Contact: Kara O'Keeffe
  Wisconsin Historical Society
  Phone: 608-264-6500

Monday, October 05, 2015

Proposed Marine Sanctuary along Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan coastline to be designated by NOAA

Madison, WIThe Wisconsin Historical Society is pleased to learn that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is moving forward with an intent to designate a new National Marine Sanctuary along Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan coastline.  The selection of this area for a sanctuary was announced by President Barack Obama on Monday, Oct. 5, as part of a video message shared during the annual “Our Ocean” global conference being hosted in Valparaiso, Chile.
“The nominated area contains an extraordinary collection of 39 known shipwrecks, 15 of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” said John Broihahn, state archeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society. “This designation will allow us to focus on protecting these underwater museums, which are physical reminders of the men and women who made a living, and sometimes died, working on the lake.”
As presently proposed, the Wisconsin – Lake Michigan sanctuary is an 875 square mile area of Lake Michigan extending from Port Washington to Two Rivers. The area includes Wisconsin’s two oldest known shipwrecks. Fifteen of the known shipwrecks in the sanctuary are essentially intact and three vessels possess standing masts – a rarity in the Great Lakes.  Archival and archaeological research indicates that the proposed sanctuary may include as many as 84 other vessel losses.  The shipwrecks represent a cross-section of vessels that sailed the lakes in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
In December 2014, Governor Walker submitted a nomination on behalf of the citizens of Wisconsin to be added to NOAA’s inventory of places that would be considered as national marine sanctuaries. It was endorsed by a diverse coalition of organizations and individuals at local, state, regional, and national levels. This included elected officials, historical societies, businesses, museums, and environmental, recreational, conservation, fishing, tourism, and educational groups. 
The Maritime Preservation and Archaeology Program at the Wisconsin Historical Society was created in 1988 through the urging of Wisconsin residents who recognized the recreational and historic value of shipwrecks and in response to the passage of the U. S. Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987 that gave the state the responsibility of managing abandoned historic shipwrecks in state waters.  The program has worked closely with other maritime archaeologists and historians to document and research dozens of shipwrecks.  These efforts have resulted in the listing of 59 shipwrecks on the National Register of Historic Places, the development of Wisconsin’s Maritime Heritage Trail initiative to promote tourism, and the production of an array of public education and public outreach materials.
About the Wisconsin Historical Society
The Wisconsin Historical Society, founded in 1846, ranks as one of the largest, most active and most diversified state historical societies in the nation. As both a state agency and a private membership organization, its mission is to help people connect to the past by collecting, preserving, and sharing stories. The Wisconsin Historical Society serves millions of people every year through a wide range of sites, programs, and services. For more information, visit

Proposed National Marine Sanctuary Map
Rouse Simmons
The America

To view supporting documents and/or photos, go to and enter Release ID: 391994