Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island is located in Lake Huron at the eastern end of the Straits of Mackinac. The island was home to Native Americans before European exploration and settlement began in the 17th Century.

Fort Mackinac was established during the American Revolutionary War by the British to protect the area from attack by Americans. However, the fort was not attacked and the area was officially acquired by the U.S. through the Treaty of Paris in 1783. The fort was the scene of two battles during the War of 1812 and the British won both battles. Despite this outcome, the British were forced to return the island and surrounding mainland to the U.S. In 1815 by the Treaty of Ghent. The fort was closed in 1895 as it no longer had any strategic purpose. It has been restored to its late 19th century appearance.

Much of the island has undergone extensive historical preservation and today the entire island is listed as a National Historic Landmark. The only way to get to the island is by boat (private or ferry) or small aircraft and during the winter – by snowmobile.

Motorized vehicles are banned on the island and everyone gets around on foot, by bicycle or in horse drawn carriages.
The island has a year-round population of about 500. During the summer season the island hosts as many as 15,000 visitors per day.

Like many historic places in the Great Lakes region, Mackinac Island's name derives from a Native American language. Native Americans in the Straits of Mackinac region likened the shape of the island to that of a turtle. Therefore, they named it "Mitchimakinak" (Ojibwe mishi-mikinaak)meaning "big turtle". The French used a version of the original pronunciation: Michilimackinac. However, the English shortened it to the present name: "Mackinac – pronounced Mackinaw, the last c being silent.

The Round Island Lighthouse is located just south on the small, uninhabited Round Island. The light was built in 1894 and automated in 1924. In 1947, the Round Island Lighthouse was abandoned, replaced by a functional but unattractive light closer to Mackinac Island.

We did not get away from the touristy downtown area but still enjoyed our visit to Mackinac Island.

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