Better late than never. After the longest, coldest, snowiest Winter that the state of Michigan has ever seen, prime Northern Michigan tourist spot Mackinac Island is finally thawing out for the Spring.
The Mackinac, which is a historic island situated in Lake Huron, usually welcomes in its first tourists by May 1 by ferry boat. The island is a tourist destination which gives its guests the experiences of visiting a historic fort, touring shops, riding tandem bicycles around the perimeter of the island, visiting the Grand Hotel, swimming at the beach, getting the “world’s best fudge,” or riding in a horse drawn carriage. No cars are permitted on the island and it is primarily a vacation destination.
Mackinac Island, and Michigan in general, have had a tough Winter. However, looks like the Michigan tourist destination is finally thawing out for the Spring after the long, frozen months. However, the island is not up and running as usual. No horses are back and walking around pulling their carriages and passengers. The island still has traces of ice and some snowbanks several feet deep.
Additionally, there is not a ferry to be seen. There are several huge ferry lines that run back and forth to the island from Mackinaw City, the lower peninsula’s uppermost city and from St. Ignace, the lower peninsula’s most southern city right above the Mackinaw Bridge. None of them are running right now. Shepler’s ferry line is not running currently, and another one of the lines, Arnold Transit, might not even open at all this year, it says.
The president of Shepler’s Ferry says that he can not remember a time like this for Mackinac Island in his whole entire life, and he is over 50. Usually, the island is making preparations for its Spring opening and Summer tourist season by mid-April, he said. Ferry season usually begins on April 21. The ice is so thick on Lake Huron, however, that the ferry companies have called on the U.S. Coast Guard to come and break it up. Some of the ice is up to three feet thick in parts between Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City, and St. Ignace, where all of the ferries run.
It is not only these issues. Regular and seasonal staff are having to be flown in to get onto Mackinac Island, because obviously they can not take a boat or a ferry with the water conditions being as icy as they are. Meanwhile, preparations for visitors to the Michigan tourist spot are slow because a lot of supplies to prepare are having to be flown in as well instead of ferried, and the horses are not back yet because the ferries are not running and therefore there is no way to transport them yet. There are just over a dozen horses on the island; ones who have stayed there all Winter, but there are supposed to be several hundred by the time tourist season rolls around. Horses are an essential part of the tourist season because cars are not allowed on the island, so they are one of the only means of travel. Meanwhile, few businesses are opening on the island, including the Grand Hotel, which opened its doors this past Friday, as Mackinac Island finally started to thaw out after a very long Michigan Winter.
By Laura Clark