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The Straits of Mackinac is the strip of water that connects two of the Great Lakesmarker, Lake Michiganmarker and Lake Huronmarker, and separates the Lower Peninsula of Michigan from the Upper Peninsula of Michiganmarker. It is a shipping lane connecting, for instance, the steel mills of Gary, Indianamarker to the iron mines of Minnesotamarker. Before the railroads reached Chicago from the east, it served as part of the path for immigrants into the Midwest and Great Plainsmarker. It is five miles (8 km) wide at its narrowest point where it is spanned by the Mackinac Bridgemarker. Before the bridge was built, car ferries were used to cross the straits. Today passenger-only ferries carry people to Mackinac Islandmarker which does not permit cars, while passengers can take a vehicle ferry to Bois Blanc Islandmarker. Before icebreakers and year-round shipping on the Lower Great Lakes, the Straits would freeze over in winter.

Islands in the Straits of Mackinac include the two populated islands, Bois Blanc Islandmarker and Mackinac Islandmarker, and the two uninhabited islands, Round Islandmarker and St. Helena Islandmarker. At 11 miles (18 kilometers) in length, Bois Blanc is by far the largest island in the Straits.

Geology and history

The Straits are wide and deep. Hydrologically, they do not connect two separate lakes, but rather are a narrow point defining two lobes of a single Lake Michigan-Huron.

The Straits were an important Native American and fur trade route. Located on the southern side of the Straits is the town of Mackinaw City, Michiganmarker, the site of Fort Michilimackinacmarker, a reconstructed French fort founded in 1715, and on the northern side is St. Ignace, Michiganmarker, site of a Frenchmarker Catholic mission to the Indians, founded in 1671. The eastern end of the Straits was controlled by Fort Mackinacmarker on Mackinac Island, a British colonial and early American military base and fur trade center, founded in 1781.

Straits of Mackinac today

The Straits are patrolled by a detachment of the United States Coast Guard based at Graham Point, St. Ignace. A shipping channel through the winter ice is maintained by the Coast Guard's Great Lakes icebreaker, USCGC Mackinaw, based in Cheboygan, Michiganmarker near the eastern edge of the Straits. This new vessel went into service during the 2005-06 ice season.

Most of the Straits have been set aside by the U.S.marker state of Michiganmarker as the Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve, a riparian public space dedicated to those personnel who were lost aboard the boats and ships that sank in these dangerous shipping lanes.

Lighthouses in the Straits of Mackinac include:

See also


  1. " Michigan and Huron: One Lake or Two?"

External links

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