Legendary Lighthouses: In the Shadow of the Lighthouse-Western Great Lakes

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Western Great Lakes PBS Online

Lighthouses of the Western Great Lakes
In the Shadow of the Lights

Apostle Islands National Seashore/Bayfield/Apple Festival

The cluster of the Apostle Islands off Wisconsin’s Chequamegon Peninsula were formed as glaciers receded from Lake Superior. However, early Native Americans attributed the birth of these islands to the first man who walked the earth. He was chasing a buck, and when he couldn’t catch him, he grabbed a handful of earth and threw it at the disappearing animal. Where each clod of dirt fell, an island appeared in Lake Superior. The stunning beauty of the Apostle Islands National Seashore, which was created in 1970, and today includes 21 of the 22 islands in the archipelago, makes it one of the most popular destinations on the Great Lakes for boaters, hikers, campers and photographers. The nearest little town is Bayfield, that has a year round population of 650. Designated a historic district, it is a beautiful little fishing village. In the first week of October, a popular Apple Festival takes place, drawing 20,000 people per day.

Tulip Festival in Holland

Settled by Dutch immigrants in 1847, Holland retains the image of a Dutch town. The 12-story De Zwaan, a 225-year-old country windmill, spins over downtown. Millions of blooming tulips in the parks and neighborhoods provide a spectacular floral display in May. The Tulip Time Festival, its flavor distinctively Dutch right down to the street scrubbing, coincides with the peak bloom in early to mid-May.

Mackinac Island

Native Americans called it Michilimackinac or "Giant Turtle," but the island’s name has been shortened over the years to Mackinac. The island is three miles long and two miles wide, with high cliffs fronting the shore, dotted with ravines, caves and strange rock formations. Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf are scenic points. In June, the lilacs, many grown to the size of small trees, bloom among gingerbread-trimmed inns and shops. Mackinac Island State Park is very attractive in mid-June when the Lilac Festival takes place.

Visitors arrive to the island by ferry or private boats. Transportation on the island is by horse-drawn carriage, bicycle or saddle horse, which immediately sets a slower pace and a reminder of bygone days. Though there are other lodgings on Mackinac Island, The Grand Hotel sets the tone. The hotel, with its stately pillars, sits on a hillside between the Governor’s summer mansion and a row of elaborate Victorian "cottages," overlooking the strait connecting Lakes Huron and Michigan. There is a slightly faded, shabby elegance to the Grand -- most rooms are not air-conditioned, the elevators are slow and some of the carpeting has seen better days. Yet the tone is definitely upscale -- signs remind you that GENTLEMEN ARE REQUIRED TO WEAR JACKETS AND TIES AND LADIES WILL DRESS IN THEIR FINEST after 6:00 p.m.

In nearby Mackinaw City, the Mackinac Bridge connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. This five mile bridge is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. On Labor Day, some 50,000 people participate in the Mackinac Bridge Walk from St. Ignace to Mackinaw City.

When the bridge was opened in 1957, it not only eliminated tremendous (23 mile) lines of cars awaiting ferry passage across the straits, but also the need for the Old Mackinac Point Light, built in 1892. Boats that used to rely on 40-foot high light to cross the Straits of Mackinac, began ranging on the bridge’s lights instead. The attractive Mackinac Point Light now houses a maritime museum.

Michigan’s Big Sable Point Light was built not only to protect sailors, but to relieve the good people of Ludington from having to blast a steam locomotive whistle whenever the fog rolled in.

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