Beaver Island, the largest island on Lake Michigan, is known as America’s Emerald Isle. While bigger than Mackinac, Beaver Island is a much smaller community. With many inland lakes, nature is a big draw on Beaver Island.
For our day on Beaver Island, we decided to take one of the guided tours offered by the ferry company. We chose the 3 hour tour that took us around the whole island. I was glad we opted for the longer tour because it gave us a better feel for the island if we ever came back for a longer stay. Of course, we also learned a lot of the island’s history.
In the mid-1800’s, Mormon leader James Jesse Strang formed a colony on Beaver Island. Over 8 years, Mormon population on the island grew and Strang crowned himself king and was the only American king in history. In 1856 Strang was assassinated on the island and the remaining Mormons were forced to leave. “The Mormons cleared and cultivated the ground, built roads and houses, and changed the Island from a wilderness to a moderate outpost of civilization. But fate conspired to keep them from reaping the benefits of their toil” (beaverisland.net). Our tour guide explained to us that if you see apple trees and lilac trees while driving around the island, you know that spot was settled by the Mormons.
After the Mormon exile, people began emigrating to the island from Ireland to fish. By the 1880s, Beaver Island became the largest supplier of fresh water fish in the world. Unfortunately, due to overfishing, by the 1890s, the harvest was cut in half and Beaver Island lost their monopoly. In the 1900s, logging was the largest industry on the island and a railroad was built to transport the lumber to the bay where ships could pick it up and transport it to Chicago and Detroit.
If you have extra time in the Charlevoix area, I recommend taking the ferry over to Beaver Island. Its a very low key, relaxed community with a focus on nature. I think I would like to return some time when we have more time to enjoy it!
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