Historic Mill Creek State Park

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Historic Mill Creek State Park
Historic Mill Creek State Park is a state park, nature preserve, and historic site in the U.S. state of Michigan. It is run by Mackinac State Historic Parks, the operating arm of the Mackinac Island State Park. 625 acres (2.5 km²) in size, the park is located 5 miles (8 km) southeast of Mackinaw City, Michigan on U.S. Highway 23.

The original sawmill at Mill Creek operated from about 1790 until 1839. It was originally built to supply lumber to the Straits of Mackinac, especially the frontier settlement of Mackinac Island. In 1793 it contracted with Fort Mackinac to make repairs on the soldiers' barracks. The Mill Creek sawmill enjoyed a dominant market share of the supply of cut timbers in the Straits of Mackinac during the fur trade era, and a Millwright's House was built about 1820 near the sawmill to provide a place for the mill operator to live. As global demand for beaver fur declined in the 1830s, the sawmill and Millwright's House were abandoned, following the death of mill owner Michael Dousman. After the sawmill's abandonment in 1839, the original sawmill complex buildings rotted and disappeared. However, timbers cut by the original mill survived in buildings on Mackinac Island ( Mission Church and Mission House built in the 1830s and still there today). Saw marks on these timbers could be used to reconstruct the mill machinery so as to closely resemble the original. The marks gave restoration experts information on the rake of the saw's teeth and the saw's operating speed. The wood is fed into the blade at 1/3 of an inch per stroke, and the infeed motion is powered by the pitman arm that powers the saw's vertical movement.

Mill Creek today
Mackinac State Historic Parks has built the following resources and amenities at Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park:
  • The British Workshop (c. 1820) was rebuilt on the site of the original. It was completed around 1994. Inside are antique wood-working tools. In the summer you can see costumed interpreters using the tools to make shingles, and a variety of other tasks common to the 1820s.
  • The creek dam and sawmill (c. 1790) were rebuilt in 1984; the sawmill was restored in part for the 2007 season.
  • A costumed interpreter performs sawpit and sawmill demonstrations to help visitors understand the cutting techniques of pre-sawmill days as well as how the sawmill itself worked.
  • A naturalist has a talk to help park guests understand the fundamental role that some animal and plant species play in the nearby forested areas that takes place in the forest clearing above the rest of the part. There is a program done by him after the hourly sawpit and sawmill program.
  • The Millwright's House (c. 1820) was rebuilt in 2005.
  • As of 2008 there were 3.5 miles (5.5 km) of nature trails, with a small portion handicap-accessible.
  • An Eagle's Flight Zip Line, Canopy Bridge, and Michigan's first vertical nature trail, a Climbing Wall, comprise the three elements of the brand-new Adventure Tour, which is available for an additional fee of $7.00 per visitor (not included in park ticket).
  • Attached to the Climbing Wall is a Look-Out Tower that is included in the park admission fee.
The Discovery Park is open seasonally from early May to early October. The nature trails are open year-round. An admission fee is charged for the park at $8.00 per adult and $4.75 for children aged 5 - 18, those under four are free. A "Triple Choice" which will let you into Mill Creek and two other of the parks in the Mackinac State Historic Park system is $23.00 for an adult, or $14.00 for a child for the 2009 season. The North Central State Trail serves Historic Mill Creek State Park.