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What’s at the Bottom of Lake Michigan?

The bottom of Lake Michigan holds a lot of mystery. 

While it’s easy to see the activity on its surface, what lies beneath is the subject of much historical exploration.

From shipwrecks to prehistoric stones, the discoveries found at the bottom of one of the Great Lakes may surprise you. 

Let’s dive in!

Lake Michigan History & Stats

Lake Michigan is the third largest Great Lake, with a surface area measuring 22,404 square miles. Four Midwestern states border its waters: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. 

The history of the lake dates back to 1.2 billion years ago. At that time, an event known as the Midcontinent Rift occurred. Two tectonic plates moved in opposite directions creating a large scar on the earth. 

Fast forward about 15,000 years ago, the giant basin created by the tectonic shift filled with water from melting glaciers. Born from this natural occurrence, Lake Michigan formed into today’s configuration. 

The name comes from the Ojibwe word mishigami. It means “great water,” a fitting name for the world’s fifth-largest lake. At its deepest point, the bottom of Lake Michigan sits 923 feet below the surface. 

It’s no surprise to learn mysteries lurking beneath Lake Michigan’s waters. Shipwrecks seem inevitable with multiple ports built along its shoreline and thousands of shipping vessels used to transport goods between cities. 

But what other oddities lie at the bottom of Lake Michigan? You may want to grab some diving gear to find out for yourself!

How Many Shipwrecks Are on the Bottom of Lake Michigan?

Nearly 1,500 shipwrecks lie at the bottom of Lake Michigan. However, only a few hundred have been identified. 

The first recorded wreck dates back to November 21, 1847. The Phoenix, a wooden steamship, caught fire off the coast of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, killing nearly all 300 passengers. Fortunately, 39 people survived by using lifeboats. 

Considered the worst open-water disaster on Lake Michigan, the Lady Elgin sank to the bottom on September 8, 1860. Over 300 people died when a schooner collided with the side of the 252-foot passenger steamer near Chicago.

The last known shipwreck in Lake Michigan occurred during a snowstorm on November 29, 1960. The SS Francisco Morazan, a cargo ship, ran off course and collided with the remains of the 1903 Walter L. Frost wreck. 

Did Divers Really Find Another Stonehenge?

While some news articles referred to a 2007-archeological finding at the bottom of Lake Michigan as “Stonehenge-like,” it’s not exactly accurate. While a stone formation existed, it formed a V-shape rather than a circle typical of a “henge.”

One of the stones discovered appears to have a mastodon image on it. However, the question remains as to whether it’s a human-made carving or a natural formation. The stone remains at the bottom of Lake Michigan, awaiting official analysis. 

If the stone turns out to be an actual carving, it’s likely to date back 10,000 years. Located in the Grand Traverse Bay in northern Michigan, the stone could coincide with other petroglyphs found in the area. 

Shipwreck at the bottom of Lake Michigan
Dive to the bottom of Lake Michigan to check out the many shipwrecks that line the sea floor.

Is Jesus at the Bottom of Lake Michigan?

In a sense, yes, Jesus is peacefully lying at the bottom of Lake Michigan. An 11-foot crucifix weighing 1,800 pounds resides in the Grand Traverse Bay. A local diving club placed it off the shore in 1962 to honor a drowned diver.

The crucifix now honors all lives lost at sea. Located 20 feet below the water’s surface, curious divers can easily find the religious relic. 

Are There Bodies in Lake Michigan?

Undoubtedly, yes! With nearly 1,500 shipwrecks, many with passengers who didn’t survive, there are bound to be bodies drifting along Lake Michigan’s sandy bottom. 

While many of those who perished long ago may no longer be identifiable, more recent findings have come to the surface. We mean this literally!

In April 2022, two women’s bodies surfaced in the lake. The cause of death is unclear. However, it may be that they were drowning victims over the winter. 

They likely fell into the water when the lake was frigid. The near-freezing temperature slows decomposition down considerably, and the body’s weight causes it to sink rather than float. 

However, when the water begins to warm, the bodies fill with gases and cause them to float toward the surface. It’s a rather disturbing discovery for the average person, but science nerds tend to find it pretty interesting. 

Person diving underwater
There’s lots of things to be found at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Is there a City Under Lake Michigan?

Sorry to disappoint you, but there isn’t a hidden Atlantis-type city at the bottom of Lake Michigan. Rather, a former village known as Singapore did exist at one time near the current western Michigan city of Saugatuck. 

From 1837 to 1875, Singapore was a thriving lumber and shipbuilding hub. The founders dreamed of the town rivaling emerging cities in Illinois and Wisconsin. 

But a series of fires destroyed many homes in Singapore. Additionally, the lumber trade waned. Eventually, the town was left to its own demise and is known as “Michigan’s Pompeii.” 

No signs remain of the once-prosperous coastal village, just sand dunes, and trees.

The Mysteries Continue at the Bottom of Lake Michigan

Researchers and archaeologists will likely continue to find discoveries along the bottom of Lake Michigan. The history of shipwrecks alone will keep them busy for years to come. 

Which of these discoveries did you find most interesting? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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