The Janet Head Lighthouse

Visitors have been welcome to tour the inside of Janet Head Lighthouse during the summer months. Hours in the past have been Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 1 until 4 p.m.  Some areas inside may be unavailable for viewing from time to time this summer. The outside grounds are always open for viewing and visitors are welcome to swim on the North Channel,  picnic on the property, and enjoy the beautiful view.


The lighthouse is currently closed.


Janet Head Lighthouse is owned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and is leased to the Municipality of Gordon/Barrie Island for the purposes of tourism, recreation, education, and to help conserve and protect our local heritage assets.

Janet Head Lighthouse is said to be named after a daughter of a British naval officer, Lieutenant Bayfield, who surveyed Lake Huron between 1817 and 1822.  Other locations in the area are also named after him and members of his family - Helen’s Bay, Julia Bay, Elizabeth Bay, Lake Wolsey, and Bayfield Sound.

The Janet Head Light Tower is the second oldest standing lighthouse on Manitoulin and is a recognized Federal Heritage Building. The building construction was completed in 1879.  It is a good example of a combined dwelling and light tower in a single compact building.

Janet Head Lighthouse is 43 feet above high water with a fixed white light that is visible for approximately 11 miles.

The original light was a fixed white catoptric lens placed in an octagon base with the back panel painted black. The light source was at least three oil lamps. This was later replaced with a seventh order dioptric which required only one oil lamp and emitted a much brighter light. Later this dioptric apparatus would be powered with an electric light source.

The Canadian Coast Guard continues to maintain the light and it is currently an occulting, solar-powered L.E.D. light that runs twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, flashing three seconds on and two seconds off.


History of the Janet Head Lighthouse

Janet Head Lighthouse has guided boats in summer and sleds in winter across the North Channel to Spanish. Tragedy knows no season. The wife of the first keeper, Robert Boyter (1879-95), died of exposure and their son David lost both his feet to frostbite when they were stranded on the ice during a blizzard in 1885. A little girl in the rescue party also died.


Through the cold winters of 1910-24, the light directed mail cutters from Spanish along the "ice highway" lined with fresh-cut evergreen trees. Since automation in 1955, the white electric light flashes year-round. Snowmobilers follow the historic 22-mile route to the North Shore, now marked by 220 wooden pickets instead of evergreens.


The last keeper, George Thorburn (1935-55), bicycled two miles from his home in town to light the lamp each evening. In the morning, after cleaning the windows of the lantern, he drew the heavy curtains so that sunlight, intensified by the prisms of the lens, would not set fire to the surrounding bush. He wore a jacket and tie when the lighthouse inspector paid a call. On foggy nights, family members remember him packing a lunch and setting out on his bicycle at midnight to be ready to blow the foghorn by hand.


Keeper Thorburn was also responsible for the two range lights on wooden tripods at the harbour, one on Fish Point and the other at the end of the bay. Today a solar-powered white light atop a red and white barrel-shaped tower erected in 1995 on Fish Point blinks to welcome sailors, including participants in the Great Lakes Cruising Club rendezvous in 1998 and 2002 and the Mackinaw to Manitoulin Yacht Race held in July every summer since 2004.


The Janet Head Lighthouse has been the summer home of four generations of the Fletcher family since 1967. They still use the outhouse, and until recently hauled their water in buckets from the lake. The happiest event of the Fletcher's summers at the lighthouse was the family wedding in the lantern room in 1991. The family welcomes visitors inside the lighthouse a few afternoons each week during the summer. The grounds are always open for photos. Picturesque Lighthouse Road is a much smoother ride today than the muddy dirt path that George Thorburn traveled on his bike.