Favorite Weekend Cruise: Beaver Island - An old Mormon kingdom off the coast of Michigan
We left the hustle and bustle of Charlevoix, Michigan just in time to make the second drawbridge opening of the morning as we pointed the bow towards Beaver Island, an isolated destination about 32 miles offshore in the middle of northern Lake Michigan. There was a thick fog on the inland seas as a light drizzle fell from the gloomy sky. Thanks to our chartplotter, I knew our position and the proper heading to make landfall on the island, but I was weary of the fog without radar. I also knew we were following the approximate route of the Beaver Island passenger ferry, so I raised the ferry captain on the VHF. He confirmed he had us on radar and would give us room when he passed us to port about 30 minutes later.
|The ride over put our foulies to the test|
We arrived safely in St. James Harbor and were reminded by a glance back towards the now missing mainland that the island is the most remote inhabited island of the Great Lakes with a year-round population of just 650 people, largely of Irish decent. After setting our anchor in the shallow harbor, it was time to go ashore for some exploration.
|The lighthouse in St. James Harbor on Beaver Island|
Strang and his disciples fought frequently with the islands other residents. But the fighting came to an end in 1856 when Strang was murdered by two former disciples he'd had flogged when their wives refused to abide by his dress code. Soon after, residents from the other nearby islands drove the remaining Strangites off Beaver Island and confiscated their property. Strang's strange kingdom was no more.
|Dinkin' around on the dinghy in St. James Harbor|
The surrounding archipelago offers more exploration, either by dinghy or mothership. You can watch the action at the gull rookery on High Island or take a hike back to the Native American spirit houses on Garden Island. But no matter your itinerary, the Beaver Island archipelago is a restful classroom for nature and history lessons and should be near the top of the list for freshwater islomaniacs.