Michilimackinac State Historic Park
Archaeologists have been uncovering treasures since 1959 on the site of this 18th-century fur-trading post, believed to be the nation’s longest-running archaeological dig. Long a well-traveled Indian hunting and trading ground, the French built a post here in 1715. The French exploited the Indians, bribing them with gifts and alcohol, and encouraging them to work in the fur trade.
Though the unfortunate relationship led many Indians to abandon their traditional way of life, the two groups rarely fought. Instead, the French feuded with the British, who sought to expand their landholdings in the region. For the next 65 years, the fort along the Straits alternately fell under French and British control.
Fort Michilimackinac’s most violent episode occurred while it was under British rule. In 1763, Pontiac, the Ottawa war chief, ordered an attack on British posts all over Michigan, an attempt to drive the growing British population out of their native land. While Pontiac laid siege to Detroit, local Ojibwa stormed the fort, killing all but 13 soldiers.
In the end, though, it was the feisty colonists who sent the British fleeing from Fort Michilimackinac. They dismantled what they could and burned the rest to the ground in 1780, opting for a new, more-defensible post on nearby Mackinac Island.
Today, Colonial Michilimackinac State Historic Park (102 W. Straits Ave., 231/436-4100, www.mackinacparks.com, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. daily June–Aug., 9 a.m.–4 p.m. daily May and Sept.–mid-Oct., $10 adults, $6.25 children 5–17), located just west of the Mackinac Bridge, portrays the lives of both the Indians and European settlers, with costumed interpreters reenacting daily life at an Indian encampment and a stockaded fort.
Displays include many of the artifacts unearthed by archaeologists. Interpreters demonstrate various crafts and skills, from cooking and weaving to cleaning weapons. Interpreters are quite knowledgeable and able to answer most visitors’ questions. Don’t miss the underground archaeological tunnel exhibit, “Treasures from the Sand.”
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel