Near-record water levels and significant erosion over the past several months have revealed much along the Lake Michigan shoreline. 

One such bit of history was recently exposed at Grand Haven State Park in the form of concrete well caps. 

Joe VanderStel, the water facilities manager for the Northwest Ottawa Water System, said the exposed pieces are old well casings from the 1930s. 

“They are referenced as Kelley wells or packed-gravel wells,” he said. “The technology is still used today.”

VanderStel said that Grand Haven originally had close to 40 wells along the waterfront, in Government Basin and on the east side of the city. 

“In the 1930s, they kept that same design or concept to use well water for drinking water purposes, but determined that a better source would be near or at the lake,” he explained.

“So, they built these wells to take advantage of lake water that was being filtered by natural sand. There were eight of them and we are seeing two being exposed by the erosion of the shoreline.”

This is not the first time the caps have been exposed. VanderStel said they were visible in the 1950s and again in the mid 1980s. 

To replace the wells, the city built round well housings called Ranney wells in 1953. The Ranney wells were removed in 2002. 

“It’s worth pointing out how high water is in the photos, so this should not be a surprise to see lake levels getting to the level we’re seeing today,” VanderStel said. “It’s very typical that these higher levels happen every 30-40 years.”

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