Mackinac Island in Michigan

Friday, 11 November 2022 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General
Reading Time:  12 minutes

Main Street © n8huckins/cc-by-sa-4.0

Main Street © n8huckins/cc-by-sa-4.0

Mackinac Island is an island and resort area, covering 4.35 square miles (11.3 km²) in land area, in the U.S. state of Michigan. The name of the island in Odawa is Michilimackinac and “Mitchimakinak” in Ojibwemowin meaning “Big Turtle”. It is located in Lake Huron, at the eastern end of the Straits of Mackinac, between the state’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. The island was long home to an Odawa settlement and previous indigenous cultures before European colonization began in the 17th century. It was a strategic center of the fur trade around the Great Lakes. Based on a former trading post, Fort Mackinac was constructed on the island by the British during the American Revolutionary War. It was the site of two battles during the War of 1812 before the northern border was settled and the US gained this island in its territory. In the late 19th century, Mackinac Island became a popular tourist attraction and summer colony. Many of the structures on the island have undergone extensive historical preservation and restoration. Because of its historic significance, the entire island is listed as a National Historic Landmark. It is well known for numerous cultural events; a wide variety of architectural styles, including the Victorian Grand Hotel; and its ban on almost all motor vehicles, with exceptions only for city emergency vehicles (ambulance, police cars and fire trucks), city service vehicles and snowmobiles in winter. More than 80 percent of the island is preserved as Mackinac Island State Park. In 2022, Travel + Leisure named Mackinac Island the best island in the continental U.S. to visit.

Mackinac Island contains a wide variety of terrain, including fields, marshes, bogs, coastline, boreal forest, and limestone formations. The environment is legally preserved on the island by the State Historic Park designation. About half of the shoreline and adjacent waters off Mackinac Island, including the harbor (Haldimand Bay) and the southern and western shore from Mission Point to Pointe aux Pins, is protected as part of the Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve, a state marine park. As it is separated from the mainland by 3 miles (4.8 km) of water, few large mammals inhabit the island, except those that traverse the ice during the winter months. Rabbits, fox, raccoons, otters, mink, gray and red squirrels, and chipmunks are all common, as are the occasional beaver and coyote. Bats are abundant on the island, as it has numerous caves that serve as dwellings for them and a large insect population for the bats to prey on. The island is frequented by migratory birds on their trips between their summer and winter habitats, as it lies on a major migration route. Eagles and hawks are abundant in April and May, while smaller birds such as yellow warblers, American redstart, and indigo bunting are more common in early summer. Near the shoreline, gulls, herons, geese, and loons are common. Owls, including snowy owls and great grey owls, come to the island from the Arctic to hunt in the warmer climate. Other birds, such as chickadees, cardinals, blue jays, and woodpeckers, live on the island year-round. Toads have also been found. Mackinac Island contains over 600 species of vascular plants. Flowering plants and wildflowers are abundant, including trillium, lady slippers, forget-me-nots, violets, trout lily, spring beauty, hepatica, buttercups, and hawkweeds in the forests and orchids, fringed gentian, butter-and-eggs, and jack-in-the-pulpit along the shoreline. The island’s forests are home to many varieties of trees, such as maple, birch, elm, cedar, pine, and spruce.

The island can be reached by private boat, by ferry, by small aircraft and, in the winter, by snowmobile over an ice bridge. The airport has a 3,500-foot (1,070 m) paved runway, and daily charter air service from the mainland is available. In the summer tourist season, ferry service is available from Shepler’s Ferry and Star Line Ferry to shuttle visitors to the island from St. Ignace and Mackinaw City. Motorized vehicles have been prohibited on the island since 1898, with the exception of city emergency vehicles (ambulance, police cars and fire trucks), city service vehicles and snowmobiles during winter. Travel on the island is either by foot, bicycle, horse or horse-drawn carriage. Roller skates and roller blades are also allowed, except in the downtown area. Bicycles, roller skates/roller blades, carriages, and saddle horses are available for rent. An 8-mile (13 km) road follows the island’s perimeter, and numerous roads, trails and paths cover the interior. M-185, the United States’ only state highway without motorized vehicles, makes a circular loop around the island, closely hugging the shoreline. Mackinac Island State Park covers approximately 80 percent of the area of the island and includes Fort Mackinac, as well as portions of the island’s historic downtown and harbor. No camping is allowed on the island, but numerous hotels and bed and breakfasts are available. The downtown streets are lined with many retail stores and restaurants.

Most of the buildings on Mackinac Island are built of wood, a few are of stone, and most have clapboard siding. The architectural styles on the island span 300 years, from the earliest Native American structures to the European-American styles of the 19th century. The earliest structures were built by the Anishinaabe and Ojibwe (also called Chippewa in the United States) tribes before European exploration. At least two buildings still exist from the original French settlement of the late 18th century. Mackinac Island has the only example of northern French rustic architecture in the United States, and one of few survivors in North America. Mackinac Island also contains examples of Federalist, Colonial, and Greek Revival styles. Given its rise as a tourist destination in the late nineteenth century, many of the island’s structures were built in the later style of the Victorian era, which includes Gothic Revival, Stick style, Italianate, Second Empire, Richardson Romanesque and Queen Anne styles. The most recent architectural styles date from the late 19th century to the 1930s and include the Colonial and Tudor revival.

Fort Mackinac and harbor © Petermatt1 M-185 mile 0 © Gsgeorge/cc-by-sa-3.0 Main Street © n8huckins/cc-by-sa-4.0 Star Line's Mackinac Express, a high-speed catamaran ferry © Shonebrooks view from atop Fort Mackinac © Bardya/cc-by-sa-3.0 Dwightwood Spring © N8huckins/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Star Line's Mackinac Express, a high-speed catamaran ferry © Shonebrooks
Mackinac Island is home to many cultural events, including an annual show of American art from the Masco collection of 19th-century works at the Grand Hotel. Five art galleries operate on the island. Since 1949, the island’s residents have been celebrating the island’s native lilacs with an annual spring 10-day festival. It culminates in a parade of horse-drawn vehicles, which has been recognized as a local legacy event by the Library of Congress. The July 20, 2019, running of the Port Huron to Mackinac Boat Race was the 95th such annual event, with 202 sailboats registered in the 204-nautical mile-race from Port Huron to the island. The race was reported to have continued over the years in spite of wars and economic depressions. A similar sailboat race from Chicago to the island, most recently held on July 20 to 23, 2019, was the 111th event in the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, with 266 sailboats competing. The island is a destination for many regionally and nationally proclaimed conferences, including the Mackinac Policy Conference. Another special event that Mackinac island is known for is the Mackinac Island Fudge Festival that takes place in August. Phil Porter wrote a book called “Fudge: Mackinac’s Sweet Souvenir” which explains how fudge became such a popular treat in Mackinac. After the fur trade, this island became a summer vacationing spot. The visitors began to associate sweets with the island. It originally started when Native Americans began collecting maple sugar but in the 1800s the Murdick family created the first real candy store. The world faced sugar rations in the first half of the 20th century due to the Great Depression and wars that were taking place. The fudge shops in the island had very little business, but the Murdick family did not give up hope! They would use fans to send the scent of their fudge out into the community to draw in customers. In later years, major interstates were created and made Mackinac Island well known to many. Mackinac Island’s visitors became known as “fudgies” because their main reason to travel to the island was for their famous fudge. Although fudge was not invented on the island, it is a very popular treat that people would travel from all over to devour. Epona, the Gallo-Roman Horse Goddess, is celebrated each June on Mackinac Island with stable tours, a blessing of the animals and the Epona and Barkus Parade. Mackinac Island does not permit personal automobiles; the primary source of transportation remains the horse, so celebrating Epona has special significance on this island. The “Feast of Epona” involves the blessing of horses and other animals by a local churchman.

Every summer, Mackinac Island accommodates several Michigan Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and their leaders over alternate weeks. These scouts serve the state park as the Mackinac Island Governor’s Honor Guard. The program began in 1929, when the State Park Commission invited eight Eagle Scouts, including Gerald Ford, later President of the United States, to the island. In 1974, the program was expanded by Governor William Milliken to include Girl Scouts. The program is popular, selective, and a long-standing tradition. Scouts raise and lower twenty-seven flags on the island, serve as guides, and complete volunteer service projects during their stay. These Scouts live in the Scout Barracks behind Fort Mackinac.

Mackinac Island is the destination for two sailing races. The island has a sailing club, the Mackinac Island Yacht Club. It serves as the finish line for both the Port Huron to Mackinac Race and the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac. The races are run a week apart, in July. They are both among the longest freshwater sailing races in the world and attract over 500 boats and 3,500 sailors combined. Both races are historical events, having been run every year since the 1920s.

Read more on Mackinac Island, VisitTheUSA.co.uk – Mackinac Island, Wikivoyage Mackinac Island and Wikipedia Mackinac Island (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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