One bridge. Two towers. Five miles. 40,000 pedestrians including the Governor. Too many commemorative patches and T-shirts to count.
It all adds up to the 54th annual Mackinac Bridge Walk, a Labor Day tradition that marks Michigan’s unofficial end of summer.
It’s the only day that a pedestrian parade takes place on the suspension bridge connecting the Upper and Lower Peninsulas above the Straits of Mackinac, where the Great Lakes Huron and Michigan meet.
Before the bridge opened in November 1957 travel between the two parts of the state had been by ferry. At peak periods the line of cars waiting to cross snaked for miles, and the wait could last hours.
We’ve walked the bridge several times, most recently in 2009. We were shut out by weather at least once; the wind was too strong and by the time we arrived in St. Ignace for the start they had cut off any new walkers.
Most memorable was the time I had to carry Paige almost the entire way; she was about 2-1/2 years old and it was a challenge, but makes a great memory.
You don’t need to register in advance for the Bridge Walk so you can still decide to participate, although lodging in the anchor cities of Mackinaw City at the tip of the Lower Peninsula and St. Ignace in the U.P. might be near capacity. Just check Petoskey or Sault Ste. Marie and points between and you should be able to book a room within an hour’s drive of the Straits.
The Mackinac Bridge website clearly describes the essentials, but here are some tips:
– Governor Rick Snyder leads the walk starting at 7 a.m.
– Last walkers are allowed to start at 11 a.m.
– Walk begins in St. Ignace, ends in Mackinaw City so you can park in either peninsula and catch a shuttle in either direction to get to the start of the walk or back to your vehicle
– The Bridge Walk is about five miles, but plan on an additional hike to/from your parking spot to the Bridge (distance depends on how early you arrive to nab a good spot)
– Bridge Walk is free but the shuttle is $5 per person (infants free)
– Vehicular traffic continues during the Bridge Walk, with north and southbound traffic sharing the other half of the bridge
– Baby strollers and wheelchairs are allowed; no wagons or other wheeled devices permitted
– No pets allowed; working service dogs are permitted
– Watch your coffee consumption before starting the walk; there are no bathrooms on the bridge
– Bring bottled water, snacks and your camera
– Dress in layers; it’s surprising how much the weather can change in that 5-mile span
– At the finish line you receive a numbered certificate; check shop windows where winning numbers are posted—you may have won a prize
And remember to relax and proceed at a comfortable pace. It’s not a race.
Enjoy the scenery, the people-watching, and camaraderie of a shared, once a year experience.
(See slideshow of our 2009 walk, below)
There’s still time to buy a raffle ticket to win a trip to the top of one of the Mackinac Bridge towers; click here for details.