Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park showcases old-style technology and natural beauty.

The park, one of the sites of the Mackinac State Historic Parks, is located 3½ miles east of Mackinaw City and open in the summer.

Groups can witness a working water-powered sawmill on the same site where Robert Campbell established such a sawmill in 1790.

Campbell’s sawmill provided sawn lumber for buildings being constructed on Mackinac Island.

Historic Mill Creek
Historic Mill Creek Discovery Center, Mackinaw City, Mich.
Credit: Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park

Dominick Miller, marketing manager for Mackinac State Historic Parks, said Campbell also operated a farm and gristmill. Mill Creek was northern Michigan’s first industrial complex.

The mill ceased operations in 1839 and was largely forgotten. An amateur archaeologist rediscovered the site in the early 1970s and Historic Mill Creek opened in 1984.

The 625-acre park contains more than 3½ miles of groomed trails. Naturalists conduct guided nature hikes and presentations in a forest clearing.

“Many people are impressed by the sheer beauty of the site,” Miller said. “You’re immersed in nature in a matter of footsteps. It’s so different from everything else we offer.”

Active groups can consider the Adventure Tour, which includes a swaying forest canopy bridge, climbing wall and Eagle’s Flight Zip Line.

The parks’ group travel coordinator can customize visits. Tours can focus on natural history or the nuts and bolts of the sawmill operation.

“Mill Creek Discovery Park is a great place to have lunch,” Miller said. “There’s a covered pavilion, and operators can arrange with local restaurants to cater a lunch for a group.”

The visitor center contains exhibits and a gift shop.

Mackinac State Historic Parks is a family of living history museums and parks in northern Michigan. Its Mackinac Island sites include Fort Mackinac, Historic Downtown Mackinac, The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum, and Mackinac Island State Park. Mackinaw City sites include Colonial Michilimackinac, Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park.

“A visit to Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park ties in well our other sites,” Miller said. “They give you a history of the area from pre-European contact to today.”

For more information, call 906-847-3328 (May–September), 231-436-4100 (October–April) or visit mackinacparks.com.