huron’s cold waters. In addition to sheer numbers, the diversity of the collection – pioneer sidewheel steamboats, schooners and modern steel freighters – captures the span of commerce and travel on the Great Lakes. Geological and archaeological evidence suggests prehistoric sites there as well.

Sanctuary visitors can enjoy diving, glass-bottom boat tours, kayaking, snorkeling and fishing. Education and outreach programs also provide understanding of the nation’s maritime history through the Thunder Bay NMS experts’ work discovering, protecting and interpreting wrecks.

The 2000 designation of the Sanctuary helped launch many locally-owned services and businesses which, in turn, brought major community regrowth and economic benefits to northeastern Michigan. In 2014, community-supported expansion efforts led to a 10-fold increase in sanctuary boundaries. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation was integral to the grassroots community effort that achieved the expansion. Our work included advocacy on the community’s behalf to policymakers and facilitation of a regional workshop for representatives from across the Great Lakes. The Foundation also advocated for the funding of the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, which is a center for the community and helps drive tourism.

Related Links :

Thunder Bay NMS Website

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