The Annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk

The 2010 Mackinac Bridge Walk takes place on Monday, September 6, 2010!

2000 Mackinac Bridge Walk
2000 Mackinac Bridge Walk, photos courtesy Michigan Department of Transportation & Mackinac Bridge Authority

The annual Mackinac Bridge Walk has been held every year on Labor Day since the Bridge opened in 1957, so, like the Mackinac Bridge itself, The Bridge Walk is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Walkers in the Mackinac Bridge Walk from the tower!Strangely enough, Wikipedia seems to have the most historical information on the walk (which is not much). They say that the first walk took place in the early morning hours of Labor Day, 1958. and that just 68 people took that first 5 mile walk across the Mighty Mac. In the early years, it seems that the walk was sparsely attended and viewed as an annoyance until the governor was brought in to lead the walk. The walk averages 50,000 to 65,000 attendees and the record is estimated to be 85,000 when George H. W. Bush led the walk in 1992. Will we break the record this year? Seems like we should, but I wonder.

The Governor’s party leads the way at 7 AM (I think) with registered and pre-qualified joggers (details from the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness). Important things to note (according to the official site) are that traffic still moves across the bridge during the event, that it starts on the St. Ignace side, that they really recommend you figure your return transport out, that it’s FREE (my capitalization) and that there are NO RESTROOMS ON THE BRIDGE (their capitalization).

The Michigan Department of Transportation has a photo gallery from past Mackinac Bridge Walks. A photographer named Chuck contributed one of his photos from the bridge walk to Wikimedia, and he has a nice gallery of Mackinac Bridge Walk photos. A search of Flickr finds some bridge walk pics as well (hopefully more after this year’s walk!). Do you have more links? Post ’em in the comments and please share your story/photos if you walk this year!

The Mackinac Bridge

I should add that on September 16 from 7:00 – 7:30 AM, there will be a “Bike Across the Mighty Mac” event sponsored by Mackinaw City Chamber of Commerce. If you’re up in the area, there’s also a Truck Parade of Lights from 8-9 PM on September 15th.

25 thoughts on “The Annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk

  1. The walk was huge! We started at about 7:15 a.m. and crossed in about an hour and a half. Waited in line for 3 hours to take a bus back to St. Ignace where my car was parked. Most of the people on my bus hadn’t even walked across the Mighty Mac yet. They started their walk at a few minutes after 1 p.m. People were still starting to walk across the bridge at 2:18 p.m. when I drove across to start the trip home. (Usually the last walkers are allowed to start at 11 a.m.)

    Weather was beautiful!


  2. This was the 5th bridge walk for me and my wife. We look forward each year to spending Labor Day weekend on Mackinac Island and finishing our vacation with the bridge walk. This was the first year that we we able to bring our new son, William Gavin. We made sure that we purchased a bridge-walk pass and look forward to returning each year and adding to his collection. We hope that he will be able to walk the bridge for the next 50 years plus.


  3. This was our first bridge walk. We had so much fun. In attendance was 24 family members. We got dropped off at the start at 8:00 to avoid the 3 hour wait for a bus. With a van full of family it made for an adventure we would not forget. Needless to say the ecort was stuck in traffic for the 2hrs. it took us to walk the bridge. We plan on making the Mackinac Bridge walk a family tradition. You know my 2 girls could be participants in the 100th celebration if God allows. I just want to say I was very impressed with the kindness of all the people we met.


  4. Wow what a crowd! The published number (Detroit Free Press, Tuesday) was 57,000 but I suspect it was significantly larger. My wife & I started planning this expedition about 2 years ago and came from St Louis Missouri, about 750 miles, to take part. This was the 3rd time we walked the bridge – she can remember seeing bridge construction in-progress while riding the old car ferries. I first rode across in late Nov 1957, just a few weeks after it was cut to traffic.

    We drove from the Paradise area on Mon morning and planned to start walking around 9:30 – 10:00. But we got hung up in traffic north of St Ignace, had to park almost in Naubinway (OK – maybe it was only about a mile west of the bridge)and didn’t get started until a few minutes before 11:00. As we started they made a P.A. announcement that the starting time was being extended until 12 noon.

    It was a fabulous day for a stroll! Clear skies – temp on the bridge about 70F – WNW winds around 10MPH – visibility at least 20 mi. We carried long-sleeve shirts, knowing that even a mild breeze can be chilly on the bridge deck but we never put them on.

    People ranged from a few months old (in carriers on their parents) to about 90. Some moved themselves in wheelchairs; others had helpers to push their wheelchairs. I saw one walker with a cane and only one leg – an artificial limb attached somewhere above his knee. Quite a few sported patches and shirts from previous bridge walks. We chatted with around a dozen perfect strangers. The whole mood was like a huge family-oriented party.

    If you’ve been to the Straits you know the scenery: sun glinting on blue water; sailboats; the coasts diverging and stretching out beyond the horizons; a couple lake freighters passed beneath the bridge; the Grand Hotel prominently visible on Mackinaw Island. (Do any “Somewhere In Time” fans know if Christopher Reeve or Jane Seymour ever walked the bridge?) It’s hard to imagine that 250 years ago this was a geopolitical friction point, where superpowers faced off against each other.

    In Mackinaw City it was a mile and a half from the finish line to the bus pickup point – and then you learned (circa 1:30 PM) that the end of line for busses was over 1/2 mile from the boarding point. But the line moved steadily (if slowly) and we met some more folks during the hour we waited. Nobody griped or complained. The ticket seller even had a good laugh when I asked whether the bus fare was “two dollars a head or one dollar per foot?”. (I hoped they’d give a break to the one-legged guy.)

    Even with the State cops running interference for the shuttle busses it took nearly an hour to get back to St Ignace. We guessed – and later saw confirmations – that walkers were allowed to start as late as 3:00 PM. Traffic was jammed in all directions from the US-2/I-75 interchange so we had pasties in St Ignace. The traffic jam was starting to show signs of letting up when we got on the bridge headed south around 5:00PM.

    So given the number of walkers we saw behind us, and the traffic conditions, I suspect there were more than 57,000. And, Yes – I’ll do it again! Not sure when our personal schedules and vacation times will permit, but we WILL be back!


  5. My husband and I walked the bridge, it was my 2nd time and his first. It was an absolutely perfect day for the walk, we arrived in Mackinaw at about 5:15am and took one of the first school bus over the St. Ignace, we were finished with the walk by 8:30am.
    While we were walking the bridge there were people above the bridge on the center walkway of one of the towers taking pictures, we were walking near some people who knew these photographers. The people walking near us said the pictures could be viewed and purchased on a website but I have not been able to track down the website, does anyone know how to get in contact with the photographers?


  6. Thanks for the link! I did the Bridge Walk again this year, and had just as good a time as the first time I did it. Beautiful weather for it too! I’ll have my pictures of this year’s walk up sooner or later.

    Love your blog, too!


  7. I know that there’s been a lot of knocks on the state for not managing the event better, but when you think about the logistics of getting many times the usual traffic across the bridge on one of the busiest days of the year when you have a lane closed … well, I’m just happy they don’t throw their hands up in the air and say its too difficult!

    I’m not sure where photos can be purchased Jackie – if anyone knows, please post a comment!


  8. For some video of last year’s Mackinac Bridge Walk, see the first interview on this week’s episode of Perils For Pedestrians.

    Tuesday, October 11, The Universityhouse Channel will show Episode 131 of “Perils For Pedestrians”.

    Contents of Episode 131 (2007):
    –We travel to Mackinaw City, Michigan, for the annual Labor Day bridge walk.
    –We talk with an advocate in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
    –We visit a neighborhood that needs sidewalks in Knoxville, Tennessee;
    –Tuscaloosa, Alabama, needs more crosswalks.
    –We look at a dangerous intersection in Grand Island, Nebraska.
    –We talk about closing the gaps in the East Coast Greenway.
    –We look at the role of the pedestrian and bicycle professional.

    DISH Network Channel 9411 — The Universityhouse Channel
    Tuesday — 9:30 PM Eastern, 6:30 Pacific

    Episode 131 is also available on Google Video:

    Note: Public access cable channels are showing different episodes than DISH Network.

    Thank you.


  9. Our family camps each year by the bridge and walks across it together. It is an awesome experience. I wonder how the bridge can hold the weight of us all. Today I showed the art students at school our bridge certificates and a postcard stamped with the student’s bridge logo. I hope it continues for many years to come. It warms my heart to see how polite people are and friendly. If someone trips, everyone helps them… I hope that they will invite the Wisconsin Govenor to come and President Obama next year.
    Nancian Hall, driving from our cabin near Stevens Point, Wisconsin (about 400 miles one way)


  10. My Husband and i plan to walk the bridge this year2011 with our 6,and 7 year olds[41pound,53pounds]. Im wondering whats the best way to bring them alone??


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