19 Things You May Not Know About Wilderness State Park

With the passage of Public Act 218 signed by Governor Albert Sleeper on May 12, 1919, the Michigan State Park Commission was officially organized…making this year the unit’s 100th Anniversary!

Yet, there were two parks under state control prior to that act…according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website (www.michigan.gov/dnr). The first was Interlochen State Park, which was purchased by the state in 1917. It was the first public park to be transferred to the commission in 1920 and there is considered by some to be Michigan’s “first state park.”

Others consider Mackinac Island as Michigan’s first state park which park officials say is also true.

“Approximately 25 years before legislation established the state park commission, the federal government gifted the Mackinac Island property it owned to the state in 1895. The island was designated as Michigan’s first state park under the Mackinac State Park Commission. Because Mackinac Island is operated under the Mackinac State Park Commission and was not placed under the Michigan State Park Commission, there is more than one answer to the ‘first state park’ question.”

The State of Michigan began acquiring the land for Wilderness State Park in Mackinaw City back in 1896, through purchase and tax reversion proceedings. In the early twentieth century, the site operated as Emmet State Game Refuge, with the land set aside for the breeding of game birds and other animals. When the reserve was placed under the administration of the Parks Division in 1927, it officially became Wilderness State Park.

This year, Michigan State Parks collectively celebrates its Centennial Year…including Wilderness State Park. We thought we’d share a bit more history about this park, which you may or may not be aware of.

Did you know that Wilderness State Park…

  1. is located in Bliss Township, Emmet County?
  2. is open year-round?
  3. encompasses 10,512 acres – including 2,582 acres of natural areas and 4,492 acres of wilderness area?
  4. was home to a Civilian Conservation Corps camp between 1933 and 1937 (during the Great Depression) and over time consisted of sixteen buildings? This group was also instrumental establishing eight miles of trails, a public campground, and the four-acre Goose Pond.
  5. operated under the direction of the State of Michigan Corrections Commission? Camp Wilderness became a minimum-security forest prison camp in 1949 until it was moved in 1956 to nearby Pellston (as Camp Pellston).
  6. today includes a 250-site campground, three rustic bunkhouses and nine rustic cabins?
  7. has diverse forested dune, swale complexes, and wetlands (including areas known to grow threatened plant life like the Pitcher’s Thistle and Houghton’s Goldenrod)?
  8. Dedicates almost the entire shoreline of the proposed natural areas as critical habitat for the federally-endangered piping plover?
  9. is home to American black bear, beaver, bobcats, mink, muskrats, otter and other animals?
  10. had one of the first sightings of wolves in the Lower Peninsula. reported along the park’s shoreline by a Coast Guard pilot in 1997?
  11. offers 16 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking?
  12. includes a 10-mile section of the North Country National Scenic Trail, which traverses 4600 miles through 7 states?
  13. offers winter activities like cross country skiing, snowshoeing and even snowmobiling?
  14. features 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline?
  15. includes 2 islands: Temperance Island and Waugoshance Island?
  16. has four Lake Michigan lighthouses that sit near the park’s western boundary: Grays Reef, Skillagalee Island, White Shoal (which is now open for public tours) and Waugoshance (which is rumored to be haunted)?
  17. was designated a Michigan “dark sky preserve” in 2012 and is located near the Headlands International Dark Sky Park (making it an ideal location for star gazing and looking at Northern Lights)?
  18. is one of the handful of places along the shoreline where you can find the elusive Petoskey Stone?
  19. is a great place for tech-based activities like geocaching and metal detecting?

For more about Wilderness State Park: https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-350-79133_79200_31427-54042–,00.html

For more about Emmet State Game Refuge: https://northernmichmashpreserve.weebly.com/parks-and-recreation.html

For more about the Michigan State Parks Centennial, visit: https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-350-79133_79205_85747—,00.html.

For more about accommodations, dining and other activities in the Straits of Mackinac Area: https://www.mackinawcity.com/.

#MiStateParks100 #StateParks100 #PureMichigan

Six Straits Area Lighthouses Welcome Summer Visitors

Michigan has more lighthouse than any other state (at nearly 120) and the Straits of Mackinac is home to more than a dozen of these historic navigational aids. Standing majestically against the backdrop of the Great Lakes, these lights remain a testament to the state’s early maritime history.

Throughout the Mackinaw City region, six of these lighthouses are open for public tours—including White Shoal and Spectacle Reef for the first time ever.

Public tours are also available throughout the summer inside these lights:

Other lighthouses in the area, viewable from the water, include:

Those who want to get out to see the off-shore lighthouses can make reservations for excursions offered through Shepler’s Ferry, including an “Eastbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Westbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Extended Eastbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Extended Westbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Evening Lighthouse Cruise” and “Les Cheneaux Lighthouse Experience.” Or, head further up the St. Mary’s River toward Sault Ste. Marie for even more lighthouse viewing aboard the Soo Locks Upper Lighthouse Cruise.

When visiting the marina in St. Ignace, also be on the lookout for this active light:

With so many lighthouses, you’ll certainly need several days to see them all. Makes plans for an overnight stay in Mackinaw City at MackinawCity.com/stay/, then begin mapping out your historic tour of the Straits Area historic beacons.

SAVE THE DATE: August 7 is National Lighthouse Day!

This Autumn, Explore These Mackinaw City Area Scenic Byways

Michigan is home to many Pure Michigan Byways which celebrate the state’s outstanding natural beauty and many sites of historical, scenic, recreational and cultural significance. Several of these routes are easily accessible from Mackinaw City, including:

State Scenic Byways:

State Recreation Byways:

National Forest Scenic Byway:

Download the official tour guide to the Pure Michigan Byways at http://www.michigan.gov/byways.

Did you know the apex of the Dixie Highway, West Michigan Pike and East Michigan Pike all met in Mackinaw City?

“The big feature of the day was the unveiling of the stone monument dedicated to good roads, and marking the union of the East and West Michigan Pikes and the apex of the Dixie Highway. The monument, built of rough stone, is eighteen feet high and about seven feet wide at the base.” – July 14, 1916, Cheboygan Daily Tribune (as included in the award-winning “Vintage Views Along the West Michigan Pike – From Sand Trails to US-31” by M. Christine Byron and Thomas R. Wilson, © 2011).

Unfortunately, the giant stone monument is longer standing but in its place is a giant four-sided clock next to the Dixie Saloon and the Shepler’s Ferry dock.

Celebrate National Lighthouse Day in the Straits of Mackinac

By Dianna Stampfler

Michigan has more lighthouse than any other state (at nearly 120) and the Straits area is home to more than a dozen of these historic navigational aids. You’re invited to celebrate National Lighthouse Day (August 7) in the heart of the Great Lakes.

I first started researching Michigan’s lighthouses in 1997 when I worked at the West Michigan Tourist Association and was working on the Lake Michigan Circle Tour & Lighthouse Guide. While I had a casual knowledge of lights, I wasn’t aware of how significant these historic beacons are to Michigan’s history—not only the maritime industry, but agricultural, recreational and industrial industries which relied on the Great Lakes for shipping products throughout American and beyond!

The Straits of Mackinac is known as the “Crossroads of the Great Lakes” where the bulk of this water traffic traveled going from Chicago to Detroit or up to Lake Superior, and points beyond. With shoals, rocky shoreline and shallow waters, this area was often treacherous for boats making the lighthouse vital to their safety (although that wasn’t always the case as many ships sank in this area…for more on that subject, read this blog post from the Straits Area Shipwreck Dive Preserve).

When visiting the Straits of Mackinac, you have the opportunity to tour several of the lighthouses for yourself—including Old Mackinac Point McGulpin Point, St. Helena Island and DeTour Reef Light (which also has a popular overnight keeper program at its northern Lake Huron light). And, starting in 2019, you’ll be able to actually spend the night at the White Shoal Light out in the waters of northern Lake Michigan.

Those who want to get out to see the water-based lighthouses can make reservations for boat tours offered in the Straits area. Shepler’s Ferry offers several ferry cruises out to the offshore lights, including an “Eastbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Westbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Extended Eastbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Extended Westbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Evening Lighthouse Cruise” and “Les Cheneaux Lighthouse Experience.” Or, head further up the St. Mary’s River toward Sault Ste. Marie for even more lighthouse viewing aboard the Soo Locks Upper Lighthouse Cruise.

If you’d like to hear more stories about Michigan’s lighthouses, their keepers and even their ghosts, please join me at the Mackinaw Area Public Library (528 W. Central Avenue) on Wednesday, October 24 from 6-7:30pm for a free presentation of “Michigan’s Ghostly Beacons”—which includes some interesting tales from nearby Waugoshance Shoal Lighthouse and St. Helena Island Lighthouse.

For more information about all the lighthouses within the Midwest region, visit the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association or TerryPepper.com.


Dianna Stampfler is the president of Promote Michigan and the author of the upcoming book “Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses” from History Press, coming out in the spring of 2019.



Photo Source (White Shoal and Gray’s Reef): http://lighthouse.boatnerd.com/gallery/michigan/whiteshoal.htm

Setting Sail for the Straits of Mackinac

Each summer, hundreds of magnificent sailboats (aka yachts) race their way north through the Great Lakes to the Straits of Mackinac, converging on Mackinac Island in two of the most esteemed freshwater sailing competitions in the world. One race starts in Chicago, the other in Port Huron, held in consecutive weeks (alternating order each year).

On August 6, 1898, five yachts raced from Chicago to Mackinac Island, starting that 333-mile race—which is regarded as the oldest annual freshwater distance race in the world. The second race wasn’t held until 1904 and by the third race, an all-women team with skipper Miss Evelyn Wright at the helm of the sloop Lady Eileen had entered the competition.

Today, the race hosts several hundred boats and over 3,000 sailors which set sail from the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse just off Navy Pier before crossing Lake Michigan and traveling north along the shoreline and then under the five-mile Mackinac Bridge and finishing in the Round Island Channel off Mackinac Island.

This year’s Chicago Mackinac Race begins on Saturday, July 21, with the fastest boats arriving as early as 18 hours later in the Straits of Mackinac.

It was in 1925 that the Port Huron Yacht Club and the Bay View Yacht Club in Detroit teamed up to host the first Bayview Mackinac Race. The 32-foot sloop Bernida, skippered by Russ Pouliot, won the race with a time of 49 hours, 50 minutes. A dozen yachts competed in that race, but only six actually completed the 261-mile course.

This year’s Bayview Mackinac Race begins on Saturday, July 14 in Port Huron with the smallest boats starting first followed by the larger boats. Teams typically begin arriving on Mackinac Island on Sunday evening through Tuesday morning, providing plenty of opportunity for the public to view the ships and their brightly colored sails making their way into the Straits of Mackinac.

Visitors to Mackinaw City during these two race periods will be delighted to see the brightly colored boats passing through the Straits area. Shoreline locations around Wilderness State Park and McGulpin Point provide great photo opportunities for the Chicago race, while the beach area in front of Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse or along the Lake Huron shoreline are ideal for watching the boats coming up from Port Huron.

Spring Blossoms in the Straits of Mackinac

Spring is a beautiful time of year in the Mackinaw City area, as the winter melts away and nature comes out of its deep slumber. Plenty of seasonal activities are planned to celebrate the arrival of spring and all its beauty—from the flora to fauna to astronomy to aviary.

Savoring Michigan’s sweet treat…maple syrup

The longer, warmer days means sap begins to flow in the maple trees that dot the landscape around the miles of woodland trails. In the furthest reaches of Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park visitors can find the Maple Sugar Shack, nestled along one of the hiking trails. While the sugaring season will have wrapped up by the time the interpretive season begins at here in May, guests can still find the shack and interpretive panels detailing the history of sugaring in this area and the process of doing it.

Beauty from the ground…wildflowers abound!

One of the surest signs that spring has arrived in the north woods is the appearance of an abundance of beautiful wildflowers covering the forest floor, including the Yellow Trout-lily, Spring-beauty, the Large-flowered Trillium and the smaller Nodding Trillium, Marsh Marigold or Cowslip and Jack-in -the-Pulpit. Head out along the hiking trails at Wilderness State Park, The Headlands International Dark Sky Park,  at Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park and along sections of the North Country Trail. Please remember that trillium are protected in Michigan and that picking them is illegal (but photographing them is recommended).

Foraging from the forest floor…morels, ramps and fiddleheads!

In addition to an abundance of wildflowers, spring means the arrival of wild edibles – such as morels, ramps and fiddleheads – the most hunted spring treasures. May is morel month in Michigan but depending on the weather these illusive fungi can be found as early as April and as late as mid-June, especially the further north you go. Morels begin to pop up along the woodland floor when the daytime temps reach around 60–65 degrees while the evening temps stay above 50 degrees. As you search, look along southwest facing hills where the sun’s rays warm the ground around tree groves mixed with living, dead and dying ash, elm, oak and aspen trees. Given there are a lot of “false morels” and other poisonous mushrooms, it is advised to take a guide (either a person or a printed book) to help you identify a true morel. If you can’t find them in the woods, look for them on the menu of area restaurants during the spring season – topping fish, chicken or steak, fried to a crispy goodness or cooked into a creamy bisque.

Mackinaw City…for the birds!

The 2018 Mackinaw Raptor Fest, April 6-8, provides an entertaining and educational showcase to promote public awareness and knowledge of raptors and waterbirds and the significance of the Straits area during migration. Located at the junction of two peninsulas and two Great Lakes, Mackinaw City creates a unique confluence of migrating birds every spring and fall. A variety of activities are planned throughout the weekend, including field trips, bird counts, watches, banding, star gazing, live raptor presentations and special programs focused on identification, photography and ecology, among other activities. For the complete schedule of events, please click here.

Cast a hook, line and sinker!

Fishing really is a four-season activity here in the Great Lakes State, but as the ice melts and the temperatures rise, the rivers, streams and lakes become a hotbed for a variety of species. The Straits area offers opportunities for migratory steelhead and salmon, as well as other freshwater fish. Spring fishing begins in April when the smelt begin to run, followed by trout season in late April and walleye season which opens mid-May. As we move into summer, look for lake perch and bass off the coast of Wilderness State Park or head to Paradise Lake, just five miles south of Mackinaw City, where bass, pike, walleye and panfish are plentiful. Be sure to check the Michigan Department of Natural Resourcest for specific season dates and licensing information.

Hunting Michigan’s beloved Petoskey Stone!

Many people think that Petoskey Stones can only be found in Petoskey. Yet this hexagon fossilized coral (Hexagonaria pericarnata) from a coral reef that existed during the Devonian era 350 million years ago, can be found along the Lake Michigan shoreline from the Sleeping Bear Dunes area as far north as the Straits of Mackinac. Spring is the ideal time to scour the beaches for rocks that have been churned up over the winter, before the thousands of tourists have had the time begin their search. Established as Michigan’s state stone in 1965, the Petoskey Stones were formed as a result of glaciation, in which sheets of ice plucked stones from the bedrock, grinding off their rough edges and depositing them in the northwestern portion of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

Look to the skies…and beyond!

Although there is no way to predict when Northern Lights (aurora borealis) will light up the sky, the Straits area provides the perfect night sky conditions for viewing this unique phenomenon. Northern Lights are collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere, creating dancing color of lights such as green, pink and purple. Located along the Lake Michigan shoreline just south of Mackinaw City, the Headlands International Dark Sky Park is a popular place for settling in for the sky show. Mark your calendar for April 20 to attend a special program on Statewide Astronomy Night under the Lyrid Meteor Shower and a waxing crescent moon. Spring full moons will grace the sky March 31 (a blue moon – the second full moon of the month), April 29 and May 29.

For list of events taking place in the Straits of Mackinac during the spring season (such as the Spring Meltdown, Spring Break Splash, Taste of Mackinac and Mackinac International Bridal Expo), click here.

Those wanting to venture over to historic Mackinac Island during the pre-season should note that ferry service begins April 1. Mackinac State Historic Parks (Colonial Michilimackinac, Historic Mill Creek and Fort Mackinac) open in early May.

For spring travel ideas and lodging options, visit MackinawCity.com.

Mackinaw City Releases 2018 Visitor’s Guide to the Straits Area

The Mackinaw City area has been welcoming visitors for centuries, drawn to the natural freshwaters of the Straits of Mackinac, the rich woodlands and natural resources, the ongoing history and genuine Northern Michigan hospitality.

To aid travelers in their future visits to the area, the Mackinaw Area Visitors Bureau has published its 2018 Visitors Guide, available free at all Pure Michigan Welcome Centers, at select locations in the Mackinaw City area and at Midwest consumer shows represented by the West Michigan Tourist Association.* It can also be viewed online at https://www.mackinawcity.com/contact-us/visitors-guide/.

“We have created this Mackinaw Area Visitors Guide to help you plan your next visit with us,” says Deb Spence, Executive Director of the Mackinaw Area Visitors Bureau. “We hope you find it useful, educational and entertaining.”

The 40-page guide features articles about the Mackinac Bridge, Headland International Dark Sky Park, Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), Mackinac Island, sculptures of Jerry Prior, lighthouses, Day Trip Destinations and winter activities in the Straits, among others. It also includes listings for area accommodations, shops, restaurants, parks and services, as well as a list of 2018 special events, of interest to visitors and locals alike.

WMTA 2018 Consumer Shows

Cottage & Lakefront Living Show

March 1-4 in Novi, MI

Grand Rapids Women’s Show

March 9-11 in Grand Rapids, MI

Michigan Golf Show

March 9-11 in Novi, MI

Good Sam Indy RV Super Show

April 12-15 in Indianapolis, IN

International Women’s Show

May 3-6 in Novi, MI

Celebrate National Lighthouse Day – August 7 – in the Straits of Mackinac Area

Michigan has more lighthouse than any other state (at nearly 120) and the Straits area is home to more than a dozen of these historic navigational aids. You’re invited to celebrate National Lighthouse Day (August 7) in the heart of the Great Lakes.

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse: Constructed in 1892, this light was decommissioned in 1957 when the Mackinac Bridge was complete. Today, it operates as part of the Mackinac State Historic Parks and is open for tours. The Keepers’ Quarters contains three rooms restored to their 1910 appearance and a gallery exhibit on the history of the lighthouse featuring hands-on displays and original artifacts. Tours of the tower are given throughout the day, on a first-come, first served basis. Tours are provided at no additional charge and are not guaranteed with admission.

McGulpin Point Lighthouse: Located two miles down the Lake Michigan shoreline toward Wilderness State Park, this light operated from 1869 until 1906, when it became privately owned. Emmet County purchased the light, its acreage and frontage on the lake in 2008 and operates it as a museum and historic site. It is open through mid-October, as well as the first Saturday of December during a special “Christmas at the Lighthouse” celebration.

St. Helena: Once home to more than 200 residents and an active fishing industry, St. Helena Island is now a natural site and the St. Helena Lighthouse. Built in 1872-1873, the light went into operation in September 1873. It became one of a series of lighthouses that guided vessels through the Straits of Mackinac, past a dangerous shoal that extends from the island. Over time, the population left the island and the light fell into a state of disrepair until the Great Lake Lighthouse Keepers Association (GLLKA) obtained a license to restore the light station from the Coast Guard in 1986. On a few dates during the summer, excursions aboard the Ugly Anne take visitors (who must be members of GLLKA) to St. Helena Island for lunch at the lighthouse. Organized in 1983, GLLKA also calls Mackinaw City home. This membership-volunteer organization is one of the nation’s longest-lived lighthouse preservation groups. This is an active aid to navigation.

Waugoshance: Constructed in 1850 and first lit in 1851, this “birdcage” style lighthouse is unique in style and story. When the White Shoal Light was constructed in 1910, Waugoshance became excess property and was decommissioned.  During World War II, it found a new purpose—it was used for bombing practice. Today, the ruins remain a constant reminder of this light’s longstanding history. It is on the “Doomsday” list of lights beyond repair and is also rumored to be haunted by the ghost of a former keeper, John Herman. The light is NOT open to the public, but is visible from the water and from near Wilderness State Park.

Gray’s Reef: Replacing a series of light ships place to guard the shallow, rocky shoal area, Gray’s Reef was completed in the mid-1930s just 3.8 miles west of Waugoshance Island. Visible only from the water, this 65-foot-tall octagonal light was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. This is an active aid to navigation.

White Shoal: Built in 1910, this towering 124-foot tall red-and-white “candy cane” striped light is located about 20 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge and is only visible from the water. The White Shoal Light is the prominent design element in the “Save Our Lights” license plate for the State of Michigan; the sale of which helps fund lighthouse preservation. Michigan is the only state that supports lighthouse preservation with a program that includes annual grants from the state to local preservation groups. This light is visible only from the water and is an active aid to navigation.

Round Island: As you ferry from Mackinaw City to Mackinac Island, the red and white Round Island Lighthouse stands guard at the tip of the wilderness island. It was constructed in 1895 at a cost of $15,000 by Frank Rounds, a carpenter from Detroit who had previously worked on Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel. The lighthouse was first lit on May 15, 1896. It was commissioned under the U.S. Lighthouse Board, which became the United States Lighthouse Service in 1910. When it was first completed, the lighthouse was brick red. This would remain so until it was painted red and white in 1924. Round Island Lighthouse Preservation Society was formed in 2009 as a non-profit organization to help aid the preservation and restoration efforts at historic Round Island Lighthouse. In year’s past, there has been an “Open House” at the light – held one day a year. However, no tour was held in 2017. This is an active aid to navigation.

Round Island Passage Light: As you enter the harbor into Mackinac Island, this 1948 lighthouse welcomes visitors from near and far. This was one of the last lights to be constructed on the Great Lakes, built at the same time the 1895 lighthouse was deactivated. The light was sold at auction in 2014 for $65,500. It is not open to the public, but is visible from the water and the island. This is an active aid to navigation.

Poe Reef: Marking the north side of the South Channel of the Straits of Mackinac, between Bois Blanc Island and the mainland of the Lower Peninsula, Poe Reef sits about six miles east of Cheboygan. Completed in 1928, Poe Reef Light is part of what became a complex of 14 reef lights in Michigan waters, which was intended to help ships navigate through and around the shoals and hazards of the Great Lakes. It is also part of a series of a significant offshore light construction projects being undertaken in the Straits area in the late 1920s. Poe Reef, with its black and white striped daymark, is only visible from the water and remains an active aid to navigation.

Fourteen Foot Shoal: Named to denote that the lake is only 14 feet deep at this point—which is a hazard to navigation, ships and mariners—this offshore beacon marks the southern side of the South Channel. First lit in 1930, this automated light is only visible from the water and is an active aid to navigation.

Martin Reef: Sitting on a 65-foot square concrete-filled crib, this light was constructed in northern Lake Huron, 4.3 miles south of Cadogan Point in Clark Township in 1927. The lighthouse itself is a 25-foot square, white, three-story structure made of a skeletal steel frame covered with reinforced concrete and iron and sheathed with steel. The lighthouse is centered on the crib. The first floor of the lighthouse was designed as an engine room, the second floor as an office, kitchen, and living area, while the third floor contained sleeping rooms. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. It is only visible from the water and is an active aid to navigation.

Spectacle Reef: Designed and built by Colonel Orlando Metcalfe Poe and Major Godfrey Weitzel in 1874, this is the most expensive lighthouse ever built on the Great Lakes (at a cost of $406,000). It stands 11 miles east of the Straits of Mackinac at the northern end of Lake Huron. Because of the challenges of building on a shoal, including laying an underwater crib, it is said to be the “most spectacular engineering achievement” in lighthouse construction on Lake Huron. It took four years to build because weather limited work to mostly the summer season. Workers lived in a structure at the site; one of the limiting conditions. Automated in 1972 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, this light is only visible from the water and is an active aid to navigation.

Detour Reef: Built in 1931, the 83-foot tall lighthouse is a strategic and historic landmark that marks a dangerous reef to help guide ship traffic from and to Lake Huron and Lake Superior via the strategic St. Mary’s River. This light is located one mile offshore in northern Lake Huron, at the far eastern end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula between DeTour Village and Drummond Island. The Detour Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society completed major restoration of the structure in 2004 and the following year began offering public tours and a popular overnight keeper program. Viewable only from the water, this light is an active aid to navigation.

Wawatam Lighthouse: This 52-foot-tall beacon started life in 1998 as a travel icon at the Michigan Welcome Center in Monroe. In 2004, the City of St. Ignace became the lucky recipient and the structure was trucked north in five pieces. Two years later, a crane reassembled the tower on its new site and it was lit on August 20, 2006. Wawatam Lighthouse takes its name from the late railroad ferry Chief Wawatam, which used this same dock from 1911 through the mid-1980s. When you visit the lighthouse, you will pass right by the Chief’s old lift gate. This is an active aid to navigation.

Those who want to get out to see the water-based lighthouses can make reservations for boat tours offered in the Straits area.

Shepler’s Ferry offers several ferry cruises out to the offshore lights, including an “Eastbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Westbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Extended Eastbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Extended Westbound Lighthouse Cruise,” “Evening Lighthouse Cruise” and “Les Cheneaux Lighthouse Experience.”

Or, head further up the St. Mary’s River toward Sault Ste. Marie for even more lighthouse viewing aboard the Soo Locks Upper Lighthouse Cruise.

With so many lighthouses, you’ll certainly need several days to see them all. Makes plans for an overnight stay in Mackinaw City at MackinawCity.com/stay/, then begin mapping out your historic tour of the Straits Area historic beacons.

DAY TRIPS: Celebrate Michigan Craft Beer Month in Mackinaw City

Michigan is the self-proclaimed “Great Beer State” and for good reason. There are more than 300 microbreweries around the state, producing thousands of craft beers that are perfect for sampling no matter the season.

Mackinac Island Brewhouse & Winery, located inside Mackinaw Bay Trading Company, offers 10 microbrews on draft as well as build-your-own six-packs with thousands of craft brew options from Michigan and beyond.

Biere de Mac Brew Works is located just south of downtown Mackinaw City on the Mackinaw Highway. Order a pint or a flight of locally-inspired brews such as 20 Fathoms, Accidental Tourist, Poe Reef Nicolet IPA, Waugoshance Wheat, Vacationland and The Yugo. Paddle Hard Brewing (based in Grayling, 85 miles south on I-75) also operates its Rusted Spoke Brewing in town.

You can also find a selection of Michigan-made microbrews at Audie’s Family Restaurant, Dixie Saloon, The Embers Inn & Tavern, The Historic Depot Restaurant and Caboose at Mackinaw Crossings, The Lighthouse Restaurant, Nonna Lisa’s and O’Reilly’s Irish Pub.

Within an hour drive or so from Mackinaw City, you can tap into several other breweries. Cheboygan Brewing can be found not far from the Lake Huron shoreline. Along the west coast, Pond Hill Farm in Harbor Springs is home to Tunnel Vision Brewery. In Petoskey, you’ll find Petoskey Brewing, Beards Brewing and Burnt Marshmallow; Stiggs Brewery is located in downtown Boyne City, and Lake Charlevoix Brewing overlooks Round Lake in downtown Charlevoix (next to the Beaver Island Boat Company docks) while Bier’s Inwood Brewery can be found a few miles south of town near Norwood.

Over the Mackinac Bridge, you’ll find another couple dozen breweries including Les Cheneaux Brewery & Distillery in Cedarville along with three breweries in Sault Ste. Marie (one of Mackinaw City’s “Day Trip Destinations”) including Lockside Brewery, Soo Brewing Company and Superior Coast Brewery.

For a list of other Michigan breweries, visit the Michigan Brewers Guild website.

SAVE THE DATE: Saturday, September 7 – Mackinaw City Beer & Wine Festival.

Discover Michigan’s Only Internationally-Designated Dark Sky Park—The Headlands—in Mackinaw City

A conversation with Mary Stewart Adams, Director – The Headlands Dark Sky Park

For visitors coming to the Mackinaw Area and may have never heard of a “Dark Sky Park,” what is it and what should they expect?

A Dark Sky Park is an area of land over which the night sky has been protected from light pollution, which is stray light that spills up into the sky, diminishing views of the stars. Most residents of the United States now live where they can’t see most of the stars at night.

Given that the stars and a striving to understand them has motivated some of the highest achievements in humanity, this poses a significant threat to culture everywhere. Conscientious use of light at night also helps us support and sustain healthy habitat, particularly for bird migration through the Straits area; it allows us to be better stewards of natural resources that are used for energy; and it supports human health and well-being, since we now know that exposure to artificial light at night disrupts the production of important sleep hormones.

Michigan is home to only one Internationally-designated Dark Sky Park, and to several thousand acres of state park lands where the night sky is celebrated and protected. What visitors can expect at The Headlands is several miles of hiking trails where they can take in some of the area’s best old-growth untouched forest and maybe catch a glimpse of the rare Dwarf Lake Iris, which only grows in this region of the world. The Headlands also has two miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline which is dedicated to night sky observing, taking in beautiful sunsets, wishing on stars, watching the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).

This summer we are also opening our new Waterfront Event Center and Observatory, where we will host regular programs, both indoors and out, as well as public viewing nights with the telescopes, to enhance the experience of the natural environment.

What makes a Dark Sky Park so unique? This is the only one in Michigan and one of only how many in the US and the World?

An internationally-designated dark sky park such as The Headlands is owned and managed locally (in this case, by Emmet County) but reports annually with sky quality meter readings and hosts regular educational program to sustain a standard and quality of dark commensurate with the rigors of the designation.

Headlands is still the only internationally-designated Dark Sky Park in Michigan (it was the 6th in the US and 9th in the world) when it was designated in 2011. There are now over 40 international Dark Sky Parks worldwide, and they can be found at the website www.DarkSky.org.

How accessible is the facility – the trails, the viewing areas, the new Waterfront Event Center.

The Headlands is located just two miles west of downtown Mackinaw City at 15675 Headlands Road. Guests to the park can drive in and park near the Waterfront Event Center and access the grounds by sidewalks, or park near the entrance and walk the beautiful one mile route to viewing areas along the shore. We have 24-hour ADA accessible restrooms; and the building is also universally accessible, both lower and upper levels. However, there are 20 steps up into the Observatory, so guests who cannot handle stairs for programs we offer with the telescope can view the screens in our event space.

What can people find inside the new waterfront event center – in terms of exhibits and events?

The Waterfront Event Center is designed for rental and is not open daily like a visitor center would be. When we host programs in the space, visitors can take in the exhibit area and restrooms. We have two large format screens in the event space that will display what is being seen by our 20-inch PlaneWave deep space imaging telescope. There is a commercial kitchen; and an indoor/outdoor fireplace.

What is planned regarding this August’s Solar Eclipse?

During the Great American Eclipse on Monday, August 21 the Sun will appear to be about 80% eclipsed by the Moon. We have a terrific solar telescope through which we will be projecting images, and we intend to have live stream from the path of Totality on screens in the event space.

What about this Pure Michigan Award you received earlier this year?

The first Pure Award was presented in 2016, and the second was awarded earlier this year to The Headlands, at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism held in Detroit in April. The Headlands was selected “based on its recognition of the night sky as a vast and vanishing natural resource that is essential to today’s global conversation about habitat protection, energy resource management and tourism.” The award itself was designed specifically for us by artisan glassblowers at Greenfield Village and is a single blown piece in the shape of the north star, inlaid with silver leaf to evoke a sense of the Milky Way.

Final thoughts on admission, accessibility, hours and such?

Visitors to The Headlands can always access the site free of charge. We are busiest through the summer months, so even though we have paved parking near the Waterfront Event Center, the lot gets full, which means guest park at the entrance and walk one mile to the shoreline viewing areas. It’s a beautiful walk, but you should be prepared with things you can carry, like chairs or sleeping bags, and red filter flashlights (see below). The park is always open, and you should come by in the day the first time, so you can see the lay of the land, because it gets really dark at night.

Some things to note:

Occasionally we host programs that are ticketed, and there will be a fee for public viewing in the Observatory. These things can be check ahead of time on our website at www.MiDarkSkyPark.org