Michigan: Mackinac County

Mackinac (pronounced “Mackinaw”) County (pop. 11,113) is the gateway to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Originally called Michilimackinac County, it is connected to the Lower Peninsula by the 8,614-foot Mackinac Bridge over the Straits of Mackinac.

The world’s fifth-longest suspension bridge

The Straits of Mackinac connect Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The county seat of Mackinac County, St. Ignace (pop. 2,452), is at the northern end of the Mackinac Bridge.

Lake Michigan on left, Lake Huron on right

Father Jacques Marquette founded a mission at St. Ignace (today pronounced Saint IG-nus) in 1671. A later mission chapel, dating from 1837, is now the Museum of Ojibwa Culture. Father Marquette is buried at the site.

The oldest Catholic church structure in Michigan

Tourist attractions in St. Ignace include the Mystery Spot, Deer Ranch, and Indian Village.

Nearby, Castle Rock has statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

Protected by a fence

St. Ignace is a 16-minute ferry ride from Mackinac Island – one of Michigan’s premier destinations for visitors. Motor vehicles (other than emergency vehicles) are not allowed on the island.

The city of Mackinac Island (permanent pop. 492) officially occupies the entire island, but three-fourths of the island is in Mackinac Island State Park. From 1875 to 1895, it was Mackinac National Park – America’s second national park.

The population grows by thousands in the summer.

Transportation on Mackinac Island is by horse-drawn carriage, bicycle, horse, and foot.

Downtown Mackinac Island

The island has a variety of hotels and other lodging. The most famous is the Grand Hotel, built in 1887, which claims to have the world’s largest porch.

Featured in the 1980 movie with Christopher Reeve

Mackinac Island is circled by the eight-mile Highway M-185, the only state highway in the U.S. on which motor vehicles are banned.

It was paved in the 1950s.

West of St. Ignace on Lake Michigan is the 30-acre¬† Garlyn Zoo, “the largest zoo in the Eastern Upper Peninsula.”

It opened in 1994.


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