Todd took this a couple of weeks ago from Michilimackinac State Park in Mackinac City. One thing that continually strikes me about Michigan is how easy it is to find space to enjoy our scenic beauty in relative isolation. What’s your favorite spot for quiet contemplation of Michigan’s beauty?
Starting in 1898 with a mere five boats, The Mac has evolved into a world-class sporting event. After the first race in 1898, the Race to Mackinac was not held for five years until the second race in 1904. By 1906, the race had developed a healthy following and, in that year, the original Mackinac trophy was purchased. The race has seen occasional sustained violent weather in the blows of 1911, 1937 and 1970. After gale force winds took down most of the fleet in the Mac of 1911, the finish in the 1912 and 1913 races was changed to Harbor Springs on Little Traverse Bay instead of Mackinac Island. Race organizers felt the shorter distance was safer.
From 1914 until 1916 the Mac was back to its full distance until WWI. From 1917-1920 there were no Mac races due to the strains of the War, which took away yachtsmen and put many boats out of commission. Since 1921, the Race to Mackinac has run consecutively every year, remains the longest annual freshwater distance race, and is recognized as one of the most prestigious sailing races in the world.
Read on for lots more including an account of the first race. If you’re wondering when to catch a glimpse of them, Pyewacket set the monohull record in 2002 with a time of 23 hours, 30 minutes and 34 seconds. The race starts at noon on Saturday and usually takes between 40-60 hours to finish.
The Sixth Street Bridge, with its long 544 foot length excellent physical condition, is a fitting tribute to its builder, the Massillon Bridge Company of Massillon Ohio. Constructed in 1886, this bridge is made of wrought iron. This bridge is one of the most important historic bridges in the entire state of Michigan, since it is the longest pin-connected highway truss in the state. Also, Michigan only has a few truss bridges that are more than one span in length, and most of those are two spans. A four span bridge in Michigan is thus extremely rare for its unusually long length, for Michigan. The bridge is also significant for the length of its individual spans. The bridge has three spans that are 154 feet in length. This is a very long span length for a pin-connected Pratt truss, and is among the longest in Michigan.
…Construction of the bridge began in 1885, when the piers and abutments were constructed. These, with approaches, cost $11,084.95. The wrought iron truss superstructure was erected in 1886 by the Massillon Bridge Company of Massillon, Ohio, costing $20,281. This made the total cost of the bridge $31,365.95.
“There is a pipeline that‘s sitting at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. It was designed for a 50 year life and it’s been down there for 63 years. There’s a risk involved in this.” -Mark Shriberg, National Wildlife Federation
Up to 152 miles (245 km) of coastline in lakes Huron and Michigan could be fouled by a single oil spill at the straits, according to the simulations. When all 840 simulated spills are plotted on a map, a total of 720 miles (1,162 km) of shoreline in the U.S. and Canada are considered potentially vulnerable to spills that would require cleanup. Seven hundred twenty miles is roughly the distance from Detroit to Atlanta.
Areas at highest risk include Mackinac and Bois Blanc islands, as well as locations directly east and west of Mackinaw City. Communities also at risk include Beaver Island, Cross Village, Harbor Springs, Cheboygan and other places along the lakes Huron-Michigan shoreline.
…”Until now, no one knew exactly how much shoreline was vulnerable to spills in the Straits of Mackinac,” said Schwab, a research scientist at the U-M Water Center. “These findings show that under the right conditions, a spill in the Straits of Mackinac could affect a significant amount of shoreline and open-water areas in either Lake Michigan or Lake Huron, or both, very quickly.”
In 1897, the Mineral Range Railroad Company built a new iron swing type bridge, replacing the old wooden bridge. This bridge also featured a two lane roadway, with a railroad crossing underneath. New reconstructed support cribs were also sunk. But on August 15, 1905, disaster struck, when the steamer Northern Wave (Mutual Transit Lines), en route to the Quincy Smelter to pick up copper ingots, smashed into the center section, destroying much of it. The mishap was apparently caused by a mixup in signals.
The bridge would be replaced one year later, again with an iron bridge, and center swing section, and a control house above the roadway, over the center turnstile. This new bridge would have 118 ft. of clearance on the north maritime passage, and 108 ft. on the south side passage. (Newspaper accounts of the period, gave maritime traffic at 6,000 bridge openings per year, and up to 40 daily train crossings per day, both of which began to taper off by 1920). Although almost struck again in 1940 by the Steamer Maritana (Hutchenson Lines), it narrowly avoided the collision by dropping its anchors which caught the submarine telephone cables, stopping it just short of the bridge. (This would happen again 20 years later). Light signaling was added during WWII, to augment the steam whistles already in use. The bridge served the communities until 1960.
In the late 1950s, the Michigan Department of Transportation began studies on how best to replace the aging bridge, with a more modern one, that would accommodate the now much larger ships plying the waterway. It was decided to build what would be become the worlds heaviest aerial lift bridge, which was under construction by 1959, just to the West of the then current bridge. This new bridge, with 4 traffic lanes above, and a railroad crossing below, had its ribbon cutting on Saturday, June 25, 1960. But it almost didn’t happen. During the night before, the Steamer J.F. Schoelkoff (American Steamship Company), traveling westward, signaled for the bridge to open, but the signals were not acted on. Dropping all their anchors, they snagged the submarine telephone cables in an eerie repeat of 20 years previously. Onlookers for the ribbon cutting ceremonies were treated to the spectacle of a large freighter jammed crossways in the waterway, just a quarter mile from the Bridge. Area phone service was disrupted for nearly three days. Telephone service to the bridge, and marine radios were installed shortly. That incident not withstanding, the new Portage Lake Lift Bridge continues to well serve the area, as the possibility of adding yet another new bridge may be explored.