Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mackinac Bridge and Mackinaw City

We traveled into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with the purpose of traversing the Mackinac Bridge that spans the Mackinac Straights and joins the UP with the rest of Michigan. As you travel south on the bridge Lake Michigan is on your right and Lake Huron on your left.
The Mackinac Bridge is the third longest suspension bridge in the world and we expected to be wowed. We had heard that it was pretty scary to drive across – 5 miles long and 200 feet above the water at the mid point of the bridge. So scary in fact that there are people stationed at each end of the bridge that will drive you across if you cannot do it yourself. Well, let's just say that we were somewhat underwhelmed. Yes, that says underwhelmed. No doubt it is a cool bridge but for our taste not nearly as amazing as say the Sunshine Skyway in Tampa or the Coronado Bay Bridge in San Diego.

The first day of our stay in Mackinaw City (by the way, Mackinac is pronounced Mackinaw) we did a tour of Fort Michilimackinac.

Fort Michilimackinac was founded in 1715 by the French as a fur-trading village. The fort was taken over by the British in 1761 following their victory over the French in the French and Indian War. In June 1763, a group of Ojibwe Indians led by Pontiac gained entrance to the fort and killed most of the British inhabitants and held the fort for a year before it was retaken by the British – not through force but by offering more and better gifts to the Indians. In 1781 the British built Fort Mackinac on nearby Mackinac Island. The buildings at Michilimackinac were dismantled and moved piece by piece over water in the summer and ice in the winter and rebuilt in the new fort.

The remains of the old fort were burned. What is seen today is the result of many years of archaeological excavation, research and rebuilding. Each year from late June through August a team of archaeologists is on site continuing to uncover the fort's secrets. The fort today is seen as it was in the 1770's.

From the fort we moved on to the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse. Erected in 1892, the lighthouse served the Straits for more than 60 years. The lights on the Mackinac Bridge made the lighthouse unnecessary, and it was decommissioned in 1957. The castle-like structure, whose design is unique in the Great Lakes, has been restored to its 1910 appearance.

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