The SS Edmund Fitzgerald is known for its crew’s tragic demise when the ship sank on November 10, 1976. The exact cause of the shipwreck remains a mystery to this day.
In honor of each crew member lost, the Mariner’s Church in Detroit rang its bell 29 times the day after the wreck. But what if you want to honor the Edmund Fitzgerald today? Where should you go?
We did some digging and found more than one option.
Let’s jump in!
About the Edmund Fitzgerald
The Edmund Fitzgerald was a freighter ship in the Great Lakes. The largest ship of its kind, the “Mighty Fitz,” took her maiden voyage on September 24th, 1958. The freighter was a known workhorse, carrying bulk taconite iron ore pellets from port to port.
The Edmund Fitzgerald attracted intrigue and conversation during her career. She gained many nicknames, including “Big Fitz,” “Pride of The American Side,” and “Fitz.” “Fitz” became a favorite for boat watchers as well.
Captain Peter Pulcer, the captain in command during her record-setting years, would pipe music over the ship’s intercom almost nonstop! No wonder the ship carried passengers during this time.
On November 9, 1975, “Fitz” set off on a cargo mission from Superior, Wisconsin, to Zug Island, Michigan. By the early hours of November 10, the current ship’s captain, McSorley, and his team encountered terrible weather and treacherous sea conditions. Lake Superior’s reputation, dangerous and unrelenting, proved mighty that day.
The last sighting of the Edmund Fitzgerald was shortly after 7:10 pm when another ship captain made brief contact with McSorely during the siege of storms. It soon disappeared from all communication. The shipwreck was eventually found, split in two approximately 530 feet below.
Sadly, no bodies of the 29 crew lost that day were ever found.
Where Is the Resting Place of the Edmund Fitzgerald?
The Edmund Fitzgerald sits where it sank, 17 miles from Whitefish Bay, on the border between Michigan and Ontario.
The closest land is Whitefish Point, Michigan. Remote, windy, and coastal, this sandy coastline is a wildlife sanctuary. Birders from across the nation love the area, where one can view several species on their spring and fall migrations.
Pro Tip: Unsure if a trip to the Great Lakes should be in your travel plans or not? We broke down Is Northern Michigan Worth a Visit?
Where Can You Honor the Edmund Fitzgerald?
If you need a flexible date range, the best place to honor the Edmund Fitzgerald is at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The museum is located at Whitefish Point and is open to the public from May 1 to October 31. You can learn a lot about the area’s history and why shipwrecks were not uncommon.
The Shipwreck Museum holds an official memorial event annually on November 10.
Mariner’s Church of Detroit also hosts an annual memorial on November 10. It has hosted a memorial service ever since November 11, 1976. The Church expanded its commemoration in 2006 to include all lives lost on the Great Lakes.
You will also find annual memorials held by the Minnesota Historial Society at Split Rock, The Dossin Great Lakes Museum, and the Museum Ship Valley Camp in Sault Ste. Marie.
“The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald,” a song by Gordon Lightfoot, also provides honor. Released just months after the shipwreck, some cite the song as a big reason the tragedy became so well known.
Can You Tour the Edmund Fitzgerald?
As the ‘Mighty Fitz’ still lays at rest under the sea, you cannot tour the ship. But we think that a visit to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum can get you pretty close. Divers recovered the original ship’s bell through painstaking work in 1995. It serves as the center memorial piece at the Shipwreck Museum.
Best Hikes Near the Edmund Fitzgerald
The area surrounding Whitefish Bay, where the Edmund Fitzgerald last sailed, is a nature-filled oasis. But an oasis of a specific, northern kind. You will find forests, lakes, bays, cliffs, and sandy shores. And you’ll need a windbreaker. If this sounds right for you, we have some great hikes in mind.
Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls
After spending some time at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is an excellent spot for an afternoon hike. Located about 35 minutes south of the Museum, you can explore the Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls Trails.
The Upper Tahquamenon Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. The moderate hike is accessible for all on foot or bike. Note that the park requires the Michigan Recreation Passport for vehicle entry.
The Lower Tahquamenon Falls is made up of five smaller waterfalls. Hikers describe the color of its water as “root beer,” accented by the tannins from the local trees.
The entire Tahquamenon Falls Hike is 10.2 miles.
Pro Tip: The Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls aren’t the only stunning waterfalls in Michigan. Check out these 7 Amazing Waterfalls in Michigan.
Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout
If you want to extend your stay, we highly recommend hiking the next day at the Edmund Fitzgerald lookout. But first – do you have your passport?
The Edmund Fitzgerald lookout is on the other side of Whitefish Bay, in Ontario, Canada. It’s about a 2 ½ hour drive from Whitefish Point. The international crossing point is in Sault St. Marie, which may be a nice place to stop for a bite and hot tea.
The lookout hike is 3.8 miles, located within the beautiful Pancake Bay Provincial Park. You’ll find gorgeous beaches near this gentle trail. The “Fitz” lookout is accessible via stairs. When you reach the top of the stairs, you’ll be gazing over Lake Superior.
Best Camping Near the Edmund Fitzgerald
We think the lookout in Pancake Bay Provincial Park crowns the experience of honoring the Edmund Fitzgerald. But as far as the time needed, it’s a commitment. You need to cross international borders and probably have a good itinerary in place. The tea, however, is optional.
The Knitters Northcountry Campground and Rivermouth Modern are great and under one hour from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Memorial.
Rivermouth Modern Campground
The Rivermouth Modern Campground is located 5 miles south of the town of Paradise, on the eastern edge of Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Situated along the river, the campground is serene and somewhat remote. Many prefer to stay here over the fairly crowded campground adjacent to the falls.
Amenities include partial hookups, pull through, a fire ring, a playground, and boat rentals. A second section within the campground called Rivermouth Pines is for those yearning for even more seclusion who don’t need access to power.
Location: 32130 W. South River Road, Paradise, MI 49768.
Kritter’s Northcountry Campground
If you prefer to settle down for the night with a little less rustic vibe, you might try the Kritter’s North Country Campground. This family-owned campground is north of the village of Newbury. Full hookups are available for RVs, plus log cabins for the road-weary.
Location: 13209 State Highway M-123 Newberry, MI 49868. GPS: 46.4239, -85.5101
Is a Road Trip to Honor the Edmund Fitzgerald Worth It?
Our answer to this question is: it depends. We know. But as the Canadians say, we’re not “talkin chirp!”
This road trip truly depends on how much time you have, your weather preferences, and your interest in having a solid plan.
The area surrounding the central memorial for the Edmund Fitzgerald is vastly scenic and unique.
We have barely scratched the surface of the natural wonder found in the Great Lakes area. But a drive to this remote, most northern part of Michigan takes a bit of grit. Once you choose to take this trip, it’s not easy to turn around and venture elsewhere.
If you’re a historian, we think you’ll love it. If we’ve piqued your interest in the story of the “Mighty Fitz,” you might like basing your next adventure around getting to Whitefish Point. But if you’re mainly interested in the facts and stats of this shipwreck story, this trip may not be for you.
We recommend taking time on your next drive to settle in and listen to some Gordon Lightfoot. Take in the lyrics to “The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald” on your own time. Perhaps after, you’ll have the answer you’re looking for.
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