Today’s destination was Belanger Park in River Rouge, which runs along the Detroit River. It was the first time for me visiting this venue, although I’ve meandered along the Detroit River boardwalks at Elizabeth Park, Bishop Park and Dingell Park plenty of times. The primary reason for my visit was to check out the Belanger Lighthouse. Yes, it piqued my interest last week at the Grosse Ile Lighthouse tour, and it was a beautiful day, so I headed over there. The boardwalk and lighthouse are pictured above.
Yesterday was a stormy day and we had torrential rain multiple times. Three days of rain would likely have caused lakeshore flooding in most of the parks I frequent, so this excursion was a safe bet, though I did wonder if water would be slopping over the seawall like once at Bishop Park – it was fine. The sky and clouds were a myriad of colors; at times the clouds were dark and angry looking and sometimes the sky was bright blue with fluffy clouds that were like huge cotton balls. The wind was brisk at times; if you look closely, you can see the flag flapping in the breeze.
It was a great outing and I got in six miles while strolling the River boardwalk and around the grounds. Here’s what I saw on today’s trek.
Déjà vu – just look at the view!
Yep, this lighthouse looks very similar to the one I profiled last Sunday and I mused that I have gone my entire life without going anywhere near a lighthouse and suddenly I have visited two in six days! The Belanger Lighthouse may look similar in color, but it does not have the rich history of the Grosse Ile Lighthouse. You cannot tour inside, but you can get up close and you needn’t cross a long pier with no side rails – whew!!! (And with wobbly legs no less from that 51-steep-step climb up and down to the lantern room.) This is a functioning lighthouse and was built in 2003 as a memorial to the lost Great Lakes mariners. This is the front and rear view.
There were no facts or stats by the lighthouse, except a plaque and info showing the lighthouse was built in 2003 by volunteers and dedicated the following year and the info about the Edmund Fitzgerald.
So, I researched a little for some info and discovered that the Belanger Lighthouse has been certified by the U.S. Coast Guard as an aid to navigation, and, unlike the lighthouses requiring a “keeper” this lighthouse is automated. From its lantern room, it projects a continuous white light. It is a hexagonal wooden tower, topped with a weathervane and is 56 feet tall (the Grosse Ile Lighthouse was 40 feet tall).
As mentioned, the Belanger Lighthouse is a memorial to the men of the ill-fated freighter, the Edmund Fitzgerald, whose crew of 29 were lost in a storm the evening of November 10, 1975 and subsequently memorialized in Gordon Lightfoot’s song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald“.
When the Edmund Fitzgerald was launched in 1958, it was the largest ship on North America’s Great Lakes and remains the largest ship to have sunk there. Its tie to River Rouge is that it was built in that City.
There are memory paver bricks, but it is unclear if any names represent mariners lost in the Great Lakes or merely donations for the lighthouse project.
Fishing, freighters and much more.
When I finished taking photos of the lighthouse, I decided to explore the River’s edge where just a few fishermen were casting out this morning – one was sitting on the picnic table with his fishing pole propped up against the railing. I saw this sign indicating the fishing was good and took a photo of it – you’ll recall at Lower Huron Metropark last week, there were warnings about eating the fish due to the PFAS contamination.
While admiring the view, I ran into Christy, who was seated on a park bench, similarly admiring the downtown Detroit skyline and Ambassador Bridge which connects the U.S. to Canada.
We chatted it up for a bit and I learned about the park and lighthouse. Christy’s uncle was one of the volunteers who helped build the lighthouse and her daughter was married on the lighthouse steps.
Christy was waiting on her husband to return to Belanger Park. He was in a small boat making a video for a PBS documentary about a group of kayakers who were paddling down the Detroit River on their annual Lower Industrial Rouge Tour. The kayakers are members of the Riverside Kayak Connection and they have partnered with the Friends of the Rouge since 2007 for this annual event. The kayakers began at the Melvindale boat ramp, went down the River, past the Ford Rouge Complex, and under the suspension bridges. After a two-hour trip, these kayakers were the first of the group to show up, along with Christy’s husband who is in the nearby boat.
While we chatted, we watched one freighter, from the BigLift line, hauling oversized cargo. It passed by going extremely fast for a ship of that size.
Another freighter was nearing the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit.
The BBC Leda, was waiting in the wings.
Pleasure boats dotted the waterway as well. Here are some other sights from along the Detroit River boardwalk.
The power plant was sending plumes of steam into the sky.
Just a gal and her gull.
I have an affinity for seagulls. Unlike the heron who bolts as soon as I start to take a picture, seagulls are more good-natured and will pose in place for a very long time. So, I’m sorry … I just could not help myself and took tons of seagull shots. This seagull, whom I’ll name Jonathan, was willing to let me stalk him as I walked along the boardwalk and I didn’t even have treats for him. He flew and landed every so often to keep pace with me.
It was a bit windy by the water and it kept ruffling his feathers. Jonathan let me get quite close – isn’t this a fine-looking feathered fellow?
Occasionally he got a little antsy and hopped down on the other side of the barrier.
Jonathan appeared to be woolgathering while staring out to “sea” …
… alas, he grew tired of posing …
… and flew off, muttering, er, … screeching to himself. I don’t speak seagull so I’m not sure what Jonathan said, but he didn’t return and thankfully he did not fly over my car.
As if on cue …
I wandered around the grounds at Belanger Park, which is just west of the River Rouge Power Plant. This Park is actually between two industrial sites and I could hear the coal-carrying trains circling the plant and tooting their horns while doing so. I was reading the sign about how the site is slowly becoming a natural habitat.
As if on cue, while reading about the new-and-improved area, a beautiful Monarch butterfly settled first onto the yellow daisy.
Next, that winged creature dipped and swooped as the breeze threatened to wreak havoc with its flight pattern over to the goldenrod. It made it over safely, but was hanging on for dear life, opening and closing those beautiful wings often as it braced itself to stay steady on the bright yellow flowers.
I’ve been blessed seeing butterflies lately – soon they will begin their long journey to warmer climes as they kiss Summer in Southeast Michigan goodbye.