Oh Deer…Firearm Hunting Season Through the Straits

Since first opening in 1957, the Mackinac Bridge Authority has counted the number of deer taken south across the bridge during Michigan’s firearm deer season. This information helps the DNR index the size of the deer herd in the as well as the success of the firearm deer season in the Upper Peninsula.

Over the past 60+ years, those counts collectively total 278,250. The all-time high came in 1995, when 18,887 deer were tallied. Other prime years were 1959 (16,056 deer), 2000 (14,445), 1964 (13,335) and 1958 (13,065). More than 10,000 deer were also counted in 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1996 and 2000.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (M-DNR) recently released its 2019 prediction report, which states that “with overall deer numbers being low in the U.P., buck sightings have been limited. Those that have been observed look very healthy and antler development appears average for the region.”

Overall, throughout Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, hunting (including deer and other mammals) is big business. The Michigan United Conservation Clubs report that the statewide economic impact of hunting is $8.9 billion (with 700,000 hunters) and combined with fishing put Michigan the top state in the Great Lakes region – generating more than $11.2 billion annually. This includes licenses, gear, clothing, hotels, meals and more.

According to the DNR, the 2018 hunting seasons (bow, firearm and muzzleloader) brought out more than 554,300 hunters statewide who spent a combined 7.5 million days afield and bagging more than 360,000 deer (bucks and does).

Michigan’s 2019 archery season for deer is now underway and the firearm deer season in Michigan runs November 15-30, 2019.

Mackinac Bridge Deer Crossing Totals (1957-2018)

1957       9,224

1958       13,065

1959       16,056

1960       9,798

1961       5,962

1962       9,700

1963       11,894

1964       13,355

1965       11,050

1966       10,093

1967       9,528

1968       8,283

1969       7,250

1970       3,084

1971       4,251

1972       2,466

1973       2,885

1974       3,404

1975       3,784

1976       3,175

1977       2,618

1978       3,157

1979       2,841

1980       2,695

1981       3,313

1982       3,128

1983       3,393

1984       3,922

1985       5,378

1986       4,713

1987       6,036

1988       7,960

1989       9,279

1990       8,450

1991       9,361

1992       8,581

1993       7,328

1994       8,903

1995       18,887

1996       10,900

1997       4,992

1998       6,800

1999       9,703

2000       14,445

2001       8,073

2002       8,221

2003       8,091

2004       6,598

2005       6,098

2006       5,819

2007       6,346

2008       6,813

2009       3,942

2010       4,092

2011       5,731

2012       6,460

2013       4,207

2014       2,233

2015       1,500

2016       1977

2017       2991

2018       3317


Planning Ahead for the 62nd Annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk – Monday, September 2, 2019

As it was for the 2018 Annual Bridge Walk, the Mackinac Bridge will be closed to public traffic from 6:30 a.m. to Noon on Monday, Sept. 2, 2019 to accommodate the 2019 Annual Bridge Walk.

The walk begins at 7 a.m. You may start walking any time after the governor’s party starts the walk at approximately 7 a.m. No one will be permitted to start after 11:30 a.m., so make sure you arrive early. There is no fee or registration required to participate in the walk and each participant will receive a numbered bridge walk certificate at the completion of their walk. Certificates will be distributed at both ends of the bridge.

This year, the walk begins in St. Ignace at the north end of the Mackinac Bridge in the Upper Peninsula, and in Mackinaw City at the south end of the bridge in the Lower Peninsula. To participate in the walk, you may:

Walkers will use the left-hand outside paved lane as they walk onto the bridge, regardless of which end of the bridge they start from. Walkers who turn back at the midpoint will turn right, then return using the opposite side outside paved lane. Walkers who choose to cross the entire bridge will stay in the left-hand outside paved lane all the way across.

No bus transportation across the bridge will be available this year. Walkers who decide to walk across the entire bridge will need to arrange their own transportation back to the end of the bridge where they started – after the bridge reopens to public traffic at noon. There is limited parking space available west of the Mackinac Bridge Authority plaza area. Parking and shuttle service is being provided by the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce and St. Ignace Visitor’s Bureau and is available at Little Bear East Arena.

Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry will again be offering direct departures between Mackinac City and St. Ignace for the 62nd Annual Mackinac Bridge Walk on September 2. Direct service between Mackinaw City and St. Ignace will begin at 5:30am. Advance tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children (ages 5-12) now through Sunday August 25. Children under 5 are complimentary but do require a ticket for boarding. Monday August 26 prices increase to $26 and $13 respectively.

Star Line Ferry is also offering shuttle service. The ferry will be departing their Mackinaw City Dock at 6:30 am going directly to our St. Ignace dock.  When you arrive in St. Ignace you can walk across the street and catch the FREE shuttle to the starting area. The cost for this departure is $15 per adult and $ 8 per child (ages 5-12). Children under five years of age travel free. They will also have a boat that leaves directly from the Mackinac Island Dock at 6:00 am for those on the Island that would like to get an early start. The cost for this departure is $15 per adult and $8 per child for a one-way ticket. Cost for a round trip ticket on the same departure is $18 per adult and $9 per child.

Baby strollers and wheelchairs are allowed on the bridge during the walk. Prohibited items include signs, banners, umbrellas, bicycles, roller skates, skateboards, wagons and similar types of devices. With the sole exception of working service dogs, no animals are allowed. Walkers must stay away from bridge railings and the center mall which divides the walkers from the vehicular traffic.

The Michigan State Police and other official personnel will be available in the event of an emergency. Please note, there are no restrooms on the bridge and the average length of time to walk the bridge is about two hours. Portable toilets will be located in St. Ignace and Mackinaw City.

Except for pre-qualified, registered participants in the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness Run, no running or racing is permitted on the bridge. Playing tag on the bridge is not permitted and no smoking on the bridge, please. For information on the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness Run, please go to www.michiganfitness.org or contact the Governor’s Council at 517-347-7891.

Individuals under the age of 18 should have the permission of a parent or guardian to participate in the walk. Any two or more people walking together should make plans for a meeting place in the event that they become separated during the walk.

As in the past, persons who need reasonable accommodations due to disability may contact the Mackinac Bridge Authority by Aug. 30, 2019 at 906-643-7600. TTY users may call the Michigan Relay Center at 800-649-3777.

Those looking for accommodations over Labor Day weekend will find a list of area hotels, motels, B&Bs and other options available in Mackinaw City: https://www.mackinawcity.com/stay/

Hemingway’s 1919 Trip Through the Straits to Seney

By Dianna Stampfler, Board Member – Michigan Hemingway Society

One hundred years ago, on a hot August day in 1919, a 20-year-old Ernest Hemingway and his two friends, Jack Pentecost and Al Walker, boarded the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad in Petoskey set out for the Seney in the central Upper Peninsula for the last great fishing trip of the summer.

They arrived in Mackinaw City at the tip of the Lower Peninsula and waited as their rail car was loaded aboard the SS Chief Wawatam (for which Wawatam Park on East Etherington Street is named). It was then an hour-long ferry ride across the Straits, where they hooked up to the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic (DSS & A) engine for the remainder of the trip to Seney. At just over 90 miles from Mackinaw City, Seney is located at the junction of M-28 and M-77 in Schoolcraft County.

Historic Seney began as a railroad stop in 1881 and quickly became a logging hub as the white pine forests were harvested and shipped off throughout the Great Lakes and beyond. The town’s population grew to over 3,000 but within a couple decades the forests were depleted and the residents left to find new jobs elsewhere. Today, fewer than 200 people live in the unincorporated community. Early on, tourism and recreation were popular activities here with the abundance of natural resources including the Fox River.

Among the town’s most noted “claim to fame” was its inclusion in Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Big Two Hearted River” which was first published in 1925 in the collection “In Our Time” and is also included in “The Nick Adams Stories” (published posthumously in 1972), based on his visit that summer of 1919.

In 2013, the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association dedicated a Michigan Heritage Memorial at adjacent to the State Forest Campground on the east Branch of the Fox River, seven miles north of Seney on M-77, which commemorates that significant trip. Bearing a photo of a young Hemingway in his Red Cross ambulance driver’s uniform from World War I, affixed to a 24-inch by 32-inch limestone slab which reads:

“Author Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), then 20 years old, and two friends camped and fished for trout near here on the East Branch of the Fox River in August 1919. They arrived at Seney by rail and then walked north to their campsite. Hemingway still favored his right leg as a result of being one of the first Americans wounded in Italy in World War I. The fishing trip allowed him to take his mind off the horrors of war and formed the basis for his famous short story, “Big Two-Hearted River.” He said he borrowed the name of another Upper Peninsula river for the title because it had more poetry.”

In addition to his time spent on the Fox River, Hemingway made numerous references to both the Black River (eastern Pigeon River Country, just 65 miles south of Mackinaw City) and Horton Creek near Walloon Lake, 45 miles southwest of the Straits of Mackinac. The city of Petoskey also features several historic Hemingway sites, including a statue in downtown Pennsylvania Park which was erected in the summer of 2017. For more information, check out the Michigan Hemingway Society.

For more about Hemingway in Seney, check out the article “Hemingway in Seney” by Jack Jobst which appeared in the November/December 1990 issue of Michigan History Magazine.

Snow Trekking in the Straits

According to Snowshoes.com, “From Europe to North America to Asia, people began using snowshoes over 4,000 years ago out of a basic need explore new territories and to find food in the winter…the great success of snowshoes for winter travel was first observed by European explorers with Northeastern tribes such as the Huron and Algonquin, which led subsequent trappers, hunters, and surveyors to adopt snowshoes as their own.”

Here in Michigan, early French explorers and missionaries are said to have learned of these winter accessories from the Native Americans who had been well established throughout the Great Lakes region. While today snowshoeing is more of a winter pastime, it was vital to survival here centuries ago.

Craig Wilson, historian with Mackinac State Historic Parks, created a short YouTube video which shares a bit more information: “Snowshoeing at the Straits of Mackinac”

In our modern era, Iverson’s has been handcrafting snowshoes in the Upper Peninsula village of Shingleton (115 miles from Mackinaw City) since 1954…celebrating 65 years in 2019.

“It started back in 1954 when Clarence Iverson began building his snowshoes for the State of Michigan,” according to the company’s website. “His premise was simple: reduce expended energy by walking on top of the snow, not through it. His designs provided maximum weight distribution for optimum flotation. News soon spread of the Iverson snowshoe, and demand expanded the company into the consumer market.

“Clarence was very picky. He only used the finest materials–premium Michigan White Ash, full grain rawhides, and pure copper hardware. These components are expensive, but well worth the cost when you find yourself in extreme conditions, or when it’s time to pass your Iverson’s on to the next generation.”

Today, Iverson’s handcrafts 17 models of snowshoes which can be purchased online or at retail outlets including The Locker Room in St. Ignace or Kings Fish Market in Naubinway (50 miles northwest of Mackinaw City, in the Upper Peninsula).

Michigan is home to thousands of miles of trails open to snowshoeing and according to the Michigan Department of Transportation, “you can snowshoe anywhere on state land that is open to the public,” but please, if you’re using trails groomed for cross country skiing walk net to the tracks so as to not disturb them for skiers.

So, where can you snowshoe in the Mackinaw City area?


Created in 1980, the longest hiking trail in the U.S. is managed by the National Park Service and passes through 10 National Forests, with some 800 miles in Michigan. The 46-mile section between Petoskey and Mackinaw City (which skirts the lakeshore through Harbor Springs, Good Hart and Cross Village) includes 14 miles of trails within Wilderness State Park. With varied terrain and four seasons of beauty, the trail is a popular route for snowshoers. The village of Mackinaw City is even one of the handful of “Trail Towns” throughout the state, offering a haven for recreationalists to relax before or after a day on the trail.


An Emmet County Park on the Straits of Mackinac, the Headlands property is made up of nearly 600 acres of forested lands, four miles of trails and two miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline including Michigan’s only Dark Sky Park. The trail network offers hours of inspiration among hardwoods and ferns in the warmer months, and spectacular snowshoeing throughout the winter. There is even a guided trek planned for Saturday, February 3 at 2pm.


Located along the shoreline southwest from downtown Mackinaw City, this state park boats over 20 miles of winter trails throughout the 10,000-acre wilderness, with over 26 miles of shoreline open for exploring. It is advisable to bring a compass since this State Park is, as its name implies, in the wilderness especially in the winter months. It is possible to get lost if you venture off the trails or if you get caught in a winter-time squall off Lake Michigan, and cell service is often limited.


While there is no access to the regular parking lot at this seasonal attraction, you can park near the entry area and access the hiking trails from there (at no charge). Situated on over 600 acres of beautiful forests, wildflowers and scenic views, this property has 1.5 miles of trails including a half-mile nature trail that borders the creek and passes two scenic overlooks from where the Straits of Mackinac and Mackinac Island can be viewed.


In addition to offering winter canoeing, kayaking or rafting trips down the Sturgeon River, this Indian River company (just 30 miles south of Mackinaw City) also offers snowshoe rentals for those looking to hit the trails or get off the beaten path.


Looking to keep warm while out on your trek? Be sure to outfit yourself in stylish hats, gloves and apparel (including the noted Mackinaw coat) made by Stormy Kromer (also a UP company). Read more in our Facebook Note: What is a Mackinaw? (including three local retailers who sell Stormy Kromer items).

NOTE: Saturday, January 11, 2020 is the 28th Annual “Pure Michigan Winter Trails Day” presented by the Great Lakes Winter Trails Council …a chance to get out and explore all that the state’s natural wonders have to offer!


Photo Source: Experience Michigan magazine.

Shedding Light on the Haunted Lighthouses Near Mackinaw City

Michigan is home to more than 120 lighthouses and the Straits of Mackinac boasts nearly two dozen of those lights—and a handful of THOSE are rumored to be haunted.

Among the most spirited beacon is the crumbling Waugoshance Shoal Light which stands in ruins off the coast near Wilderness State Park. Built in 1852 there are rumors that one man lost his life during the construction of the light—although no documentation can be found to verify this. Two keepers did lose their lives during their years of service here: Thomas Marshall in 1886 and John Herman in 1900.

A life-long bachelor, Herman had two loves in his life…alcohol and a good practical joke. As the story goes, on October 14 Herman was returning to the light from an all-night bender in Mackinaw City when he thought it would be funny to lock his assistant keeper in the tower. When the assistant was finally released (hours later, thanks to being “rescued” by another nearby keeper), he went in search of Herman to settle the score. But, the keeper was never found. It was commonly believed that he had fallen over the side of the crib and drowned. His body was never recovered, but for the next 10 years his spirit was known to harass other keepers at the light—knocking chairs out from underneath the men, rattling silverware in the drawers, shoveling coal into the fire and such. It became so bad that keepers refused service at this remote light.

Recent research however shed light on the REAL story behind Herman’s death. The 41-year-old had been on Mackinac Island that October under the care of a doctor. He actually died on October 14, 1900 of a heart attack. He was buried on the island, most likely in St. Anne’s Catholic Cemetery, although the location of his grave is unknown.

Casual accounts of ghosts have also been reported at McGulpin Point Lighthouse and St. Helena Island Lighthouse (located west of the Mackinac Bridge).

Heading down the Lake Huron coastline toward Alpena brings you to the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, which operated from 1840 to 1871. The first ghost encounters here date back to the early 1990s, after the civilian keeper George Parris passed away. His spirit was reported on more than one occasion by his wife, Lorraine, who stayed on for many years and who still lives in the area. Medium Tammy Schuster said she has also encountered a ghost while touring the lighthouse, but she believes it to be that of a man named Don S. Olds, who wrote a series of poems about the light during the 1930s. This light, as well as the New Presque Isle Lighthouse just north of it, operate as museums and are open seasonally. Distance to Presque Isle: 76 miles.

North over the Mackinac Bridge, you can head toward Lake Superior toward Point Iroquois Lighthouse and Whitefish Point Light Station, both with multiple tragedies and documented spirits.

The shoreline along Point Iroquois in Brimley was the site of a massive Native American massacre in 1662 and the spirits of those slain on that horrific day are among those who walk the rocky coast here. Then, in 1919, the SS Myron sank in a November storm taking the lives of all 17 crew (the only survivor was the captain, who floated in the pilot house to Canadian waters before being rescued). Perhaps the ghosts here belong to those lost seamen. Another ghost here is that of a child, encountered on at least one occasion by a paranormal who was visiting the light in the 1990s. Turns out a three-year-old girl was attacked and killed by a bear nearby in the summer of 1948. This lighthouse operates as a maritime museum and is open for seasonal tours (the grounds are open year-round). Distance to Point Iroquois: 59 miles.

Of course, the most noted incident in Paradise was the November 10, 1975 sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, just 15 miles from Whitefish Point. The entire crew of 29 were buried in the depths of Lake Superior that day, in an area known as “Shipwreck Alley” and the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes.” Several of Michigan’s nearly three dozen paranormal groups have visited this site and documented all kinds of activity.

There is even one video online which shows an apparition of a child scurrying across the doorway in one of the rooms in the lighthouse. It is believed the ghost is that of the Bertha Endress Rollo—granddaughter of one-time keeper Robert Carlson, captured in her upstairs bedroom. Robert and his wife, Anna Maria, served at several Great Lakes lighthouses including Marquette Harbor (which is also haunted by the ghost of a young girl, speculated to be that of Cecilia Carlson—Robert and Anna’s daughter (and Bertha’s mother). This lighthouse complex is operated by  the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society and is open for seasonal tours. Distance to Whitefish Point: 81 miles.

Following US2 west and then south to Gulliver is Seul Choix Point Lighthouse where Captain Joseph Willie Townshend makes his presence known quite regularly. He died at the light in 1910 of suspected lung cancer and to this day, the whiff of cigar smoke can be detected by visitors and volunteers at this remote light. He’s also been known to appear in the mirror of an upstairs bedroom or to move silverware around in the kitchen. As many as four other ghosts have been documented at this light, including two women, one other man and a child—Townshend’s granddaughter. This lighthouse is maintained by the Gulliver Historical Society and is open for seasonal tours. Distance to Seul Choix: 90 miles.

Interested in learning more about Michigan’s ghostly beacons? Check out Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses by Dianna Higgs Stampfler, released in March 2019 from The History Press / Arcadia Publishing.

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.

Discovering Michigan’s Majestic Waterfalls

By definition, a waterfall is “a perpendicular or very steep descent of the water of a stream” or “a place where water flows over a vertical drop or a series of steep drops in the course of a stream or river.”

Many people think you need to be in the western United States to see waterfalls, but in fact, Michigan is home to more than 300—most of them in the wooded areas of the Upper Peninsula and easily accessible via a day trip from Mackinaw City.

Without question, the state’s largest and most noted waterfall is Tahquamenon Falls in Paradise just 80 miles from Mackinaw City. The centerpiece of the 50,000-acre Tahquamenon Falls State Park, the Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi with a drop of nearly 50 feet and more than 200 feet across with a water flow of more than 50,000 gallons per second.

The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which stretches for 42 miles along Lake Superior between Munising and Grand Marais in Alger County (120-130 miles from Mackinaw City) is home to several popular waterfalls. According to the National Park Service website, “most of the waterfalls in this area are the result of water running over a shelf or cliff of hard limey sandstone called the Au Train Formation. This geologic formation resists erosion better than the softer sandstone layers just below it.”

At Munising Falls you can walk the paved 800-foot trail up a shaded sandstone canyon along Munising Creek to the base of the falls, where two sets of stairs lead to platforms to view the 50-foot waterfall as it drops over a sandstone cliff.

The Miners Falls Nature Trail offers views of the Miners Basin and Miner Falls (pictured), which drops about 50 feet over a sandstone outcrop, creating the park’s most powerful waterfall. There are 64 steps down to the lower viewing platform at the falls.

Bridalveil Falls is viewed best from the water, but can be seen at a distance from the lower Miners Castle overlook or from the west end of Miners Beach.

Located about one mile west of Grand Marais, on Alger County Road H-58. Sable Falls tumbles 75 feet over several cliffs of Munising and Jacobsville sandstone formations on its way to Lake Superior. The first viewing platform is down a long staircase of 169 steps. The trail continues past the falls for about a half-mile down to a rock beach where Sable Creek flows into Lake Superior.

Spray Falls plunges about 70 feet over the Pictured Rocks cliffs directly into Lake Superior. This remote waterfall is best viewed from the water as there is limited viewing access from the North Country Trail. The 1856 shipwreck “Superior” lies at the base of the falls in 20 feet of water.

Laughing Whitefish Falls is considered by many to be the most spectacular of Michigan’s falls. The falls cascade through a picturesque gorge with old growth white pine and hemlock towering above. The falls can be reached by a moderate (.6 mile) hike through beech-maple forest.

Ocqueoc Falls, along the Ocqueoc River, is the only recognized waterfall in Michigan’s lower peninsula. It is also the only universally-accessible waterfall in the United States. Located 46 miles southeast of Mackinaw City (between Cheboygan and Rogers City in Presque Isle County), Ocquoec also provides approximately six miles of hiking and biking, along three marked loops. You can even swim in the falls, where the Ocqueoc River has cut a channel through the limestone bedrock that underlays the entire region.

Please use caution while hiking to waterfalls. Stay on the trails and watch for uneven footing.

17 Things to Do in the Mackinaw City Area This Fall

Mackinaw City is considered the “Crossroads of the Great Lakes” for good reason – it is central to dozens of unique locations and activities along both the Lake Michigan and Lake Huron shorelines, as well as the vast woods and waters of both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. This autumn, bring the family, friends or consider a solo trip to the “Tip of the Mitt” to explore Michigan’s most colorful season.

Warmer than normal temperatures are forecast for September, according to the 2017 U.S. fall forecast released by AccuWeather.com. Yet, according to AccuWeather expert long-range forecaster Paul Pastelok, it’s too early to tell how the hotter than normal September and rain will affect the vibrancy of fall foliage.

Generally, the annual seasonal show peaks in stages, beginning at the top of the state in the Upper Peninsula, where it gets cooler first. Peak color is usually found in the U.P. between mid-September and early October; in the northern Lower Peninsula between late September and mid-October and so on.

Color patterns, however, depend greatly on the weather as well as other factors including lake-effect warming, which delays color changes near Great Lakes and inland water shorelines. In addition, cooler valleys or exposed hills may see color changing faster. Weather conditions in summer and early September largely determine how brilliant each season’s colors will be.

There are nearly 150 different species of trees in Michigan’s 18.6 million acres of forest. Our state boasts a colorful mix of yellows, reds, golds and oranges. Some of the most beautiful colors are displayed by such hardwoods as aspen, maple, birch, sumac and oak. When combined with a background of evergreen forest, the result is one of the best shows in the nation.

As you make plans to visit the Straits of Mackinac area during the fall season, consider these unique ways to enjoy the color show!

Collect leaves. Remember in high school biology when you had to collect leaves as part of a class project. This is a great multi-generational project to get you out on the local trails and in the parks to hand select the prettiest of leaves. Consider pressing them between pieces of wax paper, just like when you were a kid. Head out into the trails at Wilderness State Park, The Headlands or Historic Mill Creek to begin your search!

Go on an Elk Viewing Excursion. Just about 80 miles south/southeast of Mackinaw City is one of the state’s prime elk viewing sites—the Pigeon River Country State Forest and Elk Range in Gaylord, one of the largest free-roaming elk herd east of the Mississippi (with 105,000 acres). The most popular time to view elk is during the breeding season in September and October when they are feeding in open grassy areas and bulls are bugling. The best times to view elk are at dawn and dusk. NOTE: Elk should be appreciated at a distance and individuals should not try to approach the animal.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has published a Viewing Guide online, to provide more information about this unique experience.

Photograph Waterfalls. The Upper Peninsula is home to more than 300 waterfalls, ranging in size from under five feet to more than 48-foot vertical drops. Michigan’s largest falls is Tahquamenon – located just 80 miles from Mackinaw City. The centerpiece of Tahquamenon Falls State Park’s 50,000 acres, the Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi with a drop of nearly 50 feet and more than 200 feet across with a water flow of more than 50,000 gallons per second.

Moon viewing. The Full Harvest Moon will make its appearance on September 6 and the Full Hunters Moon on October 6. While there are plenty of open air places around Mackinaw City to look at the stars, the Headlands International Dark Sky Park is the premier location for unobstructed views.

Take a Scenic Drive. 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:

* M-119 “Tunnel of Trees” (Cross Village / Good Hart)
* US-2 “Top of the Lake Scenic Byway” (St. Ignace to Manistique)
* Tahquamenon (Lake Superior, intersecting with the Whitefish Bay National Forest route)

State Recreation Byways:

* M-23 “Sunrise Coast” (Mackinaw City to Standish, intersecting with the River Road National Scenic Byway – All American Road in Oscoda and along the AuSable River)
* North Huron Recreational Trail (I-75 north of St. Ignace to Drummond Island)

National Forest Scenic Byway:

* Whitefish Bay National Forest (Lake Superior near Paradise, intersecting with the Tahquamenon route.

Click here to download the official tour guide to the Pure Michigan Byways.

The Mackinaw Area Visitors Bureau has even established a specific Fall Color Tour Route, which will take you along some of the most scenic sites in northern Michigan!

Hike the North Country Trail. The North Country National Scenic Trail passes through seven northern states, from New York to North Dakota—traveling extensively through Michigan’s two peninsulas. When completed, the 4600-mile trail will be the longest continuous hiking trail in the United States. Coming out of Petoskey, the trail travels through Mackinac State Forest and Wilderness State Park where it follows the Lake Michigan Shoreline to Mackinaw City. The trail enters town on the southern border and its entire one-mile stretch inside the village is also a paved DNR Rails-to-Trails project named the North Western State Trail. From the trailhead, there is also access to the DNR’s North Central State Trail, which will take you from Mackinaw City south to Gaylord. For those wanting to continue north via the Mackinac Bridge, The Bridge Authority provides a shuttle to the trail’s Upper Peninsula connector.

Explore Michigan’s National Forests & Lakeshores. In the 1920s and 1930s, the US Government started a “resettlement program” which provided for direct purchase of marginal ag land and resettled those people onto more productive lands. Most of the purchased land was set aside for National or State forests. Michigan has four National Forests, two of which are within close proximity to Mackinaw City.

Huron-Manistee National Forest: Lying between the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, the nearly one-million-acre Huron-Manistee National Forests are in a transition zone between forested lands to the north and agricultural lands to the south. The Huron-Manistee National Forests contain rare ecological features, such as dry sand prairie remnants, coastal marshlands, dunes, oak savannahs, fens, bogs and marshes.

Hiawatha National Forest: Located in Michigan’s wild and scenic Upper Peninsula, the Hiawatha National Forest’s dramatic shorelines lie nestled up to Lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan — three of the five great lakes. Six historic lighthouses stand on Hiawatha’s Great Lakes shorelines, five of which are owned entirely or in part by the Forest Service. The Hiawatha also boasts four distinctly different Great Lakes islands.

Those up for a longer trek (130 miles) can venture to Munising in the Upper Peninsula to visit the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along the Lake Superior shoreline.

Go on a Cemetery Tour. Take a ferry ride over to Mackinac Island and explore one of the three cemeteries found there—two civilian and one military. Ste. Anne’s Catholic Cemetery is the largest of the three; the Protestant Cemetery is referred to by locals as “The Mackinac Island Cemetery”; and The Post Cemetery is the military site with grave dating back to the War of 1812 with both British and American soldiers buried there. The Post Cemetery is designated as a National Historic Landmark and the flag here continually flies at half-mast—one of only four National Cemeteries with this honor. All three are adjacent to each other on Garrison Road, in the middle of the island, and are open to the public during daylight hours.

Count Birds. The 2017 Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch waterbird count began on August 20 and continues through November 10. MSRW invites anyone interested to come to McGulpin Point, on the west edge of Mackinaw City, during this period to observe the migrating waterbirds and talk with migration experts who are conducting the count. In the fall of 2016, a professional counter observed a total of 44,302 waterbirds during 661 hours of work. As many as 20,000 long-tailed ducks and 4,000 white-winged scoters were counted in 2016, in combined spring and fall totals. The waterbird count began in 2015 with volunteer counters finding that there were substantial numbers of migrating waterbirds coming through the Straits of Mackinac area in the Fall. In 2015, counting for only 170 hours, a total of 18,164 birds were observed of 28 different species.

Try Geocaching. This high-tech treasure hunt involves using a GPS to find a container (or cache) using specific coordinates. Northern Michigan’s many geocache spots combine hiking, birding, wildflower and leave viewing, wildlife and other outdoor recreation and natural attractions. There are hundreds in the Straits Area and some unique and amazing locations in Mackinaw City. To get started sign up at geocaching.com and download waypoints to your smart phones or visit the Mackinaw Public Library computer lab for coordinates.

Cast a Line. Michigan boasts more freshwater coastline than any other state (3,177 miles of Great Lakes shoreline) as well as more than 11,000 inland lakes (more than Minnesota, FYI) and 36,000-plus miles of rivers and streams…with nearly 150 different species of fish. There are also many “Blue Ribbon Trout Streams” within a short drive of Mackinaw City such as the AuSable, Maple and Sturgeon Rivers in the Lower Peninsula (among 35 total) and Tahquamenon, Fox and Two Hearted in the Upper Peninsula (among 13 total). For more about fishing in the area, click here.

Go on a Self-Guided Sculpture Tour. Scattered around Mackinaw City are several wooden sculptures carved by Jerry Prior, each depicting a personal of historical importance in town. He started wood sculpting in 1989, shortly after he retired from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), where he worked as a road designer. The first was completed was Chief Wawatam, which stands in Wawatam Park. Next, it was a statue of Alexander Henry—a fur trader at Fort Michilimackinac; followed by British Major Arent Schuyler DePeyster—who once commanded Fort Michilimackinac; Perry Darrow—a civic-minded village resident; Edgar Conkling—Mackinaw City’s founder (standing proudly in the park that bears his name); and Hattie Stimpson—one of the city’s first residents.

Climb a Lighthouse. 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. Among those open for tours during the fall season are Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse (1892-1957) and McGulpin Point Light (1869-1906). Read more about the history of our area lights here.

Swing the Sticks. Fall is a perfect time for a round of golf—the crowds, bugs and prices are reduced versus the peak summer season. In the Mackinaw City area, check out Cheboygan Golf & Country Club or The Mackinaw Club.

Take a Trolley Tour. The Mackinac Old Time Trolley offers narrated historical tours of Mackinaw City’s timeless historic sites including the Mackinac Bridge, Colonial Michilimackinac, Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and the Coast Guard Icebreaker Mackinaw. In the morning, the one-hour tour stays in town while the two-hour evening historical trip heads up over the five-mile Mighty Mac for a tour of Upper Peninsula sites.

Sample Beer & Wine. Make plans to visit on Saturday, September 9 for the 2nd Annual Mackinaw City Beer & Wine Festival, held in Conkling Heritage Park along the shores of Lake Huron. Food and music round out the weekend at this family-friendly festival. Click here for a list of other upcoming events.

Scare Yourself! It is Halloween season, after all. Fort Fright is a “haunted” experience held October 6-7 (6:30-9:30pm) at Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City. Explore the wooden palisade of the Fort at twilight and experience the legends and lore of the Native Americans, French Canadians and British who called this site their home.

The Mackinaw Area Historical Society & Heritage Village is hosting two ghostly events in October. A “Ghost Supper” is planned from 2-4pm on Sunday, October 15 and “Triple Fright Night” will run from 6-8pm on Saturday, October 21.

If you’re headed to Mackinac Island, check out the Haunted Theater or Mackinaw Manor Haunted House, both located right downtown on Huron Street.

As you’re out and about experiencing the Straits of Mackinac area this fall season, be sure to share your photos (including selfies) online using the hashtag #MakeItMackinaw and #MackinawCity whenever possible.

For lodging reservations for the fall season in Mackinaw City, visit MackinawCity.com/stay/.

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.