Mackinac State Historic Parks – Michigan

On July 12, we moved to Tiki RV Park in St. Ignace, Michigan.  To get there, we had to cross the Mighty Mac, which is an almost five-mile-long bridge. It is a suspension bridge that connects the Upper Peninsula to the rest of Michigan.  The weather was nice and cool while we were there.

After setting up our RV, we went to different attractions that are part of the Mackinac State Historic Parks system.  The first was Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse.  The lighthouse, established in 1892, housed four generations of lighthouse keepers as they maintained and operated the lighthouse to help sailors navigate the dangerous waters of the Straits of Mackinac.  There was a foghorn demonstration, where we got to hear a foghorn.  Then, we went inside the lighthouse and learned about how the lighthouse used the foghorn and light signals to warn ships where dangerous waters were.

The second was Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park.  The mill was built by Robert Campbell and used from the late 1700’s to the early 1800’s.  It was built to supply lumber especially for the Settlement on Mackinac Island.  At the park, we watched a presentation where a man, dressed how someone would have dressed in the days that the sawmill was used, demonstrated how to cut logs into boards.  The first way was a long process, using axes and a two-man saw.  The second way was using the sawmill.  The sawmill was powered by a river.  It was also reconstructed to be as close as possible to the one that Robert Campbell would’ve used.  By pulling some levers and turning a couple of wheels, the demonstrator was able to control the flow of water underneath the building, which powered the saw, and he was able to control how the water made the sawmill move and cut the log.  The video of it being used is below.

We walked around the park as well, and us kids climbed up a tower with lots of steps.  Once I got to the platform up on top, I could feel it swaying.  Looking down did not help my fear of heights!  However, the view was great.

The third was Colonial Michilimackinac.  Fort Michilimackinac was built by the French in 1715.  The British took over the fort following the French and Indian War.  Then, after America won the Revolutionary War, the fort belonged to America.

At the fort, there were people dressed up as people would’ve been during when the British controlled the fort and doing work that they would’ve been doing.  We first met a lady washing laundry the historic way.  She explained to us how a woman doing that job could make more money that a soldier in a day, and how people during that time spent lots of money on keeping their laundry clean.  The woman showed us the different things that she used to treat the clothes before rinsing them.  There was lye water, bluing water (to contrast the yellow of old clothing and make it appear whiter), vinegar, starch, and other things.  There were also sort of gross things which smelled bad before you rinsed out the clothes like milk and fermented pee.

There were other buildings in the fort which had been built based on archeological findings, like a blacksmith shop, storehouse, guardhouse, priest’s house, and a Jew’s house.  These were furnished to look like how they probably looked like when they were standing.  There was also a museum with lots of artifacts that had been found in the fort area when archeologists excavated the area.

Finally, at the end of our visit, we went to a musket firing demonstration, where the man dressed as a British soldier fired the musket that they would’ve been using at the time.  The man fired it three times in total, but it misfired the second time.  He said that that was to be expected because the musket has a low accuracy rate when affected by things like weather.  The gun firing sounded about as loud as a firework.

Before going home, we stopped at the Jack Pine Lumberjack Show, where we got to watch two lumberjacks do a friendly competition/show.  They threw axes at targets, raced at chopping and sawing wood, walked across a line of floating logs, tried to make each other fall off of a rolling log, and raced to climb up and down a tall tree.  There was a bit of comedy involved as well, when the two men “tried” to make rabbits carved from wood.  The first man just chopped off the top of the log and said that it looked like the rabbit he had seen on the side of the road earlier that day.  He also said that it was “sleeping” (roadkill).  The second man started to make a rabbit, but ended up with a small chair which he gave to someone in the audience.