Shipwreck Project Preserves Indiana’s Maritime History

The Takeaway: Researchers conducted a survey of shipwrecks in the coastal waters of Lake Michigan to update records and understand how to continue conserving these underwater museums.

Shipping was, and still is, a major industry in the waters of the Great Lakes, and a number of shipwrecks lie at the bottom of Indiana’s coastal waters. The state’s Lake Michigan Coastal Management Program has worked with partners to document and protect several sunken ships that represent the underwater cultural heritage of Lake Michigan. Previously, the sites were accessible for tour only by divers. Now the project enables virtual tours of several shipwrecks that are accessible to anyone with a computer.

The team conducted research and archaeological surveys of the coastal waters, enabling them to update existing shipwreck information and document those shipwrecks recently identified. The management plan will guide continued preservation of these historical assets and provide public information on ways to safely access underwater archaeological treasures.

In 2013 the J.D. Marshall Preserve, encompassing approximately 100 acres of Lake Michigan, was the first underwater nature preserve designated in Indiana to protect a historic shipwreck. Two additional wrecks, the Muskegon and the Material Service barge, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Lake Michigan Coastal Program receives an annual award from NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management to protect and enhance natural, cultural, and historical coastal resources, and to foster coordination and partnerships among local organizations and local, state, and federal agencies. (2020)

More Information: Indiana Lake Michigan Shipwreck Tours

Partners: Commonwealth Cultural Resources Group, Inc., Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, NOAA Office for Coastal Management, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Lake Michigan Coastal Program and the Divisions of Fish and Wildlife, Historic Preservation and Archaeology, Law Enforcement, Nature Preserves, and Parks and Lakes