The time traveling machine in Whitehall, Michigan is a smoking deal at only $10 a person. You can experience 10,000 years in just a few hours at the Michigan Heritage Park. The interpreters are hands down the best. Their stores are enchanting. They encourage you to TOUCH the exhibits. You can’t help asking questions. Even the most reluctant family member will enjoy history. The Michigan Heritage Park is a perfect getaway, even when it is raining.
Michigan Heritage Park in Whitehall
Towards the end of our 2017 Michigan Tour, we had a few hours to kill on a rainy afternoon before we met our friends at Fetch Brewing in Whitehall. We nearly didn’t stop because it was raining. We had umbrellas and last I checked, none of us would melt if we got wet. So we stopped for an hour and spent nearly three. The sun was shining when we emerged and definitely more knowledgeable about Michigan’s history.
I’m rather glad it was raining, because we had the park to ourselves. I’m looking forward to a return visit.
A Walk in the Woods
The park is described as an “open air park.” In other words, it is outside. You stroll through the woods on a nicely paved path and interpreters bring the exhibits alive. Before you know it you’ve sashayed through 10,000 years of Michigan history. Your high school history teacher would be proud. The tour starts with the Mastodons. We must have been in a hurry to get to the Native American Village. Sorry, no pictures of Mastodons or the burial mounds in the past, but there are few in the gallery.
Native American Village
The first stop after the burial mounds was the Native American Village or “Wigwam Village”. We met our first interpreter in the village. She was an intrepid soul. She enthusiastically took us on the tour of the gardens and explained how the wigwams were built.
Fur Trader Cabin
Standing near the cabin and behind the stockade wall, you got a taste of how dangerous it was to live in the seventeen hundreds. When the Native Americans came to trade, one person was allowed in the yard at a time.
If I were able to time travel, I’d set the dial for the 1830s. Can you imagine Michigan’s 1830s? The settler’s cabin helps to wet your imagination. The pioneers were making candles and cooking dinner when we arrived. They demonstrated how a nineteenth century roaster was high technology for the time.
If your family history includes a family member who fought in the Civil War, the Civil War Camp provides an opportunity to see how they spent most their time. We even toured the bathroom. I tried not to imagine using it, but you know once you see something, you can’t un-see it.
When we entered the logging shanty, the Monty Python song popped into my head. It got wedged in there and wouldn’t stop.
I’m a lumberjack and I’m Ok.
I sleep all night and I work all day
Now you have it stuck in your head too. You are welcome.
Sadly, between 1840 and 1890, all the virgin timber in Michigan was logged off. This just floors me when I think about it. If the Anishinaabe who lived in the villages around the state were to return, they would not recognize Michigan. Not a fun fact, but there you have it.
The stamp below was used to mark the log-ends before they were sent down the rivers to the saw mills. This way they knew whose logs where whose. It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. Scoundrels would cut off the log-end before they reached the saw mills and replace the previous owners stamp with theirs.
Michigan Farm House
Ready to rumble? Orbie the rooster was definitely ready to protect his hens. Thankfully, he was behind a sturdy fence. Our last stop was a Michigan Farm House from about 1900. Orbie definitely added a bit of authenticity. I could have spent another hour in the farm house. Our interpreter had me sewing and everyone took a turn with the old time view master.
Other Michigan History Hot Spots
We love an adventure, especially if it involves exploring one of Michigan’s hidden gems. If you’ve got a suggestion, please leave a comment! If it involves Michigan History, all the better. Here a few Michigan History escapades we recommend:
- A Tour of Colonial Michilimackinac
- Pioneer Day at the Waterloo Farm Museum
- Detroit Historical Museum
- Haunted Detroit Tour
We have more photos of the tour in our gallery. Please enjoy them, but if you share, we’d like a photo credit.
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