Places to go on Mackinac Island: Marquette Park

There’s a statue on Mackinac Island, right in the middle of everything where you can’t miss it. If you’re into Mackinac Island history, then you’ll appreciate the tale behind the statue. If learning about dead men isn’t your thing, just know that when you find the statue then you’ve found Marquette Park.

Mackinac Island’s Marquette Park is a beautiful greenspace at the foot of historic Fort Mackinac where soldiers in the 1800s tended a garden. These days, what grows in Marquette Park is soft green grass and sweet-smelling lilacs.

Here are a few more things to know about Marquette Park:

Mackinac Island's Marquette Park viewed from above with lilacs, statue and water in the distance

Things to Know About Mackinac Island’s Marquette Park

 

  • Marquette Park is where there’s a reproduction of an ancient birchbark chapel that signifies the first European presence on Mackinac Island.

 

 

 

A statue of Father Jacques Marquette stands in Mackinac Island's Marquette Park at the foot of Fort Mackinac

Marquette Park’s Place in the History of Mackinac Island

In addition to being the perfect picnic spot or meeting place, Marquette Park also provides an interesting look back into Mackinac Island history. If you haven’t already guessed, the statue represents a man named Marquette. Father Jacques Marquette was a French priest who established Catholic missions in the Upper Great Lakes during the late 1600s and discovered the northern reaches of the Mississippi River.

It was 350 years ago in 1670 that Marquette brought a Catholic mission to Mackinac Island along with fellow priest Claude Dablon. That mission is commemorated by the birchbark chapel that you can visit in Mackinac Island’s Marquette Park still today.

The statue of Marquette was installed on Mackinac Island in 1909 and is similar to a statue 160 miles away in Marquette, Mich. and to another in the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The Marquette statue looks out over the bay which includes a Mackinac Island marina and docks for ferry boats to bring visitors from the mainland.

Interestingly, the water eyed by the Marquette statue is called Haldimand Bay, named after the 18th century British general who was governor of Quebec – which at the time included what is now Michigan. Haldimand was in charge when Fort Michilimackinac was moved from the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula to Mackinac Island in 1780.

The statue of Marquette overlooking Haldimand Bay brings together in one glance the French, British and Native American histories that all converged on Mackinac Island to make it a truly extraordinary place.

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