The Tale of Mackinac Island’s Arch Rock

Arch Rock, Mackinac Island, photo by Mark Swanson

Here’s one of my favorite Michigan origin stories, the tale of Arch Rock, adapted from Dirk Gringhus’s wonderful book, The Lore of the Great Turtle. Head over to Mackinac State Historic Parks for more Mackinac area history!

This strange rock formation was looked upon with awe by the Indians as a bridge to another world after death where departed souls could find their last resting place in the island caves. There are many stories, or legends, to how Arch Rock was formed. This one tells about a mortal woman and her love for a sky spirit.

Along the beaches on the shores of Lake Huron lived a band of Ojibwa. Their lodges, or homes, were round topped and made of saplings and elm bark. The homes lay peacefully beneath forest boughs.

In the finest lodge, with its door blanket made of moose hide, lived the chief of the band and his beautiful daughter called She-who-walks-likethe-mist.

When She-who-walks-like-themist carried water from the lake in her clay vessel or worked the bright designs of dyed moose hair and porcupine quills into soft moccasins, the young braves watched with admiring eyes.

But Mist Woman paid little attention. Her work days were long without a mother to help her. She never complained. Her father was proud of this. Some day, he knew, she would marry a fine brave from another clan and have many children.

At first, when the young men began coming to their lodge bringing gifts, Mist Woman smiled and offered them wild rice she had gathered in the canoe.

Then, one day, all was changed. Suddenly the young men would find Mist Woman sitting with downcast eyes instead of welcoming smiles. As her father saw her growing more and more sad, paddling her canoe alone at night, he became angry.

“Why, my daughter, do you who once smiled on the strong young men who brought you gifts, now treat them with a cold heart? Are you under an evil spell?”, he asked. Mist Woman only shook her head.

“A daughter cannot always live in the house of her father. You must choose a husband soon or you will become old and wrinkled like Mez-he -say, the turkey,” he said.

Slowly the girl lifted her head. She saw anger in her father’s eyes. At last she spoke.

“It is true, my father, that I am under a spell. But not the spell placed by an evil spirit,” she spoke. “What then?” her father asked fiercely.

“Let me speak that you may know my heart,” she said. “Often when I go to gather the wild rice it is late. The star of the path of the dead is in the sky when I return.

“Two moons ago, as I paddled to the eastern shore of our village, a handsome brave appeared to me. His clothing was one of the whitest deerskin I have ever seen and covered with designs my fingers could have never made.

“But even more wonderful was his robe of shining light. I tried to paddle quickly homeward, as a daughter should, but my hands were helpless and my canoe drifted into the lake.

“It was then that he spoke to me. ‘Oh, lovely one,’ he said. ‘Long have I watched you in the village wishing that you might be mine for all time. In my home, high above you, I am the son of a chief, Evening Star, and therefore, a Sky Person. And so, I felt I could not speak to you of my love.’

“’Then, as I watched the young men coming to your ledge bearing gifts, my heart felt heavy and I became one without hope. It was then that my father came to my couch of bird feathers and I told him of your beauty. He understood and gave me leave to descend to earth that I might ask you to join me in my sky home.’”

“And what did you answer, my daughter?” her father asked.

“I said I would marry no one, but him,” she answered.

“Daughter! No! It is forbidden! You should marry no one at all then!” he shouted.

Holding her by the arms, he took her out of the lodge toward the lake shore. He placed her in the bow of his canoe. With mighty strokes he drove the canoe straight to the Island of the Turtle Spirits.

There, he took her to the top of the great rock, which towered above the beach. “Now,” said he, “you shall not see your love again. Here you shall stay until you decide to be a faithful daughter once more.” And he left.

Mist Woman made no answer. She did not cry out when the sun grew hot or the rain fell. Only her tears flowed down the rock to show her longing for the man.

Little by little, the tears began to melt the stone until at last an arch appeared beneath her and she was left on a high bridge of rock. That night, through the arch, appeared the rays of an evening star and down these rays walked the one she loved.

Gathering her into his arms, he carried her up the stars into the land of the Sky People. But the arch rock was formed and stayed to remind people of this story.

View Mark’s photo bigger and see more in his Mackinac, Michigan slideshow.

Lilacs are still out on Mackinac Island!

Mackinac Island, photo by Gary Ennis

While lilacs have faded in much of Michigan, they’re still going strong on Mackinac Island as we head into the final weekend of the annual Mackinac Island Lilac Festival. The Northern Express’s writeup on the Lilac Festival says in part:

There are over 100 varieties of lilac on the island, the most recognizable being the common lilac or the French lilac, which ranges in color from white and pink to blue and several shades of purple. Many of the island’s lilacs were planted in the Victorian age, and some have lived for over 150 years, thanks to the island’s nurturing microclimate.

“Mackinac Island has some of the largest specimens of the common lilac in the country,” said Tim Hygh, executive director of Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau. “Also found here, but more rare, are the Himalayan lilac, which are lavender, and the Japanese tree lilac, which are typically white.”

View the photo from the walkway at Fort Mackinac bigger and follow Gary on Facebook for more!

More lilacs and more Mackinac Island on Michigan in Pictures!

March 3, 1875: Mackinac National Park & Fort Mackinac

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Old Fort [Mackinac] from pasture field, Macinac [sic] Island, Mich., courtesy Library of Congress

“Mackinac is a place largely visited by people from all parts of our country, and I take it from many foreign lands. A National Park is established on the island and I think the military post should be made not only comfortable but attractive.”
-Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs

It’s a birthday of sorts for Mackinac State Historic Parks which is a treasure trove of our colonial history. The page from Mackinac Parks on Fort Mackinac and the Mackinac National Park explains the birth of the park and how one forward thinking officer may very well have created the model for historical preservation in the park that holds so much of Michigan and the nation’s cultural history:

After Congress created Yellowstone in 1872, Senator Thomas Ferry introduced legislation to create a second park on Mackinac Island. In addition to the island’s attractive history and natural features, the U.S. government already owned much of the island as part of the Fort Mackinac military reservation and the soldiers stationed at Fort Mackinac could act as caretakers. As a result, the park would cost almost nothing, which Ferry knew appealed to the tight-fisted Congressmen of the 1870s. After two years of campaigning, President Ulysses Grant created the Mackinac National Park, the second park in the country, on March 3, 1875.

The park made Mackinac Island even more attractive to Midwestern visitors, and brought changes to Fort Mackinac, where the commanding officer became the park superintendent and a second company of soldiers joined the garrison. The Army finally performed some long-overdue repairs at the fort … Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs believed that “the fort itself is to the public one of the greatest curiosities within the lands of the park,” and required the fort’s commanding officer, Major Alfred Hough, to repair the post’s aging blockhouses. Although the blockhouses served no military purpose, Meigs knew that they were “among the few relics of the older time which exist in this country,” and believed that “there would be a cry from tourists” if they were destroyed. Fort Mackinac thus became as much a part of the national park as the island’s natural curiosities.

…On September 16, 1895, the last soldiers formally transferred Fort Mackinac and the Mackinac National Park to the state. Although the national park ceased to exist with this transfer, the state immediately created the Mackinac Island State Park, which continues to welcome thousands of Mackinac Island visitors every year.

You can view the photo taken somewhere between between 1880 and 1899 bigger and see more great old Mackinac Island photos in this Mackinac Island slideshow from the Library of Congress.

Lots more from Mackinac on Michigan in Pictures!

Don’t Skip the Fresh Coast Film Festival!

skipping-stones-lake-superior-presque-isle-park

Skipping Stones, Lake Superior Presque Isle Park, photo by John McCormick

As I shared a couple of weeks ago, the first-ever Fresh Coast Film Festival takes place next week (October 13-16) in Marquette. It’s a documentary film festival celebrating the outdoor lifestyle, water-rich environment and resilient spirit of the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest. In my article about the festival on Absolute Michigan I made a list of some of the films that were most exciting to me, including the one in the trailer below, Skips Stones for Fudge. It’s the story of competitive stone skippers Russ “Rock Bottom” Byars and Kurt “Mountain Man” Steiner that features the championships at Mackinac Island.

The film is just one of a diverse offering, and the festival will also make the outdoors a part the fun with guided outdoor activities to introduce visitors to the outdoor playground of the Marquette area. Rock climbing, fly fishing, sea kayaking, waterfall hikes and mountain bike rides will be offered as well!

View John’s photo from Presque Isle park in Marquette bigger, see more in his My Favorites slideshow, and definitely follow Michigan Nut Photography on Facebook!

Round Island Run

Ferry & lighthouse

Round Island, MI, photo by Bill Johnson

Bill took this photo 21 years ago on September 21, 1995! It shows the Star Line Ferry’s Nicolet speeding past the Round Island Lighthouse. Star Line explains:

Star Line Ferry was started by Tom Pfeiffelmann, Sam McIntire, and others in the late 1970s. They purchased Argosy Boat Line. The company was then renamed Star Line after the 5 original stockholders making up a 5 pointed star. At that time they operated slower ferries including the Nicolet, Treasure Islander and Flamingo.

In 1979 Star Line bought their first fast ferry, Marquette. Over the next few years the old LaSalle and Nicolet were replaced with sisters to the Marquette. In 1987 Star Line decided to take it up a notch with Radisson, an 85-foot fast ferry which was modeled after a luxury yacht.

View Bob’s photo background big and see more in his Lighthouses slideshow.

PS: Check out this cool yesterday and today at Round Island Lighthouse on Michigan in Pictures!

2016 Chicago to Mackinac Sailing Race

Chicago to Mac Sailboats & Mackinac Bridge

Sailboats and Mackinac, photo by Alex Duncan

On July 23, 2016, over 350 sailboats will leave the Chicago Yacht club for the longest annual freshwater race in the world. 2016 marks the 108th annual Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac aka the Chicago to Mac. On their Race History page the CYC shares that:

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.

View Alex’s photo from 2011 background bigtacular and see more in his Pure Michigan slideshow.

More summer wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!

Michigan Front Porch is the World’s Longest!

Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel in the Early 2016 Season, photo by Corey Seeman

The Grand Hotel opened on Mackinac Island in the summer of 1887. At 660 feet, Grand Hotel’s Front Porch is the world’s largest. They note that early on the porch became the principal meeting place for all of Mackinac Island, a promenade for the elderly, and a “Flirtation Walk” for island romantics. Their History photo gallery has a couple of cool photos of the porch from back in the day.

Corey took this last weekend when the Hotel opened for the season. View it background bigtacular and click for tons more of his Mackinac Island photos.

More about the Grand Hotel on Michigan in Pictures, and here’s a video look at the porch: