Posted by: Kath Usitalo | November 1, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mackinac Bridge

Looking through the Mackinac Bridge grate at the Great Lakes water below

It was chilly this morning so I pulled a sweatshirt from the closet and it happened to be the black pullover with a colorful oval applique commemorating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Mackinac Bridge on November 1, 1957. Happy 55th Birthday, Big Mac!

Thousands walk across the five-mile Mackinac Bridge once a year, on Labor Day

I never tire of crossing this five-mile-plus engineering marvel. I wish I’d kept track of how many times I’ve driven and walked across the twin-towered suspension bridge that spans the Straits of Mackinac, the only structural link between the Lower and Upper Peninsulas. I’m guesstimating at least 500 treks back and forth over the years.

Three crossings stand out as most memorable:

– I can still see myself, when I was about 9 or 10 years old, sticking my head out of the rear car window and staring down through the bridge’s open grate at the deep blue-ish green water churning a couple of hundred feet below. I got seasick and Dad had to pull over as soon as we landed in the U.P. so that I could clear my system. Ick.

– In 1976 I drove across the Straits with my Mom during the Labor Day Bridge Walk. Since it was America’s Bicentennial the walkers were dressed in all manner of red, white and blue. I remember a very tall Uncle Sam on stilts gingerly making his way alongside our car.

One of dozens of T-shirt designs available each season

– When Paige was about 2-1/2 years old and Graham was almost 7 we decided to do the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk from St. Ignace in the U.P. to Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula.

Although we had the stroller with us Paige wanted nothing to do with the buggy and I ended up carrying her almost the entire five miles-plus. Exhausting, but the most memorable of the many times we’ve done the yearly pedestrian crossing.

I also remember, as a kid, the annual anticipation as our family headed north across the Mackinac Bridge and, weeks later, the sinking feeling I had as we traveled south after another one of our great visits with our Yooper cousins and relatives in various parts of the U.P. I do believe I still have the indentation in my lower lip from trying to choke back the tears as we rolled southward, high above the waters where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet.

Check out for the bridge’s history, fun facts and a view of the traffic on the webcam. There’s even info on how to get assistance if you’ve got gephyrophobia: a fear of bridges.

Wonder if there’s a word for not wanting to cross the bridge from the Upper to the Lower Peninsula?

Related Link:

Mackinac Bridge Walk, 2011



  1. Wow – Happy Birthday bridge! I’ve only crossed it a few times and never walked it – but every time was a real thrill! My favorite was driving my convertible across, top down, looking up (briefly) at the rigging and then glancing back to the road to be sure I was not aimed over the side! I’m not sure if there’s a term for the feeling you describe, but maybe something along the line of “lowermittenremorseaphilia” ?

  2. I’ve never done it with the top down!
    I think I am afflicted with that philia you describe…

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