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Water Lighthouse Sky Tower Building

For nearly 100 years, the St. Clair Flats South Channel Range Lights have stood darkly against the night.

That will change Tuesday.

A sold out Light the Night cruise, sponsored by the Save Our South Channel Lights group, will rekindle one of the lights that once guided vessels through the St. Clair Flats.

"We're going to illuminate the tower itself at twilight," said group President Chuck Brockman, of Harsens Island. "After it is totally dark and we are on site, we will light the light on the lens in the lantern room."

The lens was donated to the group by the U.S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team. The range lights are off the southeastern tip of Harsens Island.

The South Channel Range Lights were completed in 1859 and decommissioned in 1907, Brockman said. The times had passed them by.

"The ships got bigger and the channel got more shallow," Brockman said. "A new channel had to be dug. In 1956, as the ships got even larger, a third channel, the St. Clair Cutoff Channel, was constructed. That is what they use today."

Range lights are used for navigation, he said.

"Range lights are two lights that can be in lighthouse form or on a metal pole that ships align to try to find the channel," Brockman said. "Once the boater lines the lights up, they know they are in the channel and won't go aground."

Rob Schoenmann, an SOSCL director from Harrison Township, is not sure if spectators will be able to see the ceremony from shore.

"We have not tested the distance of the light yet," he said in an email. "We got approval from the Coast Guard to leave the light on all night. From Harsens Island, the lights might be viewed from the end of Bates Highway. However, there is no parking in that area. I assume if they stood outside their cars, they would not have a problem if the light will reach that far."

The goal of the cruise is to raise money for a matching grant to continue restoration of the range lights.

"There are four phases to the restoration process," Schoenmann wrote. "The first was to shore up the front light, which was done in the 1990's. Next, we are 90 percent complete in shoring up the rear light and redoing the lighthouse tower.

"The money from the grant will help us start phase three of the project whereby we straighten the front light and rebuild the lantern room. Finally, in phase four we want to rebuild the keeper's quarters and open the facility for tours."

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