The story behind the ‘Big Rock’ Aid to Navigation Mackinaw City, bout 390 years ago, pilgrims momentously set foot The McGulpin Rock in Emmet County has been observed Getting Here McGulpin Point on the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. and since at least 1615 as an aid to navigation for French explor- McGulpin Point Lighthouse and Historic Site is located Plymouth Rock was christened an enduring ers around the time voyageur Etienne Brule was traveling adjacent to recreational park, both just symbolA of American settlement. But 395 years ago, French the . Native Americans used it much earlier. explorers were plying the and using a rock The McGulpin Rock was mentioned in 1749 in a journal by west of Mackinaw City in Northwest Michigan. Lighthouse admission is always FREE. Lighthouse at least five times the size of Plymouth’s to gauge water levels French-Canadian voyageur Michel Chartier de Lotbiniere, as they navigated in canoes along the tumultuous waters who compiled sketches of the layout of Fort FROM MACKINAW CITY between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. and described the area in his writings (below, left). Travel west on Central Avenue, then turn

north on Headlands Road.

FROM SOUTHERN EMMET COUNTY Travel N/NE on any of several main roads including “They have observed that the waters of the Lakes M-119, Pleasantview Road, U.S. 31 or I-75. have been lowering rather considerably over the past 10 years, and to prove this they showed me, at the For a FREE county map and additional brochures, entrance of , one-half league from the email [email protected] or fort, a large rock which now stands at least 7 feet out call 231-348-1704 of water whereas ten years ago it was at water-level; they say it has become gradually more and more visible The rock would have been known every year. The same thing was observed in Lake as ‘Chi-Sin’ in the Superior. Older inhabitants told me that it (this Native phenomenon) was cyclic, that the waters go down language. during 10 or 12 years and then rise again to approxi- mately the same point.”

The trail to Chi-Sin and site features As you explore, look for self-guided cell phone Down the hill from the lighthouse, the Big Rock rests partially in tour stops that provide the water. For centuries, it has held tremendous historical impor- additional details 500 Headlands Road ▪ Mackinaw City, MI 49701 tance. Historical accounts illustrate that the Straits of Mackinac about this historic rose and fell by as much as 8 feet over periods of time. property. 231-436-5860 The McGulpin Point rock is approximately 33.8 feet in horizontal offseason information: 231-348-1704 circumference and 37 feet in vertical circumference. It is about 9 On the feet tall. An estimate of its weight puts it around 54 tons. Straits of Mackinac Over the past couple of years, Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts HOURS May til November ▪ always free from the Ann Arbor area have improved the trail, constructed a OPEN MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND replica gazebo and wellhouse and will be constructing a new barn admission on the grounds. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. JUNE-SEPTEMBER: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Please take some time to explore the entire McGulpin ▪ A gift shop includes site; you will surely be taken by its natural, vast beauty on lighthouse and Dark OCTOBER: Daily, check hours online the Straits of Mackinac! Sky Park merchandise! NAVIGATING to TODAY early 1,000 years ago, spurred growth in cities like and Milwaukee, resulting in growing vessel traffic through the Straits of generations before the arrival of the French Mackinac. inN the 1600s, the Anishnaabek nation (a combina- By the early 1850s, McGulpin Point was seen as a tion of Odawa, Ojibway/Chippewa, and Potawatomi crucial lighthouse site. Though the Straits’ eastern and tribes) established villages along the Straits of Macki- western entries were covered by the Bois Blanc and nac. The came to occupy the promontory now Waugoshance lights, there was no navigational aid in known as McGulpin Point after a hostile the shoal-ridden Straits. encounter with the Congress appropriated funds for a lighthouse in established tribe, the 1854, construction be- Mus-co-desh. The Mus-co- gan in 1868. McGulpin desh, former allies of the Point was one of five on Odawas, angered Odawa Lake Michigan and Lake We have the story to tell today thanks to the meticu- chief Sagemaw by failing to Superior that were lous record-keeping of the longest serving lightkeeper show proper respect upon almost mirror images. at McGulpin Point, James Davenport. Davenport his return from the western In a style referred to as occupied the lighthouse during the navigation seasons warpath. Accused of being Norman Gothic, the of 1879-1906. During the winter months, when the too warlike, Sagemaw and structure has buttressed Straits were impassible by ships, he would return with his warriors were pelted with corners and an octagonal his wife and children to their home in Mackinaw City balls of ash and leaves as they tower. It was built with so the children could attend school. Still, he made landed. Infuriated, Sagemaw Cream City brick, made weekly trips to the lighthouse to write reports to the returned to his village on from clay found near district inspector in Milwaukee on the condition of , Milwaukee and favored the lake ice and the property. gathered a war party, and set by the U.S. Lighthouse Today, Davenport’s voluminous correspondence resides out to vanquish the Mus-co- Board. in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. desh. After defeat, the

Mus-co-desh left the area, and the Odawas gradually


spread throughout Emmet County. The light at McGulpin was in service until it was rendered obsolete by the construction of the Old Macki- Pictured above: Over the past couple of GROWING NEED FOR A LIGHT nac Point light and fog signal station in 1892. By 1906, summers, archaeological staff and students from The pre-Revolutionary War history of the Point began the McGulpin light was decommissioned and sold into University have worked with with the arrival of John McAlpin, who, with his Native private ownership in 1913. It remained in private hands Emmet County on archaeological reconnaissance at American wife, lived on the land in the 1760s. Post- until Emmet County purchased the property in 2008 McGulpin Point and the Headlands International Revolution, the land was surveyed by the new United to enhance recreational opportunities for all. In 2009, a Dark Sky Park. They have uncovered numerous Petoskey, MI 49770 Petoskey, States of America and was deeded ~one of the first gala celebration drew approximately 1,200 for the items from the site’s past, which will eventually be Attn: Laurie Gaetano [email protected] recorded deeds in Michigan, and the first in relighting of the beacon, an historically accurate on display at the lighthouse in the future. Further 200 Division St., Suite 178 Emmet County ~ to Patrick McGulpin, son and heir of replica. It marked a revival of this storied landmark with research is anticipated. Stay tuned! to: mailed be may Donations Communications, (231) 348-1704 or by email to John McAlpin. The opening of the in 1825 untold significance to this region. Questions may be directed to the Department of McGulpin Point Lighthouse Please consider a donation to Emmet County Parks & Recreation Department & Recreation Emmet Parks County Emmet County continues to make McGulpin Point a special experience both within the lighthouse and throughout the grounds. Donations help pay for on-site docents who welcome our many guests and also efforts by Emmet County to continue maintain and upgrade this historic, important and beautiful site. Donations also costs of archaeological research and Boy help offset at the property. Scout efforts