Mackinac Island is located on the eastern end of the Straits of Mackinac (pronounced Mack-i-naw) where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. The Island was form around 13,000 BC when the glaciers melted forming the Great Lakes. Native American presence can be documented with artifacts found as early as 900 AD.
Mackinac Island has been a sacred place for Anishinaabek People (Odawa, Ojibway, and Potawatomi) for centuries. It serves as a place to gather for fishing, trapping and navigating the water ways, it also serves as a sacred burial ground.
European colonization began in the 17th century as French Explorers headed west into the Upper Great Lakes known as New France. A Catholic Mission started by Fr. Claude Dablon and Jacques Marquette. The mission was moved to the north shore of the straits (St. Ignace) because of poor soil conditions on the Island.
By the 18th century the Straits of Mackinac were the transportation corridor for the fur trade and the Island was a critical hub. During the Revolutionary War the British constructed Fort Michilimackinac. In 1780 the British moved the fort to Mackinac Island’s high bluffs where it remains today as Ford Mackinac.
There were 2 battles fought from Fort Mackinac during the War of 1812. One of those battles, The Battle of Mackinac, the British held off an American attack on the grounds of what is now Wawashkamo Golf Course. A treaty signed after the ware of 1812 gave control to the Americans. In the late 19th century, Mackinac Island became a popular tourist attraction and summer colony.
In the 20th century the Island came to life as tourism became the focus of the Island. Most of the Island was designated as a national park, cottages began being built and vacationers arrived. In the 1920’s demonstrating fudge making in front of customers made Mackinac Island synonymous with fudge.
Today the Island is still over 80% State park and Mackinac State Park is a historic landmark. Mackinac Island is the perfect place to experience life without the hustle and bustle. Truly a step back in time.
- That cars are not allowed on Mackinac Island? Getting around Mackinac Island is by horse, bike, feet or water vessel. There was a time that motor vehicles were on the island but a group of
- carriage men petitioned the village council to prohibit motor cars.
- Mackinac Island is home to the first state park. The US state park system was started in 1919. Mackinac National Park was the second National park until Fort Mackinac was decommissioned. Then in 1895 it was handed over to the State of Michigan and became Michigan’s first State Park and named Mackinac Island State Park.
- Dr. William Beaumont was an Army surgeon stationed at Fort Mackinac. In 1822 Alexis St. Martin was accidentally shot in the stomach. Dr. Beaumont treated St. Martin and he survived, but the wound never closed. Dr. Beaumont used this opportunity to study the stomach and conduct experiments. Although many considered what he was doing questionable he made a groundbreaking discovery that digestion in the stomach is chemical.
- That the 1980 romance “Somewhere in Time” was filmed on Mackinac Island. Starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour the movie has the 2nd largest fan club in the world.
- That many scenes from the movie “Somewhere in Time” were filmed at the Grand Hotel? Every October fans of the movie gather and dress in period costumes, meet cast members.
- That Mackinac Island has one of the few links courses left in the U.S.? The Wawashkamo Golf Course looks just as it did when it was built in 1898. You can also rent hickory wood clubs to really get the old-fashioned golf experience.
- Mackinac Island has the largest Lilac tree in Michigan, it is right in front of the Harbour View Inn. Lilacs trees are not native to Mackinac Island and the earliest documentation of lilacs being on Mackinac Island if in an 1861 journal entry by Henry David Thoreau. In June there is a week-long festival dedicated to lilacs.
- Mackinac Island uses 10 tons of sugar per week. During peak tourist season more than 10 tons of sugar is transported by ferry and then a horse-drawn dray. The sugar is delivered Mackinac Island fudge shops for the famous fudge that is a must have when you visit.
- The Grand Hotel’s front porch is the largest porch in the world. In the 1890’s is was the main promenade, not visitors and guests can enjoy the view from the line of rocking chairs. The 660 foot port is visible on the ferry ride over and for a small fee non guests can experience the porch.
- About 500 people live full-time on Mackinac Island. Instead of bikes, the residents ride snowmobiles once the snow flies. The Island has it’s own public school and is home to America’s oldest family-owned grocery store, Doud’s Market. Although a lot of the business close down in the off season, there are a few restaurants that remain open and there are plenty of events to keep the local busy.
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