|Castle Rock has the ingredients of a classic roadside attraction: a natural feature with a terrific view, plus a souvenir shop with another great photo op: an oversize Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.|
The nucleus of this vintage roadside attraction is a dramatic limestone stack, eroded by water and wind to form a "castle" nearly 200 feet above Lake Huron. Mackinac Island's nearby stacks and arches have attracted tourists for over a century.
|A nostolgic colorized postcard of the big rock. Such cards were popular for many decades as a treat to send friends while vacationing. On the back the blurb points out that it "rises like an ancient castle from the middle ages to a height of 195.8 feet above road level."|
Visitors will see (from left to right), St. Martin Island and, on the horizon on a clear, cool day, Marquette Island in Les Cheneaux. Then come St. Ignace, ferries to and from Mackinac Island, and, finally, the towers of the Mackinac Bridge peeking up above the bluffs. It's especially stunning view at sunset and in fall color season. Note: watch out for luxuriant poison ivy that may occasionally extend past the chain link fence into the edge of the walkway.
A big, old-fashioned souvenir shop is at the base of Castle Rock. Its specialties are Ts, sweats, and souvenirs of area places and Up North and nautical themes.
Outsize figures of Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox are by the shop for Northwoods souvenir photos. Paul Bunyan is at once a fictitious character and a Michigan figure from Michigan history. Logging camp crews near Oscoda (between Alpena and Bay City on Lake Huron) told tall tales about a very powerful logger, and named him after their crew chief. The stories spread widely, like folk songs.
Clarence Eby, a St. Ignace photographer and pioneer of area tourism, acquired Castle Rock and, in 1928, opened it as a destination, just as somewhat better area roads enabled motorists to go sightseeing in outlying areas. He made postcards of sights in Mackinac County, the island, and the Straits, created a guidebook with ads from resorts and cabins, and worked to create a Chamber of Commerce information center in town. Today Eby's grandson Mark runs Castle Rock, but not the campground with the same name.
North of St. Ignace on the extension of Bus. Loop I-75. Or from I-75, take exit 348. (906) 643-8268. Open daily from mid May thru mid-Oct. Spring & fall hours 9-6. Summer 8:30-9:30. Handicap access: shop, not tower.
Return to St. Ignace
POINTS OF INTEREST
Bridgeview Park. Great views up at the Mackinac Bridge from a pleasant park with picnic shelters. Interesting historical video monitors and pictures with text about the bridge and previous transporation across the Straits are in an enclosed pavilion with restrooms. ... more
Museum of Ojibwa Culture. See how Ojibwa social values and their subsistence culture adapted to the climate. View change at the Straits in the 1660s from the native perspective of indigeous Ojibwa and Odawa and Huron newcomers, when the French fur trade was moving in. A fine small museum. ... more
Marquette Mission Park. The peaceful park has well-done interpretive panels about the Straits history of Ojibwa, Odawa, and Huron people and Father Marquette's Catholic mission, possibly at this very location. An authentic Huron longhouse and Ojibwa tipi are open without charge. ... more
Native Expressions Ojibwa Museum Store. This peaceful shop carries traditional crafts (quill work, baskets, more) plus certified contemporary Native American art. Here too is the U.P.'s largest selection of books and music about Eastern Woodland Indians and French-Canadian Great Lakes history ... more
American Legion Veterans Memorial Park. A waterfront park with picnic area, telescope, popular play structure, and beach often used by scuba divers visiting shipwrecks. At the nearby Star Dock, Mackinaw Parasailing ... more
Horseshoe Bay Wilderness Trail/Hiawatha National Forest. A one-mile hiking trail through a mixed forest and wetland leads to a secluded Lake Huron beach, part of the 3,800-acre Horseshoe Bay Wilderness within the Hiawatha National Forest. ... more