/ Lake Michigan: An Explorer's Paradise

Lake Michigan: An Explorer's Paradise

Photo Credit: Lake Michigan Stakeholders

Did you know that the Great Lakes are one-fifth of the world’s freshwater? It’s true! Lake Michigan is an incredibly important resource to our state and is celebrated during annual Lake Michigan Day, preserved at the Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and along its connected shoreline communities. Learn more about its rich maritime history and ways you can explore!

Celebrate Lake Michigan Day

Photo Credit: Wisconsin Maritime Museum

Lake Michigan Day is a day to celebrate this precious freshwater resource and highlight the many ways people protect and restore our waters throughout the Great Lakes Basin. Each year, individuals, organizations, and businesses take the extra step to restore and protect Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan basin, and thus our quality of life is honored and recognized for their outstanding achievements. We call them our “Champions of Conservation!” Come and celebrate this year at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc. 

Lake Michigan’s clean freshwater is a tremendous resource and asset to the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, the Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and it connects the cities of Two Rivers, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, and Port Washington. Every facility and community cherishes the history and health of the lake including the preservation of its resources and landmarks for the future.

While the National Marine Sanctuary maps the bottom of lakes and studies the various shipwrecks, the Wisconsin Maritime Museum is able to create exhibits, programs and stories to be told to keep its history alive from their conducted research below the waves.

Visit the Sanctuary

Photo Credit: Wisconsin Historical Society

The Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary, designated in 2021, works to promote stewardship and preserve the rich maritime heritage in Lake Michigan. This sanctuary is one of fifteen in the United States and only one of two total in the Great Lakes region. 

In total, there are 36 shipwrecks that are known throughout the 962 square miles connecting Two Rivers, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, and Port Washington. These same vessels were once involved in the beginnings of our nation being built between the 1830’s and 1930’s! The sanctuary in total It’s managed by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which focuses on researching the environments and ecosystems of the Great Lakes and other regions. This research allows proper resources to be used and decisions to be made that lead to flourishing environments, ecosystems, and surrounding communities. 

The sanctuary also conducts research of their own, focusing on using new technology to search for more shipwrecks, installing real-time wind and wave buoys that read current water temperatures at varying depths, as well as mapping the sanctuary in detail through sonar. Since using sonar, it is believed that there could be 60 more undiscovered shipwrecks holding untold history of our maritime past. 

See the Great Lake for Yourself

Photo Credit: Wisconsin Historical Society

You can see Lake Michigan from any of these towns along the Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast from Two Rivers, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, and Port Washington. When in Two Rivers, you can actually see these shipwrecks in the sanctuary from above by paddle boards! Or dive deep below the waves and discover these ships first-hand. You can also explore the virtual world through virtual reality footage. For extravagant exhibits, be sure to check out Rogers Street Fishing Village, displaying an 1886 historic lighthouse, shipwrecks, artifacts, and commercial fishing. For over 175 years, commercial fishing has been a prevalent business of Lake Michigan.

Manitowoc holds its own historic treasures, such as the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, preserving maritime history for over 50 years. They have fascinating exhibits of the very first navigators on these waters, innovations throughout the years and more information about this busy waterway. Even cooler? The Wisconsin Maritime Museum is home to the USS Cobia, a World War II submarine. And if you want, you can actually tour or spend the night! It has been fully restored to its 1945 appearance that way you can take it all in. Choose your overnight stay, Sub Bnb, or join the Youth Overnight Program for an educational experience!

Right down the shore is Sheboygan, the freshwater surfing capital of the world! Explore the Malibu of the Midwest by kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, motorboating, or relaxing on some of the finest beaches in the entire state. For some up close maritime history, head to DeLand Park and see the site of an actual shipwreck raised on shore, the Lottie Cooper. As topography has changed, they discovered the Lottie Cooper and brought it to shore to display and care for. To learn more about the Lake Michigan environment, Visit Sheboygan STEAM offers several hands-on experiences to better understand this great lake.

Lake Michigan also connects to Port Washington, known for its harbor and shipbuilding history. While in Port Washington, check out the Port Exploreum to see their city’s maritime history rooted along Lake Michigan. All of these shoreline communities showcase history and allow access to visitors of history below and above the waves.

Lake Michigan is truly a cherished resource, especially to our state, and deserves to be celebrated during annual Lake Michigan Day! It is preserved at the National Marine Sanctuary, and showcased along the connected shoreline communities. 

Learn more about the Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast in our newest original short, ‘Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast: Diving Into Our Maritime History’:

You can also listen in The Cabin Podcast ‘Diving In The Dairyland: Wisconsin Shipwrecks and Sanctuaries’ here: 


Hailey Rose: Writer for Discover Mediaworks. A born & bred Wisconsinite with a love for fishing, hunting, and enjoying the great outdoors.


*Narration provided by Wondervox.

From the team at Discover Wisconsin: We believe in making our content accessible to all, which is why we offer an audio version of our blog posts. By clicking the play button above, you can listen to our blogs!

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