When Rooster asked me what I wanted to do the evening of our anniversary, I said we should pay a visit to the “Big Red” lighthouse and take a walk on the beach. He programmed his phone’s GPS for 2215 Ottawa Beach Road, and we headed for Holland State Park.
Holland State Park
Rooster and I are no stranger to Holland State Park. It is one of our favorite beaches on Lake Michigan. We spent a noteworthy 4th of July sitting on this beach, watching fireworks explode over the water. When it was all over, we waited for the rush of traffic to leave before we climbed on our motorcycle and headed back to the hotel. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had while visiting Holland.
The Amenities Holland State park has to offer
- Lake Michigan
- Lake Macatawa
- A sandy beach
- Two modern campgrounds
- Paddle rentals
- Metal detecting area
- A playground
- Connection to Holland’s non-motorized trails
- Boat launch located 1 mile east with a fish cleaning station
- And most importantly, the “Big Red” lighthouse
Note: Holland State Park is currently open, but the “Big Red” lighthouse is closed due to COVID-19.
A little “Big Red” history
“Big Red” is the name of the lighthouse located on the south side of Holland Channel. When Dutch settlers came to the Holland area in 1870, they knew they needed access to Lake Michigan from Macatawa Lake. Sandbars and silt blocked the passageway, which had to be removed before boats could pass through to Lake Michigan. Dr. Albertus Van Raalte wrote the US government and requested funds to construct a harbor at what has now become Holland State Park. This harbor needed a lighthouse.
The lighthouse became the first structure, built-in 1870, with $4000.00 in federal funds. The lighthouse keeper’s job consisted of carrying a lighted oil lamp along a catwalk. His route started on the shore where he lived. He traveled along a catwalk to the lighthouse under the lens of a magnifying device, which would illuminate the light he carried for approaching ships. In heavy fog, he blew a horn to warn ships out on Lake Michigan to stay away from the shore.
The first lighthouse keeper, named Melgert Van Regenmorter, served for many years. After he retired, a great amount of turn over occurred among the lighthouse keepers. It appears the solitary lifestyle isn’t appealing to everyone. The last active lighthouse keeper, Joseph Boshka, served for fifteen years. He earned the nickname of “cap’ during his tenure.
“Big Red” lighthouse is photogenic
In 1917, the 12th Lighthouse District built the “Big Red” structure as it is today. The upper level is Queen Ann Victorian-style architecture, and the under half of the lighthouse has legs. These so-called legs make the structure more stable. It is one of the most visually appealing lighthouses on the West Coast of Lake Michigan. Artists and photographers love to create pictures using “Big Red” as their model. I know I’ve taken my share of photographs of the structure over the years.
Our Anniversary walk on the beach
There is nothing more romantic than a walk on the beach, except when a crowd of people is out enjoying the evening on the milky sand. That was the dilemma Rooster and I found ourselves faced with once we climbed out of our Chevy Spark and headed toward the water. The beach at Holland State Park remained crowded even though the sun was in the process of slipping from the sky. Masks covered the faces of many beach walkers while others broke the rules and remained bare-faced.
Rooster didn’t get to make any of his moves, but I did take my shoes off for the walk. The warm milky sand felt wonderful as it seeped between my toes. We walked the length of the beach for a while, watching college-aged kids playing some sort of game near the water. The warm temperatures persisted, making the water look attractive. It was getting late, and our swimming suits were back in Indiana, so we stuck to walking the beach.
The benches near the playground tempted us to sit for a while. From our vantage point, Rooster and I had the perfect view of “Big Red.” A light breeze flowed off the open water of Lake Michigan. We lingered on the bench until the sky started to grow dark, and the full-moon poked its face out from behind the clouds and hovered against above the lake. It was full, so its reflection sparkled in the water.
The nightly beach exodus
Lifeguards interrupted our thoughts of lingering on our bench in the dark. It is a pesky rule the beach closes down at dusk. Off in the distance, we could see the lights of a vehicle cruising the shoreline. People moved in our direction, heading toward the parking lot. Rooster and I stood to our feet, not wanting to be accosted by “the man.” A parade of vehicles made their way toward the exit. Rooster and I decided to wait until the traffic cleared. We’d been through one of these exoduses from Holland State Park before.
Overall, our visit to the “Big Red” lighthouse and a walk on the beach became the perfect ending to a day spent in Holland, Michigan, on our anniversary. People seemed to be practicing social distancing precautions. They made direct contact with the people they came with but kept a safe distance between themselves and everyone else. Visiting Holland State Park, even in the middle of a pandemic, is a great adventure.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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Chickens don’t like to walk in the sand. They prefer solid ground underneath their feet. Give them a path of good dirt, and they will be happy all day long.” Rhody Norris, author of Aunt Rhody’s Handbook on Chicken Farming.