Mackinac Island State Park celebrates 125th anniversary

Did you know that before Mackinac Island State Park was created, Mackinac Island was home to the country’s second national park? Mackinac National Park was established just a few years after Yellowstone National Park, with soldiers from Fort Mackinac serving as park rangers.

But when the U.S. military decided that it no longer needed to man Fort Mackinac, the national park and all the iconic landmarks in it were suddenly at risk. Who would preserve the historic fort and the natural wonders of Mackinac Island such as Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf?

During the Mackinac National Park era in the late 1800s, an observation tower topped the highest point on Mackinac Island.
During the Mackinac National Park era, there was a lookout atop Fort Holmes, the highest point on Mackinac Island. (Photos courtesy of Mackinac State Historic Parks)

Fortunately, in stepped the Michigan government to create Mackinac Island State Park – the first public space in the country designated as a “state park.” That was 1895.

This year, Mackinac State Historic Parks celebrates its 125th anniversary.

To commemorate the occasion, Mackinac State Historic Parks is holding 125 days of special events throughout the season. Here’s a sample of scheduled activities:

  • War of 1812 Battlefield Bike Rides

    When the Americans tried to reclaim Fort Mackinac from the British in August 1814, they trudged uphill from British Landing to the battlefield that’s now part of Wawashkamo Golf Course. You can relive the Battle of Mackinac Island on a leisurely, guided bike ride.


  • Movies in the Fort

    Every Tuesday night through the summer starting June 23 you can catch a free movie on the parade ground behind Fort Mackinac. Just bring a blanket or chair and enjoy favorites including Toy Story 4, The Incredibles, Frozen II, Finding Nemo, The Wizard of Oz, Wreck-It Ralph, Space Jam, Moana, E.T. and more.


  • Guided Botanical Trail Hikes

    From Arch Rock to Sugar Loaf and beyond, Mackinac Island is known for incredible natural rock formations. But Mackinac Island State Park is also home to many beautiful plants and wildflowers. You can see many of them on the Mackinac Island Botanical Trail during a hike guided by a Michigan State Historic Parks naturalist.


  • Summer stargazing at Fort Holmes

    If you’ve been to Mackinac Island but never ventured to the island’s highest point, then you’re missing out on an amazing opportunity to see the stars like never before. A Mackinac Island State Park ranger will lead a guided hike to Fort Holmes and identify constellations in the sky during free stargazing nights.


  • Fire at Night at Fort Mackinac

    Hear the sunset like never before! Fort Mackinac will host special rifle and cannon firings at night during a special event in June.

Even if you don’t make it to any of these special anniversary events and activities, you can still join the celebration throughout the 2020 season on Mackinac Island.

  • Fort Mackinac

Fort Mackinac is scheduled to open June 19 for another season of cannon fire, exhibit tours and soldier demonstrations.

  • Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum

The Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum is hosting a juried exhibition, “A Day in the Park: Celebrating 125 years of Mackinac Island State Park,” through Oct. 11. You’ll find artistic visions of Mackinac Island State Park – its historic buildings, wooded trails, scenic views and legendary rock formations – in all art forms.

The establishment of Mackinac Island State Park saved the historic Biddle House, preserving part of Mackinac Island history.
The Biddle House was in need of extensive repairs when it was acquired by Mackinac State Historic Parks. The early 19th-century Mackinac Island home has been remodeled and will open this summer with a new Native American history exhibit. (Photos courtesy of Mackinac State Historic Parks)
  • Biddle House

The Biddle House in Historic Downtown Mackinac, which invites visitors into the 1830s home of Edward and Agatha Biddle, will open this summer in late June or early July with a new Native American history exhibit. The exhibit explores how the first half of the 19th century dramatically changed the lives of Native Americans like Agatha Biddle, who was from the Anishnaabek tribe.

  • Historic Downtown Mackinac

On June 19, the state park’s Historic Downtown Mackinac opens for business. You can watch demonstrations at the Benjamin Blacksmith Shop and learn about historic Mackinac Island architecture at the McGulpin House. Or, visit the American Fur Company Store & Dr. Beaumont Museum to immerse yourself in the incredible story of how Dr. William Beaumont saved the life of a man with a huge hole into his stomach!

  • Mackinac Island State Park

Of course, you can also escape to the wilderness of Mackinac Island State Park. It covers more than 80 percent of Mackinac Island and features over 70 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding with stunning lake views and impressive limestone rock formations.

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