Charting the Great Lakes

Maps of the Great Lakes created during the 17th and 18th centuries reflect the importance of waterways to early explorers. These maps reveal the struggle explorers faced when documenting this challenging landscape. Early maps of this region allow researchers and historians to better understand the ways in which Europeans explorers related to their new surroundings. The colonization of North America rapidly increased the need and desire for atlases and maps, mainly being produced by the Dutch, English and French. (more…)

What is with these Rising Lake Levels?

The Great Lakes water levels have both seasonal changes and long term changes.

In a normal year the water level of Lakes Michigan and Huron rise and fall about 11 inches. The high usually occurs in July and the low in February. The melting snow and spring rains cause the levels to rise until mid-summer. Then the water levels slowly drop as the water warms and evaporation takes place. When fall and winter arrive, the rate of evaporation increases, because the water is warmer than the cold dry winds from the northwest. The quicker the ice forms and the more lake it covers, the sooner the drop in water level is reversed. By February the lake level usually stabilizes before it rises again in the spring. (more…)

Historic Views of Winter on Mackinac

As the new year begins and winter locks the Straits of Mackinac in its icy grip, today we look to a few historic views of winter on Mackinac Island. Click the images for an expanded version.

These soldiers from Fort Mackinac are bundled in Army-issued cold weather gear as they shovel a path down Fort Street sometime around 1890. Each man received a heavy wool overcoat as well as rubber boots, a fur hat, and mittens. Many of these men are wearing their winter hats, made from muskrat fur.

These soldiers from Fort Mackinac are bundled in Army-issued cold weather gear as they shovel a path down Fort Street sometime around 1890. Each man received a heavy wool overcoat as well as rubber boots, a fur hat, and mittens. Many of these men are wearing their winter hats, made from muskrat fur.

Main Street in downtown Mackinac Island is filled with snow in this view taken around 1900. Just like today, fewer people visited the island in winter, so the McNally Cottage boarding house (seen at far left) and Palmer House Hotel likely had few visitors when these boys played on the snow banks out front. Despite the snow, island residents may still have enjoyed parties at the town dance hall, visible just to the right of the Palmer House. Originally built as a roller skating rink, the dance hall became a motion picture theater by 1907. Today the building remains downtown, transformed into the Haunted Theater.

Main Street in downtown Mackinac Island is filled with snow in this view taken around 1900. Just like today, fewer people visited the island in winter, so the McNally Cottage boarding house (seen at far left) and Palmer House Hotel likely had few visitors when these boys played on the snow banks out front. Despite the snow, island residents may still have enjoyed parties at the town dance hall, visible just to the right of the Palmer House. Originally built as a roller skating rink, the dance hall became a motion picture theater by 1907. Today the building remains downtown, transformed into the Haunted Theater.