Mackinac Island State Park is located in one of the country's most beautiful natural settings, the Straits of Mackinac. The centerpiece of the Park is Mackinac Island, located east of the Mackinac Bridge. Over 80% of the Island is owned and maintained by the State Park. Surrounded by pristine sparkling water the Island has a vibrant forest full of natural wildflowers, groomed nature trails and mystical geological formations. The Mackinac Island State Park is one of the popular parks in the entire country.
One of the unique characteristics of the Park is the absence of motorized vehicles. All cars and trucks (with the exception of emergency vehicles) were banned from the island in 1898. The primary modes of transportation are horse drawn carriages and bicycles. As a result the Mackinac Island State Park is perfect for bicycling, walking, jogging and riding horseback.
There are seventy miles of roads and trails within the Park to explore.
Many interior eastern trails are groomed during the winter for cross-country skiing.
Arch Rock is situated on the eastern shoreline of the Island. It is a geologic limestone formation created during the post-glacial period. The arch was formed by the action of water and winds eroding the soft rock leaving a fifty feet span soaring a hundred and forty feet over the Lake Huron Shoreline.
Native Americans saw Arch Rock as a place of mystical power. The Island itself is sacred to the Ojibwa and Odawa Great Lakes Native American tribes. They believed that Mackinac Island is where life began.
Sugar Loaf is another large limestone structure that is located in the center of the Island. Sugar Loaf was formed when the glaciers receded and rises 75 feet above the ground. Point Lookout provides a breathtaking view of the ancient formation and provides a revealing perspective of the dramatic effect the glacial movement had on the geology of the Straits area.
Devil’s Kitchen is a large breccia sea cave formation located on the western side of the Island. The cave was formed during prehistoric time when lake levels were much higher than they are today. The compelling name came from a Native American legend which says that the devil himself used to roast the bodies of lost souls on the rocky floor of the cave!
Skull Cave is another cave formation located near the center of the Island at the juncture of two main inland roads. The cave was used by a local tribe as a burial place for tribal leaders.
In 1763 a successful Indian uprising resulted in the destruction of Fort Michlimackinac on the mainland. One of the few survivors of the attack was Alexander Henry, a British merchant.
He was befriended by an Ojibwa chief and taken to Mackinac Island for his safety. Henry was hidden in Skull Cave.
Accounts of Henry's exploit reveal his horror at discovering the following morning that his bed in the cave was lined with human skulls.
There are a number of historic sites located within Mackinac Island State Park. Many of the sites have active interpretative programs that provide visitors with a comprehensive understanding of what life was like in the colonial era.
Read about historic British Landing which is significant for being the site of the first American land battle of the War of 1812.
Visit Fort Holmes, situated on the highest point of the Island.
The Mackinac Island Battlefield of 1814 is located near the center of the Island.
Scout Honor Troops serve every summer in the Mackinac Island Scout Service Program. They perform many duties and serve as the Michigan Governor's Honor Guard.
Be sure to visit the Michigan Governor's Summer Residence when you visit the Island. It is open to the public on Wednesday mornings.
Fort Mackinac is located on the bluff overlooking the harbor of Mackinac Island and towers 150 feet above the Straits of Mackinac. The fort was established by the British in 1781 and later occupied by the American forces until the late 19th century.
Both young and old will enjoy visiting this impressive site. Located inside the fort are fourteen original buildings with interactive displays and furnishings. Interpretative tours with rifle and cannon displays and military music are conducted several times daily.
Insider Tip: Be sure to wear comfortable shoes so you can enjoy all the mystical and magical places throughout Mackinac Island State Park.
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