The natural history of Mackinac Island has attracted visitors for hundreds of years. Unusual limestone formations, caves, scenic vista overlooking Lakes Huron and Michigan, natural forests of pine, cedar, spruce, maple and oak brightened by clumps of trillium, lady slippers, asters, and forget-me-nots are largely undisturbed by modernity. Mackinac’s first visitors, the Indians, found spiritual inspiration for their legends in its physical attractions. Many visitors agree with English writer Harriet Martineau, who exclaimed in 1836 that the island was “the wildest and tenderest little piece of beauty that I have yet seen on God’s earth.”
Mackinac Island became a major summer resort by the middle 1800s. In 1875 most of the federal land on the island was designated as “Mackinac National Park.” This was America’s second national park, established just three years after Yellowstone. The park was cared for by army soldiers from Fort Mackinac. With the closure of the fort in 1895 the park was transferred to the state of Michigan, becoming “Mackinac Island State Park.” It was Michigan’s first state park, and, it is believed, the first state-operated park in the nation to be officially called a “state park.” A new agency, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, was created to administer the park. The Park Commission continues to administer the park today, which has grown to include over 80% of the island.
For more information, please use the following links:
- Mackinac Island State Park Archaeology
- Historic Images
- Visit Mackinac Island State Parks
- Take a Virtual Tour