Mackinac Island History

Mackinac Island History

Mackinac Island aerial view

Delve into Mackinac Island history when you visit
Fort Mackinac
and the
Mackinac Island State Park!

Over 80 percent of the Island is within the
State Park
and offers wonderful wooded trails and historic sites. In 1875- it was
named a national park but was later turned over to the State of Michigan
for management.

Mackinac Island
history began thousands of years ago when the Great Lakes were formed by
advancing and retreating glaciers. This pristine island exists as a
result of that process. It is made primarily of limestone and has many
geographical sites of interest including
Arch Rock,
Sugar Loaf Rock, Skull Cave and Devils Kitchen. You will marvel at the
natural formations, views from the high bluffs and the beautiful waters.

Americans used the Island as a gathering place long before white
explorers came to the area. The Ottawa and Chippewa were the
predominant tribes. There are still Island residents that trace their
heritage to those tribes and add a wealth of culture to Mackinac Island

The first known white explorer to visit the Island was the French missionary
Father Marquette,
in the mid 1600’s. His statue is the centerpiece of Marquette Park- at the foot of
Fort Mackinac. The Island later became an important location to the fur trade. John
Jacob Astor had his fur-trading headquarters on the Island. The
building is located on Market Street and is open to the public.

The original French fort, Michilimackinac was located where
Mackinaw City is today and is open to the public from early May to early October. The
British took over that fort during the French and Indian War. They
felt that Mackinac Island was a better strategic location, so they
disassembled that fort and moved some pieces
across the ice to the island in 1780.

The new
Fort Mackinac
was sited on the Island’s bluff overlooking the natural harbor.

There are many interesting
historic events and notable people
connected with Mackinac Island.

One of our favorite bits of Mackinac Island history is a Native
American legend that tells of an enormous sea turtle, Makinauk, who
kindly allowed his back to be used for the creation of a new world.
Hence, to this day, Mackinac Island is referred to as The Great Turtle.

How should you pronounce Mackinac? Although the French spelled
Mackinac ending in “c”, they pronounced it as if it ends in “w”. The
English spelled it ending in “w” and pronounced it that way too. Both
Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island are pronounced “Mackinaw”. This is a
good thing to know when you visit the Island!

Insider Tip:

There are many points of interest within the
Mackinac Island State Park that do not require an admission price. You can hike and/or bike to many places like Skull Cave and Sugar Loaf and even
Fort Holmes.

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