"" Writer's Wanderings: Mackinac Island - Clippity Clop

Monday, November 02, 2020

Mackinac Island - Clippity Clop

 It's the rhythm of the clippity clop of horse hoofs on the pavement that makes you want to relax and take life a little easier and slower. But how did the ban on horseless carriages come about? This is Michigan, one of the centers of car manufacturing history.

Horses first came to the island when they were hauling building supplies over the ice from the mainland to build Fort Mackinac in the 1700s. In the 1800s, more people on the island owned horses and businesses began using them to haul goods. In the later part of the 1800s, the horseless carriages began appearing on the island. The noise from these newfangled means of transportation startled the horses and the carriage men of the island petitioned the village council to ban the "dangerous horseless carriages". The ban was enacted July 6, 1898 and has stayed in place ever since. The only motorized vehicles you might see are those that maintain the road and are used in building repairs and of course the emergency vehicles, a fire truck and ambulance. 

An exception to the no-automobile rule was made in 1979 when the movie Somewhere In Time was filmed. A few automobiles were allowed. Residents are also allowed to use snowmobiles in the winter and some golf carts are allowed on the courses only. 

Mackinac Island Carriage Tours is the largest on the island and for that matter is the largest, oldest and continually operating horse and buggy service in the world with over 100 carriages and 400 horses. The majority of horses are on the island only for the tourist season. The rest of the year they spend on farms on the mainland resting up for the next year. 

On their way to the ferry and winter vacation

There is a very interesting story of the history of the five generations of carriage men who have carried on this business on the island. If you'd like to know more go to the Mackinac Island Carriage website here. 

A number of other operations have horses as well including the Grand Hotel that operates their own shuttle service and tours. I read of another place that allows you to rent your own horse and carriage but the idea wasn't appealing to us to follow up on it. 

So when you you visit Mackinac Island you can opt to take a carriage ride, horse drawn taxi, bicycle or hoof it on your own. We chose to explore with a carriage ride on the morning of our first full day. 

Oh and one more thing. While there's not much chance of an automobile accident--the only one recorded was when the door of the fire truck bumped the door of the ambulance--there are other hazards of the road. Watch where you step.

Maybe just one more thing: Horse manure for fertilizer is the #1 export of the island. Really.

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