Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve

C.H. Johnson

Depth: 10-25′
Dimensions: 137′ x 26′ x 12′, 332 gross tons, 316 net tons
Cargo: Sandstone blocks, from Jacobsville, MI to Chicago
Cause of Sinking: Stranded, anchors failed while sheltering from storm.
Built: 1870, Marine City MI, by William Morley
Date Lost:  September 23, 1895
Construction: Wood, 3-mast schooner, plain stem, square stern
Propulsion: Wind
Skill Level: Novice / snorkel / kayak
Location: N45° 52.526′   W084° 50.144′


The C.H. Johnson was carrying a load of large sandstone blocks from Jacobsville, MI, near Portage Entry on the Keweenaw Peninsula, for a bank building in Chicago.  A strong gale arose, and Captain Hiram Henderson decided to take shelter behind St. Helena Island.  At 2 A.M. the anchor chains failed and the vessel was swept ashore at Gros Cap.  As their yawl boat was quickly swamped and sunk, the crew  fired a signal gun and were rescued by a local fisherman, Andrew Corp, and his two sons in their fishing boat.   The crew lost all their personal belongings.

Present Condition

The windlass was salvaged at some point for display in St. Ignace, but it’s current location is not known.  Much of the wreck has been ground away by winter ice, but the sandstone blocks protected sections of the hull and frames below the cargo area.  Several large portions of decking lie near the wreck, one atop the other, in slightly deeper water.  These sections seem to move about from year to year, but recently were located very close to the blocks.  There are about 67 of the large blocks, mostly rectangular, but one is a large cube, somewhat like a bank vault.  At lower lake levels, a swimmer can stand on this block with head and shoulders out of the water.

Mooring Buoy Status

This site has a mooring southwest of the wreck, in slightly deeper water but within viewing distance of the shipwreck.  A small line connects the mooring line with the wreck, to guide you to the blocks if visibility is poor.  The blocks can easily be seen from the surface, making this a good snorkel and kayak site, as well as a fun dive.  Unfortunately there is no nearby public access for diver entry.

This mooring was reinstalled in May 2023. A guide line leads 100-ft from the mooring line to the sandstone blocks.

The Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve maintains seasonal moorings at this site. Mooring are normally available from late May to early September, the moorings make for easier location, safer diving and protect shipwrecks from damage from anchors and hooks. Vessels are required to use these moorings when they’re present.

Photos of the C.H. Johnson

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