By William Orr
Ultimate Guide to the Mackinac Bridge Michigan
Ready to learn some Mackinac Bridge facts? One of the major tourist attractions in Michigan, this bridge that spans the Mackinac Straits (where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet), plays an important role in Michigan history.
For all vacationers, travelers, and those just looking for a good time in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, here’s a guide to the Mackinac Bridge, or the largest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere.
That’s right, Michigan’s Mighty Mac certainly lives up to its namesake, stretching nearly five miles across the Straits of Mackinac, from Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula to St. Ignace in the U.P. That’s more than three miles longer than the Golden Gate Bridge, another major U.S. tourist attraction.
On top of that, it not only bears the title of the largest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere but also the title of the fifth largest suspension bridge in the world. Needless to say, it’s quite a sight to see.
The Mackinac Bridge is not only a wonder of modern technology but also a wonder of human ingenuity, one of the modern marvels of architecture. Too often is it that we forget that these great feats of our time resulted from the countless hours hard-working men and women put into their creation. So, as you read this guide to the Mackinac Bridge, remember the sacrifices of these Michiganders as we celebrate their amazing work.
Read on to learn about the bridge’s history, the Labor Day Bridge Walk, and everything you want to know about this historic civil engineering landmark.
A Brief History of the Bridge
The Mackinac Bridge began construction in 1954 and was completed three years later in 1957. However, the origins of the bridge lie nearly 80 years prior.
Following the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 (a Herculean effort in its own right), former musings about the possible development of a bridge between Michigan’s two peninsulas seemed viable. However, due to a failure to secure proper grants and funds for the bridge, the project was unable to get off the ground for several decades.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that backers were able to obtain the help of investors and the state government in constructing the Mighty Mac. The bridge was designed by Dr. David B. Steinman, an engineer who ironically grew up next to the Brooklyn Bridge, which gave hope to Michiganders in the first place that a bridge of their own might be constructed. At long last, in late 1957, the bridge was opened to the public and has remained an icon of Northern Michigan and the Great Lakes ever since.
How to Visit the Mackinac Bridge
Visiting the Mackinac Bridge is easier than you might expect, and for one specific reason: it’s located on a major expressway, I-75, which runs from the Soo to Florida.
From here, if you wish to cross to the Upper Peninsula, passage on the bridge requires paying a toll fee of $4.00 per car and $5.00 for all other vehicles (such as RVs, buses, tractor-trailers, etc.). The trip across will take you to the city of St. Ignace, a wonderful little hamlet that acts as a great introduction to the Upper Peninsula and all its wonders. If you wish to stay in Mackinaw City, there are plenty of great views of the bridge which can be seen from parks throughout the small community.
The Mackinac Bridge Walk (More Mackinac Bridge Facts)
The annual Bridge Walk, held on Labor Day every year, is the only time that pedestrians are allowed onf the bridge.
For half the day, vehicle crossings are prohibited and walkers, runners, and stollers take over this American bridge that spans the two peninsulas of Michigan. This is a huge very popular event in Michigan and one of the top tourist destinations on Labor Day weekend. More than 10,000 crossed the bridge on foot in 2022. Use our Ultimate Guide to the Annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk.
What to See and Where to See The Mackinac Bridge
For spectacular views of the bridge, there’s no better place to visit than Bridge View Park in St. Ignace. Complete with an observation station, pristine gardens, and plenty of space to watch the bridge, it’s the perfect place to settle down and witness one of Michigan’s greatest achievements.
Additionally, Fort Michilimackinac and the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse are other great sights to observe the bridge if you’re looking to visit the Mackinac Bridge without traveling up to the U.P.
If you’re looking to learn more about the Mackinac Bridge, consider a visit to the Mackinac Bridge Museum, 231 East Central Avenue in Mackinaw City. The museum explores the history of the bridge’s construction and the push to erect the structure in the first place. You’l also learn even more Mackinac Bridge facts and information.
Finally, if you want the absolute best view of the bridge, try out a boat tour, which gives both the history of the bridge along with an up-close view of the enormous structure itself. Trust us, it is truly worth it.
Mackinac Bridge Facts
- The Mackinac Bridge is operated the Mackinac Bridge Authority, an independent state agency that maintain the bridge as self-supporting.
- The Mackinac Bridge is part of the North Country National Scenic Trail, which runs from Vermont to North Dakota. The trails crosses the upper Midwest and runs along the shores of Lake Superior in places.
- The total length of the Mackinac Bridge is 26,372 ft., with the suspension span (between the towers) coming in at 3,800 feet
- The construction of the Mackinac Bridge began in May 7, 1954.
- Monthly Traffic on the Mackinac Bridge averages 11,600 vehicles per day, according to the Michigan State Highway Department and the Bridge Authority.
- In 2022, more than 4.5 millions vehicles crossed the Mackinac Bridge.
- In addition to the Mackinac Bridge, other bridges in Michigan include the International Bridge to Canada in Sault Ste Marie, the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron and the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit.
- Since the Mackinac Bridge crosses the Straits of Mackinac, it is sometimes referred to as the Mackinac Straits Bridge.
Check out the Mackinac Bridge Cam for a peek at the bridge traffic!
Whether you’re just passing through or looking to soak in the incredible views of the structure, the Mackinac Bridge is sure to leave you stunned and hungry for more.
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About the Author-
William Orr has been a native Michigander all his life. He was born in Plymouth, Michigan in 2002 and now attends college at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor studying English and Communications. William is currently a content writer for My Michigan Beach and in the future, he dreams of becoming a novelist. William’s interests include guitar, fitness, and writing.