With so much water, whether it’s a small lake, a big lake, or a river, there are bound to be lots of bridges. These are some favorite iconic bridges in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Distance: 294 miles
Time: 5 hours, 17 minutes
Mackinac Bridge, St. Ignace
A driving tour that’s all about bridges wouldn’t be complete without the Mackinac Bridge. This behemoth suspension bridge was erected to connect the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, greatly accelerating travel between the land masses (it used to be ferries). Opening in the 1950s, the Mackinac Bridge has become synonymous with Michigan and Michigan spirit. The bridge, which includes a modest toll in St. Ignace, is five miles long. On one side is Lake Huron. On the other is Lake Michigan. You may catch a glimpse of a Great Lakes freighter cutting its way through the water. At night, hundreds of lights illuminate the towers, which are perpetually in a state of being painted. Make sure to check the Bridge Authority for weather and bridge conditions (https://www.mackinacbridge.org/).
Where to picnic with a view of the bridge: Straits State Park* on Church Street will give you a beautiful view of the Mighty Mac, complete with accessible parking for recreation vehicles. There’s also an observation platform and the Father Marquette national memorial.
Cut River Bridge, Epoufette
Just 25 miles west of St. Ignace on U.S. 2 is the 641-foot long Cut River Bridge. Constructed of green steel beams and girders in the 1940s, this structure passes over the Cut River. Just driving over the Cut River Bridge is an exhilarating experience, one that makes you feel like you’re high above the earth and looking at the landscape below. It’s particularly stunning in the autumn when the trees transform to their fiery shades. You can stop at the rest area to take in the panorama, or even take the 230 steps down to seethe bridge from underneath and access several trails to enjoy the river up close, take in the wildflowers, or even see an owl or songbird. One trail leads you to Lake Michigan. The bridge was renamed the Heath M. Robinson Memorial Cut River Bridge in 2015 in honor of a U.S. Navy Seal who was killed overseas while serving in Afghanistan.
Where to picnic with a view of the bridge: Although there aren’t any picnic tables below, eating riverside within the gorge is the best way to enjoy a view of this stunning bridge from a unique angle. You don’t need to rush off anywhere either. Take your time and meander down a trail.
Portage Canal Lift Bridge, Hancock
Also known as the Houghton Hancock Bridge, this is the only bridge of its type in the state of Michigan. The double deck once catered to train traffic below and highway traffic above. The bridge can also be fully raised, stopping vehicle traffic, but allowing tall or large ships to pass through. With trains more or less out of vogue, the lower deck is frequently used by snowmobilers. The Portage Canal Lift Bridge is one of the most well-known historic bridges in Michigan and definitely deserves a spot on any bridge driving tour.
Where to picnic with a view of the bridge: Porvoo Park is a waterfront park on the Hancock side that’s a favorite for photographers for capturing the complete length of the bridge. There are several benches and a boardwalk.
Eagle River Bridge, Keweenaw
The Upper Peninsula is rich with hardwood and pine forests, so the timber construction of Eagle River Bridge melds perfectly with the natural elements. Set deep in Copper Country near the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, it’s 152 feet long and set 50 feet above Eagle River. The twin arch bridge is aesthetically pleasing, connecting travelers with Lake Superior on one side and a cascading waterfall on the other.
Where to picnic with a view of the bridge: There’s a small park, the Lake Shore Drive Bridge Historical Marker, that has a view of the Eagle River Bridge and as the Eagle River curves south. Take the time to stop and walk around, take in the scenery, and get a little history lesson.
*Note: Due to COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Michigan state parks are closed until June. Please refer to the Michigan DNR website for opening information.