Mackinac Island Parks
Mackinac Island Parks
Mackinac Island State Park takes up around 80 percent of Mackinac Island. The park has many natural and historical sights to be seen. Describing the Mackinac Island State Park is almost like giving a description of the island itself. The park is 1800 acres in area that is covered with cedars and birches and is dotted with Victorian style cottages and buildings that provide great insight into the history of the area. There may not be 4 person tents set up outside, but the birches provide enough shade from the sun. The limestone bluffs, quaint cottages, historic churches and cemeteries as well as biking and hiking trails cover the park’s landscape. There are not many animals on the island. Though in the winter wolves, deers and bears stray onto the island occasionally walking on ice.
Yellowstone Park was the first one to be accorded National Park status in 1872 and Mackinac National Park was the second to be conferred similar status in 1875. Mackinac National Park became Mackinac Island State Park in 1895 when the Federal government transferred the park to the state of Michigan.
Natural sights and limestone formations Arch Rock, Sugar Loaf, Devil’s Kitchen and Skull Cave are part of the park’s attraction. M-185 is a scenic shoreline road that stretches up to eight miles around the perimeter of the island. It is the nation’s only highway without an automobile driven on it, in conformance with the island’s policy of not allowing motorized vehicles on to the island. Horse buggies and cycles are what you will find on these roads. There are 61 miles of trail in Mackinac Island State Park that is ideal for biking, hiking and horseback riding. In winter, these are used for skiing.
Mackinac Island offers the visitors a unique glimpse of the effects of receding glaciers. The present structure of the island started being formed nearly 15,000 years ago as the great glaciers receded. As the island started to emerge slowly out of the waters, the erosion of the bedrock of the island by the ancient Great Lakes accounts for the cliffs and rock formations. While salt deposits under the limestone got washed away leaving holes in the rock, melted mineral acted as cement in bonding limestone. These are known as brecciated limestone and are seen throughout the island.
Signposts lead bikers and walkers to such unique limestone formation like: Arch Rock, Devil’s Kitchen and Sugar Loaf. Along with the Skull Cave these are the must see natural sights in Mackinac Island State Park.
Arch Rock stands around 150 feet high above see level. Indian legend has it that the arch was formed when a beautiful Indian maiden’s tears washed away the bluff as she waited in vain for her lover to return. Another legend has it that the Great Creator gave the breath of life to the earth, by which the hole is formed. Some also say that the Great Creator passed through Arch Rock to go to his home in Sugar Loaf. Through the hole of the arch the waters of Lake Huron is visible.
Sugar Loaf was believed to be the dwelling place of the Great Spirit Gitchie Manitou, who fled the place once the Europeans arrived. It’s a limestone formation in a cone shape and rises 75 feet above ground. From Point Look Out if you look down you can see Sugar Loaf. From the road near the limestone formation you have to look up to see it.
Devil’s Kitchen is an example of erosion and Cedars love for limestone. It can be reached by bicycle and is a favorite picnic spot on the island.
Skull Cave is not barricaded and visitors are not allowed to go inside. It is a cave that is said to have saved the life of the English fur trader Alexander Henry who hid in the cave among human bones, during the Pontiac Rebellion.
Historic buildings in the Mackinac Island State Park include Fort Mackinac, Fort Holmes, Governor’s Residence and the museums in the downtown area: Dr. Beaumont’s Museum, Indian Dormitory, Benjamin Blacksmith Shop, Mission Church, Biddle House and the McGulpin House.
The most important sight in the park is the Fort Mackinac, which we have discussed in the article –attractions. Governor’s Residence is also dealt with in the same article.
Fort Holmes is at the highest point in the island (at 320 feet above see level) that presents a good view of the Fort Mackinac and the strait of Mackinac. Marquette Park at the foothills of Fort Mackinac was dedicated to the public in 1909.
The downtown area provides a glimpse into the island’s history in some more detail. The Historic Downtown is accredited by the American Association of Museums as a National Historic Landmark. Dr Beaumont’s Museum is housed in the site of the 1820 American Fur Company retail store. The museum establishes the role of Dr Beaumont in Medical history through artifacts and exhibits. Dr Beaumont had studied and treated St. Martin who was shot accidentally with a shotgun in the abdomen. The wound never quite healed but provided a living and working picture of how the digestive system works. The ground experiments and treatments that Dr Beaumont carried out on St Martin are the basis of modern medical knowledge of the digestive system.
The Missions Church was built by the Evangelical Protestants in 1929 for the Presbyterian congregation on the island.
The Indian Dormitory was used as the place from where the Indians received annual annuity payments. The McGulpin house is an example of French Rustic style architecture. The Biddle House gives an insight into the daily life of a typical Victorian household. From coking to dyeing and laundering are carried out by interpreters in the house or the yard.
Robert Stuart House was the residence of Robert Stuart, the manager of the American Fur Trading Company (1817). He used the house as his office as well. This building along with the American Fur Trading Company warehouse is where clerks and workers processed and stored fur provides an insight in to the way trading was done in the 19th century.
Mackinac Island State Park offers no discount to senior citizens. Camping is not allowed in the park. Weddings can be arranged at Mission Church. All relevant information about the park can be obtained from the park’s visitor center that is situated near the marina.