October 15, 2012
This morning I saw a photo of Castle Rock in the Absolute Michigan group on Flickr that made me wonder about the history of this iconic UP tourist stop. Bob Garrett of the Archives of Michigan has the story in A Natural Lookout at Seeking Michigan:
The Upper Peninsula contains a wealth of great scenery. One might wish to climb to a high point and “take it all in.” Fortunately, nature sometimes provides a natural lookout. One such lookout is Castle Rock.
Castle Rock is located near St. Ignace, on the Upper Peninsula side of the Straits of Mackinac. The Rock is a natural limestone tower, standing nearly two hundred feet above lake level. Wind and water erosion have shaped it into a sort of “castle.” Visitors who climb the 170 steps to the top will receive a stunning view. Looking left to right, one can see St. Martin Island, Marquette Island in Les Cherneaux (on a clear day), the town of St. Ignace, ferries coming to and from Mackinac Island and the top of the Mackinac Bridge.
Castle Rock had been an ancient lookout of the Ojibway tribe, who often called it “Pontiac’s Lookout.” A company named Norton and Lund purchased the site around 1927. Norton and Lund built a stairway to the top of the Rock, opened a souvenir stand and made cabins available for tourists.
Shortly thereafter (Sources differ on the date.), a St. Ignace photographer and businessman named Charles Clarence Eby (1890-1961) bought the property. Eby hoped to increase tourism, and he used his photography skills toward that end. He launched a high volume postcard business, and his postcards and other promotional material drew people to the Upper Peninsula and the St. Ignace area.
Around 1958, statues of the mythical lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe, were built at the foot of the stairs. These were handcrafted by Calvin Tamlyn, who was Eby’s son in law. They still greet visitors today.
Castle Rock can be found north of St. Ignace, along I-75. Take exit 348, and you’ll be there. For more information, see the Castle Rock Web site.
You can head over to Seeking Michigan for more including some books in Michigan libraries, a photo of Paul & Babe and also a stereoscopic pic from the 20s. There’s a little more info on Wikipedia, including a panorama of the view from the top of the rock.
More roadside attractions on Michigan in Pictures.