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Mackinaw City, Michigan

Mackinaw City, Michigan
Village of Mackinaw City
Mackinaw City Hotel District
Mackinaw City Hotel District
Flag of Mackinaw City, Michigan
Location of Mackinaw City within Michigan
Location of Mackinaw City within Michigan
Country United States
State Michigan
Counties Emmet, Cheboygan
Village 1857
 • Village President Jeff Hingston
 • Total 7.60 sq mi (19.68 km2)
 • Land 3.38 sq mi (8.75 km2)
 • Water 4.22 sq mi (10.93 km2)
Elevation 594 ft (181 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 806
 • Estimate (2012[3]) 807
 • Density 238.5/sq mi (92.1/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 49701
Area code(s) 231
FIPS code 26-50320[4]
GNIS feature ID 1620662[5]

Mackinaw City is a village in Emmet and Cheboygan counties in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 806 at the 2010 census; the population surges during the summer tourist season with the influx of seasonal workers who labor in the shops, hotels and other recreational facilities there and in the surrounding region. Mackinaw City is at the northern tip (headland) of the Michigan's Lower Peninsula along the southern shore of the Straits of Mackinac. Across the straits lies the state's Upper Peninsula. These two land masses are physically connected by the 8,614-foot (2,626 m) Mackinac Bridge, which runs from Mackinaw City north to St. Ignace.[6] Mackinaw City is also the primary base for Ferry service to Mackinac Island, located to the northeast in the straits.

According to AAA's 2009 TripTik requests, Mackinaw City is the most popular tourist city in the state of Michigan.[7] Local attractions include Fort Michilimackinac, the Mackinac Bridge, the Mackinaw Crossings shopping mall, Mill Creek, the Old Mackinac Point Light, the Historic Village, the McGulpin Point Light, and the retired US Coast Guard Icebreaker Mackinaw.

The official name of the community is "The Village of Mackinaw City" and as that suggests, it is a village by state law. Mackinaw City is governed by the General Law Village Act, Public Act No. 3, of 1895, as amended.[8] The downtown district and much of the development lies within Mackinaw Township, Cheboygan County, but the larger portion of the village by area is in Wawatam Township, Emmet County, which borders Mackinaw Township to the west.


  • History 1
    • European exploration and Fort Michilimackinac 1.1
    • Mackinaw City to this day 1.2
  • Transportation 2
    • Highways 2.1
    • Ferry service 2.2
    • Bus service 2.3
    • Railways 2.4
    • Air 2.5
  • Geography 3
    • Climate 3.1
  • Amenities 4
  • Demographics 5
    • 2010 census 5.1
    • 2000 census 5.2
  • Education 6
  • Village officials 7
  • Other affiliations 8
  • Images 9
  • Notes 10
  • External links 11


When the French arrived at the Straits of Mackinac in the 17th century, the predominant tribes were three Algonquian tribes, known collectively as the Council of Three Fires: Chippewa (Ojibwe), Ottawa (Odawa), and Potawatomi. Although not having permanent settlements in the area according to European thinking, these tribes frequented the area of the Straits to fish, hunt, trade, and worship. Mackinac Island in the straits appeared to have the shape of a turtle; which led the Native Americans here to believe that the turtle contributed to life's beginnings. The Straits of Mackinac sat at the meeting of two routes vital to the fur trade: one to Montreal in the east, by way of Lake Nipissing and the Ottawa River valley, and the other to Detroit in the south via Lakes Huron and St. Clair.

European exploration and Fort Michilimackinac

The first European to pass the site of Mackinaw City was Jean Nicolet, sent out from Quebec City by Samuel Champlain in 1633 to explore and map the western Great Lakes, and to establish new contacts and trading partnerships with the Indian tribes of the region.[9] His reports resulted in the French government providing funds to send settlers, missionaries, traders, and soldiers to the Great Lakes region. Father Jacques Marquette had established a mission on Mackinac Island in 1671 (which was shortly thereafter moved to St. Ignace, where it remained active until 1705), and the construction of Fort de Baude at St. Ignace in 1681 had represented an attempt by the authorities of New France to establish a military presence at the Straits, but it closed in 1697.[10] Mackinaw City's first European settlement came in 1715 with the establishment of Fort Michilimackinac. Fort Michilimackinac was abandoned in 1783. The site of the fort in present-day Mackinaw City is a National Historic Landmark and is now preserved as an open-air historical museum. As with the forts at other settlements of the era and region such as Detroit, Michilimackinac was a fairly small post that housed French civilians inside the fort, but allowed them to garden, hunt, and fish outside the walls.

At the end of the French and Indian War(1754–1763), the British took possession of the fort, but continued to allow the French civilians to live within the walls, being valuable to the fur trade. As a part of Pontiac's Rebellion, Chippewa and Fox warriors captured the fort on June 2, 1763 in a surprise attack during a game of baggatiway or lacrosse; the British at the fort were taken prisoner and in main part killed. Europeans, in the form of French and Scots-Irish traders from Detroit and elsewhere, did not return until the following spring, with the understanding that they would trade more fairly with the Native Americans. The British abandoned the vulnerable site on the mainland during the American Revolutionary War; from 1779 to 1781, the troops moved the fort, including its buildings, to Mackinac Island, where they established Fort Mackinac. What the British did not take with them, they burned; if the Americans ever made it to the Straits, they would not be able to readily use Michilimackinac as a base.

Mackinaw City to this day

In 1857, two men by the names of Conkling and Searles platted what would become Mackinaw City. The original plan reserved the northern portion as a park, to preserve the area that was once Fort Michilimackinac and to accommodate a hoped-for lighthouse, which would be built almost a generation after the land was set aside. The village would in fact become a vital port for train ferries crossing the Straits beginning in the 1890s, and later, automobiles. Auto ferries ran from the early 1900s to 1957, ending after the completion of the Mackinac Bridge, while train ferries crossed the Straits until 1984. Mackinaw City remains an important port city for tourists traveling by passenger ferry boat to Mackinac Island using the Arnold, Shepler's, and Star Line services.

Through the course of time, the main industry of Mackinaw City became almost strictly tourist-oriented, with other major sources of employment being civic services such as mail, police, firefighting, schooling, and so on. Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse was built in 1892 in the same northern park that was originally allotted for its construction. This lighthouse would eventually replace McGulpin Point Light, which was built in the 1870s in the far western end of the village limits. When the Mackinac Bridge was completed in 1957, the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse was decommissioned immediately thereafter. At the same time, a grant was provided to the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, which owned the property at the Bridge's southern terminus, to begin archeological excavations of the Michilimackinac ruins. Ultimately, a reconstruction of the fort to its 1770s appearance would be constructed.[11] Camping, which began in Michilimackinac State Park in 1907, was halted in 1971 as a Maritime Park was opened in 1972 around the lighthouse. This park was shut down in 1990, but Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse was opened to the public in 2004. Mill Creek State Park, which includes the area believed to be where Mill Creek's sawmill once flourished when Mackinac Island was being settled, is located about five miles (8 km) southeast of the village along U.S. Highway 23 (US 23).


The Mackinac Bridge as viewed from Mackinaw City


Mackinaw City is at the tip of the mitten formed by the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. This makes it the terminus for several important Northern Michigan highways, and the junction for all routes from the Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula via the Mackinac Bridge.

The Mackinac or Mackinaw Trail is a historically important route to and from the community, both from the north and the south. The trail, was first used by the tribes of Michigan, and surveyed between Saginaw and Mackinac in 1835, by Lieutenant Benjamin Poole of the 3rd U.S. Artillery.[14] (In Saginaw, Mackinaw Street closely follows Poole's route, which then continues in the general direction of present-day Midland, while Mackinaw Street twists north, becoming Mackinaw Road and following a section line into Bay County.)

Ferry service

Three ferry companies operate out of Mackinaw City, connecting tourists and commuters to Mackinac Island: north and south Arnold Line, Sheplers Ferry and the Star Line.

Bus service

Indian Trails provides daily intercity bus service between St. Ignace and East Lansing, Michigan[15] and between St. Ignace and Bay City, Michigan.[16] Transfer between the lines is possible in Mackinaw City.


The New York Central's (NYC) Michigan Central subsidiary, the Pennsylvania Railroad's (PRR) Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad subsidiary, and other rail lines provided passenger traffic on trains such as the Northern Arrow to Mackinaw City. After the NYC and PRR merged to create the ill-fated Penn Central in 1968, rail traffic diminished and the rail infrastructure deteriorated. The state invested greatly into the failing railways and established the Michigan Northern Railway to operate passenger and freight operations in the early 1980s. Despite sizable patronage, passenger services, as well as freight, operated in the red, prompting the state government to reassess its commitment to existence of the Michigan Northern Railway. All subsidies terminated in 1984, and the lines were sold to CSX Transportation in 1987, which dismantled the tracks shortly thereafter.[17]

The former Michigan Central line to Mackinaw City was rededicated in 2008 as the North Central State Trail, providing a public right-of-way from Mackinaw City to Gaylord, Michigan.


The nearest airports with scheduled passenger service are in Pellston Regional Airport,[18] Traverse City Cherry Capital Airport and Alpena County Regional Airport in the Lower Peninsula and Chippewa County International Airport in Sault Ste. Marie, in the eastern Upper Peninsula.


  • According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 7.60 square miles (19.68 km2), of which 3.38 square miles (8.75 km2) is land and 4.22 square miles (10.93 km2) is water.[1]
  • Mackinaw City is at the northern extremity of Northern Michigan, which is generally defined as the northern counties of the Lower Peninsula.


This climatic region has large seasonal temperature differences, with warm to hot (and often humid) summers and cold (sometimes severely cold) winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Mackinaw City has a humid continental climate, abbreviated "Dfb" on climate maps.[19]

Climate data for Mackinaw City, Michigan
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) −3
Average low °C (°F) −15
Average precipitation mm (inches) 46
Source: Weatherbase [20]


Mackinaw City's central shopping district is located along Central Avenue downtown. Many of the shops sell fudge, T-shirts, and toffee. Also located downtown is a small outdoor shopping mall called Mackinaw Crossings, which features a movie theater. As a tourist city, it has a larger amount of hotels than many other communities.

A publicly owned lake maintained for small-boat fishing, French Farm Lake, is 3 miles southwest.


2010 census

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 806 people, 413 households, and 206 families residing in the village. The population density was 238.5 inhabitants per square mile (92.1/km2). There were 814 housing units at an average density of 240.8 per square mile (93.0/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 87.8% White, 5.3% African American, 4.3% Native American, 0.1% from other races, and 2.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.4% of the population.

There were 413 households of which 18.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.2% were married couples living together, 7.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.4% had a male householder with no wife present, and 50.1% were non-families. 41.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.95 and the average family size was 2.62.

The median age in the village was 49.5 years. 16.5% of residents were under the age of 18; 4.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.5% were from 25 to 44; 31.1% were from 45 to 64; and 24.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the village was 45.2% male and 54.8% female.

2000 census

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 859 people, 404 households, and 244 families residing in the village. The population density was 255.3 people per square mile (98.7/km²). There were 630 housing units at an average density of 187.3 per square mile (72.4/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 93.02% White, 0.12% African American, 4.54% Native American, 0.12% Asian, and 2.21% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.81% of the population.

There were 404 households out of which 21.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.5% were married couples living together, 9.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.6% were non-families. 34.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.12 and the average family size was 2.67.

In the village the population was spread out with 20.6% under the age of 18, 5.0% from 18 to 24, 24.9% from 25 to 44, 30.7% from 45 to 64, and 18.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females there were 88.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.3 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $37,031, and the median income for a family was $43,125. Males had a median income of $31,771 versus $30,125 for females. The per capita income for the village was $18,725. About 7.5% of families and 9.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.5% of those under age 18 and 2.8% of those age 65 or over.


Mackinaw City Public Schools provides Mackinaw City students with education. There are two schools, the elementary school (K-5) and the high school (6-12).[23]

Village officials

  • Village Manager - Adam Smith
  • Village President - Jeff Hingston
  • Village Clerk - Lana Jaggi
  • Village Treasurer - Patty Peppler
  • Superintendent of Public Works - Ken Newsome
  • Community Development Director -
  • Recreation Director/Harbormaster - Dave Paquet
  • Police Chief - Pat Wyman
  • Water, Wastewater Superintendent - Pat Rivera
  • Planning Commission Chair - Rosada Mann

Other affiliations



  1. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010".  
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder".  
  3. ^ "Population Estimates".  
  4. ^ a b "American FactFinder".  
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names".  
  6. ^ "About the Bridge". 
  7. ^ Following are: Traverse City, Muskegon, Frankenmuth/Birch Run, Boyne Mountain, Dearborn/The Henry Ford (also known as the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village), Munising, Sault Sainte Marie, Dundee, Saugatuck/Douglas and Lansing. 2009 Memorial Day driving, AAA Michigan Triptik requests.
  8. ^ "Government - Village of Mackinaw City". The Village of Mackinaw City. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  9. ^ Fischer, David Hackett. Champlain's Dream (2008) p.503
  10. ^ Walter Romig, Michigan Place Names, p. 204
  11. ^ "Mackinac State Historic Parks". 
  12. ^ "Michigan highway ends, US 23 pictures and description". 
  13. ^ Michigan Highway ends, US-31 photographs and story Archived February 18, 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Survey of a road route from Saginaw to Mackinac,
  17. ^ Schwieterman, Joseph P. (2001). When the Railroad Leaves Town: American Communities in the Age of Rail Line Abandonment, Eastern United States. Kirksville, MO:  
  18. ^ "Pellston Regional Airport Serving Northern Michigan Emmet County". 
  19. ^ "Mackinaw City, Michigan Köppen Climate Classification (Weatherbase)". Weatherbase. 
  20. ^ "". Weatherbase. 2013.  Retrieved on August 27, 2013.
  21. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "The Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan : A Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church - Diocese of Gaylord". 
  25. ^ "Home Page - Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan". 

External links

  • Mackinaw City at Pure Michigan
  • Village of Mackinaw City Municipal Website
  • Mackinaw Chamber of Tourism
  • Mackinaw area Chamber of Commerce
  • Mackinaw City Mi Information
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