Arch Rock, Mackinac Island, Michigan, a Natural Limestone Formation and Source of Myth Overlooking the Straits of Mackinac



Arch Rock is a natural limestone formation on the shoreline of Lake Huron that stands 146 above the water. The arch is believed to have formed during the Nipissing post-glacial period, when water levels in Lake Huron were high following the end of the glaciation in Wisconsin. The limestone breccia formation is quite rare in the Great Lakes region, although it is one of several such formations on Mackinac Island that include Sugar Loaf and Skull Cave.

To the Native American Ottawa people, the rock is a source of legend and superstition, due in part because the rock appears from certain angles to be suspended in the air. One such legend attempts to explain the rock's mythical nature via an angry Master of Life.

As the story goes, an Ottawa chieftain committed an act so shameful that the Master of Life was deeply offended by it. As the Ottawa people stood gazing at the sun one day, it changed to the color of blood and then plummeted from the sky. When the sun reached the earth, it crashed into the eastern shore of Mackinac Island with a terrifying sound.

Once the frightened people dared to look upon the sight, it appeared as though the sun had hollowed out some of the rocks so as to form an arch, suspended above the lake. That may be why the arch is believed to be a bridge over which departed souls pass on the way to their final resting place. Even today, the bravest of the Ottawa people will not walk over it or even dare come near it.

Early Euro-American settlers did not share in such superstitious beliefs, but did treat the arch as something to be admired. Its presence was a key factor in the decision to create the Mackinac Island National Park in 1875, and its successor, Mackinac Island State Park, twenty years later. Arch Rock has been a focus of Mackinac Island tourism ever since.

The Arch is reachable by taking Arch Rock Road, a dedicated road that leads from Fort Mackinac to the eastern shore of the island where the rock formation is found. The rock faces eastward overlooking the Straits of Mackinac, providing for some beautiful photo opportunities.

For those desiring to get closer to the rock formation, a wooden stairway was built from the Lakeshore Road leading to the rock formation. And there are also a number of more rural trails that make their way across the island to Arch Rock.

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