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Michigan's Mackinac Bridge

Updated on August 27, 2012
The Mackinac Bridge on a clear day.
The Mackinac Bridge on a clear day. | Source

The Mighty Mac

The Mackinac Bridge is a five mile long suspension bridge that connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. It is the only way that vehicles can travel from one peninsula to the other. Michiganders affectionately call the bridge The Mighty Mac or The Big Mac. It is five miles in length and at the time it was built, it was the longest single suspension bridge. Although there have been others that have taken its place over the years, it remains a beautiful addition to the landscape and provides an important function for both Michigan residents and travelers to the Great Lakes State.

Map of The Mackinac Bridge

A markerSt.Ignace, Michigan -
St Ignace, MI, USA
get directions

Mackinac Bridge lit up at night. By Nick Nolte (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0
Mackinac Bridge lit up at night. By Nick Nolte (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0

What is a suspension bridge?

A suspension bridge has one major significant difference in comparison to other types of bridges. That is that they are designed to be flexible in order to move with severe weather conditions or natural disasters such as earthquakes. A suspension bridge has towers that are anchored with master cables running over the top of these towers. Then additional support cables are attached from the the master cables at the top to the deck of the bridge. Other examples of suspension bridges are The Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge. Suspension bridges are simple and beautiful in their design.

Fares to Cross the Mackinac Bridge

If you decide that you would like to cross the Mackinac Bridge, be prepared with your fare. For passenger cars, it is $4.00. For all others, it is $5.00 per axle.

Building the Mackinac Bridge

Prior to the Mackinac Bridge, travelers would use a ferry service to cross between Michigan's two peninsulas. When traffic began to increase greatly, the exploration of building a bridge took place. Building the Mackinac Bridge was an amazing engineering feat in its day. Prior to the decision and final plan to build the bridge, there had been many proposals on how to connect Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas. One suggestion even included a tunnel that would float between the two cities. Although serious conversation began in 1888 about building a bridge across the Straits of Mackinac, there wasn't any real action taken until 1934. Unfortunately the wars that took place during the next twenty years delayed any further serious discussion on the building of a bridge.

Finally on May 7,1954, the construction of the bridge began. Under the design of Dr. David B. Steinman and a contract to build by Merritt-Chapman, and Scott along with the American Bridge Division of the United Steel Corporation, the building had begun. It took over three years to complete and was finally open to traffic on November 1,1957. Today over a half a million cars travel across the bridge annually.

Mackinac Bridge Camera

If you are wondering what the weather conditions or traffic is like on the bridge, just check out the bridge camera. It is fun to play around with or share with your students if you are studying Michigan geography.


Mackinac Bridge on Dirty Jobs

Interesting Mackinac Bridge Facts

  • Five men lost their lives during the construction of the bridge. Since the bridge has opened, one additional worker lost his life on the job.
  • Fireworks are displayed at the shoreline of the bridge on Saturday evenings throughout the summer months.
  • The only car to ever flip over the edge of the bridge was a Yugo during very bad weather in November of 1989. I actually know this to be true because the student teacher that I had in high school at the time was actually just a few cars back from the incident.
  • The last bond to pay for the construction of the bridge was finished in 1986. Now the fares go to bridge maintenance.
  • The Mackinac Bridge maintenance jobs were featured on an episode of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe.

Mackinac Bridge Walk Video

Mackinac Bridge Walk

The Mackinac Bridge Walk is an annual event that is held each Labor Day weekend. The walk begins with the current Governor leading the walk around 7am. There are runners, walkers, and families who participate in this annual event. Some make it every year and others decide that the five mile walk is fine to do just once! Participants walk from one side of the bridge to the other and then are shuttled by bus back to the starting point.

Interesting Places to Visit Near Mackinac Bridge

Since the Mackinac Bridge connects Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula and St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula there are many interesting places to stop and visit on either side of the bridge.

  • Museum of Ojibwa Culture
  • Fort Michilimackinac
  • Old Mission Light House
  • Mackinac Island (This is a wonderful tourist attraction that is only reached by ferry. You can take a ferry to the island in Mackinaw City or St. Ignace.
  • Beaches and Shopping (There are beautiful beaches, shopping areas and hotels along the coastline if you want to stay for a night or two.)

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    • Amanda108 profile image

      Amanda 3 years ago from Michigan, United States

      Beautiful bridge and beautiful hub! I have to admit I'm a little scared of it - the bridge, that is, not your hub! ;) I don't like hovering over deep water that way. I'm always afraid I'll be the next flipped car.

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan

      It is sad but I guess that everything in life is a risk Thanks so much for your visit Vellur.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Very well showcased, great hub. It is really sad that major accidents happen while constructing massive bridges or any building for that matter.

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      It certainly is and you only know that if you've done it! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting Barbsbitsnpieces.

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

      Barbara Anne Helberg 5 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @cardelean...Great look at "The Mac"! Nicely presented and written.

      I crossed "The Mac" several years ago while working with a car parts inventory team headed to Marquette. It's a "rush" of an experience!

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks! Glad that you enjoyed it!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Excellent presentation of interesting information. I also remember that accident of the yugo. voted up-across

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      You're welcome randomcreative, I hope you make it sometime!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I have never been to Mackinac but I would love to sometime. Thanks for this great overview about the bridge!

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Yikes MJ MIller! I don't even like driving my car on the steel grate, but of course the kids love the sound. It is a beautiful state and not many people realize it. Thanks so much for your contribution to this hub.

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Driving over the bridge can definitely be intimidating. I remember the first few times that I drove across it I was scared. Its funny that you say that about the landscape. Alex always says that he knows that we are almost to the UP because the trees look different.

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      I hope you do make it out here one day teaches12345. It is a beautiful island that truly transports you back in time. The surrounding area is gorgeous as well. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Oh have a wonderful trip nybride710. It is such a fun place to visit. I have put some links in this hub that relate to other activities in the area that you may want to check out. One is a great beach on US 2 (that you'll probably take to get to St.Ignace), another is on an Ojibwa museum that is in St.Ignace and there is also one about Mackinac Island. Stop back and let me know how you enjoyed your trip!

    • MJ Miller profile image

      MJ Miller 5 years ago from East Tennessee

      I've been across the Mighty Mac several times. You haven't really experienced it until you ride a motorcycle on the lane that's just steel grate. You can see right through down to the water. It sort of makes the bike wiggle around a bit too.

      We toured around in the U.P. for a while, stopped at the locks, went out to the point in Copper Harbor and saw a few other sights. It's beautiful up there. Can't wait to go back.

      I'm originally from the Ann Arbor area, so I've been to many places in Michigan and I love it. Very nice hub! Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

      Of course I have a special fondness for all things Michigan! I always enjoyed the ride over the bridge but can understand how some people freeze (did you know there are some people who do nothing but drive other people across bridges?).

      One thing I've always found fascinating is that the lower and upper peninsulas are so very different in their topography and this is very evident as soon as you cross the bridge. The Lower is flat farmland and the upper is hilly, mining country.

      Voted up, awesome and interesting

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I grew up in the midwest and this was one place I always wanted to visit. My sisters took a trip there and enjoyed the island attraction. Perhaps one day I will get to visit this great tourist vacation spot. Good coverage on this topic.

    • nybride710 profile image

      Lisa Kroulik 5 years ago from Minnesota

      My husband, two teenage daughters and I are headed to Mackinac Island in August. Looking forward to seeing the bridge even more now.

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Isn't it Leah? Pictures really don't do it justice. My parents both worked on Mackinac Island for two summers. That is actually how they met and well...the rest is history! Mackinac Island fudge is DELICIOUS! But for the exact reason you stated, all of the sugar! It is a nice treat once a year though. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      What a gorgeous bridge! My husband's father grew up in Midland, Michigan and worked in a candy shop on Mackinac Island in the summers (making fudge). He used to remember the recipe, which called for something like 26 pounds of sugar!