Mackinaw City, Michigan

Mackinaw City is located at the tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula and at the South end of the famous Mackinaw Bridge.

Mackinaw City

Mackinaw City

The 9th International Dark Sky Park and Observatory is officially open just west of downtown Mackinaw City .  While there, check out McGulpin Point Lighthouse

The new Observatory

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Village of Mackinaw City (play/ˈmækɨnɔːˈsɪti/) is a village in Emmet and Cheboygan counties in the U.S. state of Michigan. At the 2000 census the population was 859. The name “Mackinaw City” is something of a misnomer as it is actually a village. The population greatly increases though during the tourist season with seasonal workers for the large number of hotels and other recreational facilities along the Straits of Mackinac. Mackinaw City is at the southern end of the Mackinac Bridge, which allows travel to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Mackinaw City, along with St. Ignace across the straits, is a base for ferries to Mackinac Island.

According to AAA‘s 2009 TripTik requests, Mackinaw City is the most popular tourist city in the state of Michigan.[3] Local attractions includeFort Michilimackinac, the Mackinac Bridge, the Mackinaw Crossings shopping mall, Mill Creek, the Old Mackinac Point Light, the Historic Village, the McGulpin Point Light, and the retired US Coast Guard Icebreaker Mackinaw.

The larger portion of the village, in area, is in Wawatam Township, Emmet County, though the downtown district and much of the development lies within Mackinaw Township, Cheboygan County.

The Voyagers

When the Europeans arrived in the Straits of Mackinac area the predominant tribes were: three Algonquian tribes, known as the Council of Three Fires: Chippewa (Ojibwe), Ottawa (Odawa), and Potawatomi. Although these were not permanent settlements in the European sense, these tribes frequented this area to fish, hunt, trade, and worship. Mackinac Island, which lies within the Straits of Mackinac to the northeast, appeared to have the shape of a turtle. This image led the Native Americans here to believe that the turtle contributed to life’s beginnings.History

The first European to pass the site of Mackinaw City was Jean Nicolet, sent out from Quebec City by Samuel Champlain in 1633 to explore and map the western Great Lakes, and to establish new contacts and trading partnerships with the Indian tribes there.[4] His reports resulted in the French government providing funding to send settlers, missionaries, traders, and soldiers to the Great Lakes region. Although FatherJacques Marquette had established a mission on Mackinac Island (which was shortly moved to St. Ignace), Mackinaw City’s first European settlement came in 1715 with Fort Michilimackinac. This fort was a fairly small garrison that housed French civilians inside the fort walls, but allowed them to garden, hunt, and fish outside the fort walls.

At the end of the French and Indian War, the British took possession of this area, but they did allow the French civilians to live within the fort’s walls as they were very valuable to the fur trade. As a part of Pontiac’s RebellionChippewa and Fox warriors captured the fort on June 2, 1763 during the baggatiway game surprise attack. The British were kicked out and did not return until the following spring under the agreement that they would trade more fairly with the Native Americans. The British abandoned this fort during the American Revolutionary War. From 1779-81, the British Army moved the fort, including its buildings, to Mackinac Island, where they established Fort Mackinac. What they did not take with them, they burned; this was so that if the Americans did make it to the Mackinac Straits area, they could not use Michilimackinac.

In 1857, two men by the names of Conkling and Searles platted the development of what would become Mackinaw City as it is today. The original designs allowed for the northern portion to be left as a park for two main reasons: preserve the area that was once Fort Michilimackinac and for the possibility that a lighthouse may be built in the town. The village would become a very pivotal port for trains (beginning in the 1890s) and automobiles crossing the Straits of Mackinac. Car transportation lasted from the early 1900s to 1957 with the completion of the Mackinac Bridge. Train transportation ran through the Straits until 1984. This is still an important port city for tourists traveling by passenger ferry boat to Mackinac Island using the Arnold, Shepler’s, and Star Line services.

Through the course of time, the main industry of Mackinaw City became almost strictly tourist-oriented, with other civic services such as postal service, police, firefighting, schooling, etc. Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse was built in 1892 in the same northern park that was originally allotted for its construction. This lighthouse would eventually replace McGulpin Point Light, which was built in the 1870s in the far western end of the village limits. When the Mackinac Bridge was completed in 1957, the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse was decommissioned immediately. Also, a grant was provided to the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, which owned the property at the Bridge’s southern terminus, to begin archeological excavations of the Michilimackinac ruins. Ultimately, a reconstruction of the fort to its 1770s appearance would ensue.[5]Camping, which began in Michilimackinac State Park in 1907, was halted in 1971 as a Maritime Park was opened in 1972 around the lighthouse. This park was shut down in 1990, but Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse was opened to the public in 2004. Mill Creek State Park, which includes the area believed to be where Mill Creek’s sawmill once flourished when Mackinac Island was being settled, is located about five miles (8 km) southeast of the village along U.S. Highway 23.


The Mackinac Bridge as viewed from Mackinaw City


Mackinaw City is at the tip of the mitten formed by the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. This makes it the terminus for several important Northern Michiganhighways, and the junction for all routes from the Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula via the Mackinac Bridge.

The Mackinac or Mackinaw Trail is a historically important route to and from the community, both from the north and the south. The trail, was first used by the tribes of Michigan, and surveyed between Saginaw and Mackinac in 1835, by Lieutenant Benjamin Poole of the 3rd U.S. Artillery.[8] (In Saginaw, Mackinaw Street closely follows Poole’s route, which then continues in the general direction of present-day Midland, while Mackinaw Street twists north, becoming Mackinaw Road and following a section line into Bay County.)

Ferry service

Three ferry companies operate out of Mackinaw City, connecting tourists and commuters to Mackinac Island: north and south Arnold Line, Sheplers Ferry and the Star Line.


The New York Central‘s (NYC) Michigan Central subsidiary, the Pennsylvania Railroad‘s (PRR) Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad subsidiary, and other rail lines provided passenger traffic ontrains such as the Northern Arrow to Mackinaw City. After the NYC and PRR merged to create the ill-fated Penn Central in 1968, rail traffic diminished and the rail infrastructure deteriorated. The state invested greatly into the failing railways and established the Michigan Northern Railway to operate passenger and freight operations in the early 1980s. Despite sizable patronage, passenger services, as well as freight, operated in the red, prompting the state government to reassess its commitment to existence of the Michigan Northern Railway. All subsidies terminated in 1984, and the lines were sold to CSX Transportation in 1987, which dismantled the tracks shortly thereafter.[9]

The former Michigan Central line to Mackinaw City was rededicated in 2008 as the North Central State Trail, providing a public right-of-way from Mackinaw City to Gaylord, Michigan.


The nearest airports with scheduled passenger service are in Pellston Regional Airport,[10]Traverse City Cherry Capital Airport and Alpena County Regional Airport in the Lower peninsula andChippewa County International Airport in Sault Ste. Marie, in the eastern Upper peninsula.


  • According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 7.6 square miles (19.6 km²), of which 3.4 square miles (8.7 km²) of it is land and 4.2 square miles (10.9 km²) or 55.54% of it is water.
  • Mackinaw City is considered to be part of Northern Michigan


Hotel-Restaurant District

Mackinaw City’s central shopping district is located along Central Avenue downtown. Many of the shops sell fudgeT-shirts, and toffee. Also located downtown is a small outdoor shopping mall called Mackinaw Crossings, which features a movie theater. As a tourist city, it has a larger amount of hotels that many other communities. Among many eateries in the city, there is a new brewery just south of the downtown that you really need to check out, Bier De Mac....great food and beer.


As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 859 people, 404 households, and 244 families residing in the village. The population density was 255.3 people per square mile (98.7/km²). There were 630 housing units at an average density of 187.3 per square mile (72.4/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 93.02% White, 0.12% African American, 4.54% Native American, 0.12% Asian, and 2.21% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.81% of the population.

There were 404 households out of which 21.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.5% were married couples living together, 9.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.6% were non-families. 34.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.12 and the average family size was 2.67.

In the village the population was spread out with 20.6% under the age of 18, 5.0% from 18 to 24, 24.9% from 25 to 44, 30.7% from 45 to 64, and 18.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females there were 88.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.3 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $37,031, and the median income for a family was $43,125. Males had a median income of $31,771 versus $30,125 for females. The per capita income for the village was $18,725. About 7.5% of families and 9.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.5% of those under age 18 and 2.8% of those age 65 or over.

  • Post office


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