Welcome to the Bete Gris Light Station
You are visiting a working lighthouse with its original fourth order Fresnel Lens. Built in 1895, this lighthouse and its reservation remain unchanged from that time.
As a long time property owner in the Keweenaw, I first saw this lighthouse on a motorcycle ride in September of 1997. It was love at first sight and from that day on it was my dream to restore this historic property to its original condition and have it become a working lighthouse once again.
That dream came true in 1998 when I became the new caretaker for Mendota. No one owns anything this important—I am just fortunate to be the next custodian as this lighthouse really belongs to everyone.
The first thing we did after purchasing Mendota was make every effort to locate the original fourth order Fresnel Lens. We found it and then proceeded to develop the technology to restore all the prisms and lens to new. On July 5, 1998 at 9:45 p.m. Mendota once again flashed its .8 second white light fourteen miles into Lake Superior every twenty seconds. All of the out-buildings have been restored which can be seen if you take the tour. All the original plans for the lighthouse and buildings were located and Mendota’s interior is now to its original configuration complete with period furniture. We were fortunate to locate all the original logs for Mendota in the archives at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan.
Shortly after acquiring Mendota I was approached by several of the local residents asking my help in preserving the area from proposed development that would most certainly destroy one of the great fresh water marshes in North America. Thus began a five year battle to do just that and in the end we prevailed and this area is now in the custody of the Nature Conservancy. The credit for this goes to a lady name Janet Avery. She was a fighter who did more to save the Keweenaw environment than any other person or organization.
This website is meant to be informative and fun. Toward that end we feel that if one is aware of their history then they tend to value it to a greater extent.
I feel the Keweenaw is the finest place on earth. My business takes me around the world and I have seen the great places on this earth, but I can assure you that there is nothing quite like the Keweenaw and this fresh water "ocean" called Lake Superior.
Please send us an email and let us know if you have visited Mendota and where you are from. At the relighting of Mendota we had more than three thousand people from twenty-seven countries and thirty-three states. I can only image the people and places we will hear from.
In the near future we will once again have the lighthouse weather station operational again and also a live cam.
Thanks for your visit and enjoy the experience.
***Sadly, Gary Kohs has passed away. The new lightkeeper is intent on keeping Gary's vision and the integrity of the lighthouse. Below is a note from him.
In my tired eyes, the Mendota Lighthouse is timeless. From the cockpit of an F/A-18C, I have seen an entire country on fire. I have seen an amber sunset over the dunes of Abu Dhabi from atop a camel. I have seen The Great Pyramid of Giza astride an Arabian steed. But when I gaze across the channel at the Mendota Lighthouse, or look at it from the Grey Beast; it looks epic, timeless, much like it did 125 years ago.
I can see Gary Kohs docking his Zodiac with an earnest smile on his face. I can see Paddy Jaskellainen swimming across the channel to retrieve his rowboat. I can see the Jilbert family searching for their toddler Eunice. As Gary wrote above, ‘Built in 1895, this lighthouse and its reservation remain unchanged from that time.’ I intend to preserve Gary’s vision, and the dignity of the Mendota Lighthouse, for my portion of the ‘Next 100 years’.
Barry Lopez wrote in his book, Arctic Dreams; the fate of a people, as well as the fate of a land, “… hinged on the same thing, on the source of their dignity, on whether it was innate or not.” In an age of undignified ‘Selfie’ Americans, the Mendota Lighthouse will remain a beacon of dignity. In the past 125 years, couples have wed at the Mendota Lighthouse, children have perished, a baby was born, a kindly soul rests there for eternity. In my eyes, it is a spiritual, holy place.
I’ve served America, above and beyond the call of duty. I lost count of friends who perished in Navy warbirds. Now I just want peace and solitude, to quietly carry out the vision of Gary Kohs…and Laura.
48180 N. Grosse Pte. Shores
Hancock, MI 49930
13702 Bete Gris Road
Mohawk, MI 48850
Lac La Belle, Mohawk, Michigan 49950, United States
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