Mackinaw City Railroad Dock (side 1, marker #707)Before the Mackinac Bridge opened in 1957, ships were the only means of connecting Michigan's peninsulas. During the 1870s, small sailing vessels served as ferries. Steamboats took over when the Michigan Central Railroad reached Mackinaw in 1881. The creation of the railroad car ferry system and the construction of this dock and one like it in St. Ignace enabled ferries to shuttle rail cars across the Straits of Mackinac year-round. The A-frame adjusted the height of the tracks to match the decks of the ships. Upper Peninsula copper and iron ore were the main cargo. The ice-breaking ferry Chief Wawatam was unique for loading cars through the bow. It ceased operations in 1984 and the tracks were removed in 1991.
USCG Cutter Mackinaw WAGB 83 (side 2, marker #708)Built in 1944 at a cost of $10 million, U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw had six ten-cylinder engines that enabled it to cut through several feet of lake ice. The powerful steel icebreaker was commissioned during World War II to aid year round navigation so freighters could carry raw materials for war production. For sixty-two years Mackinaw left its home port of Cheboygan to open or extend the navigation season, clear the shipping
lanes, or free vessels that were stuck in the ice. Mackinaw was unsurpassed in size and capability among icebreakers. When the coast guard decommissioned the vessel in 2006, it was moved to Mackinaw City and given to the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum.
Michigan Historical Commission - Michigan Historical CenterRegistered State Site No. 707 & No. 708, 2008This marker is the property of the state of Michigan.