Journey to the Top of the Mackinac Bridge

For a while I’ve been wanting to share one of the greatest views of Michigan, from Michigan’s greatest icon.

Last September I had the rare opportunity to have a tour to the top of the Mackinac Bridge. It was the finale of a year-long 50 state tour, and probably the best finale you could have in Michigan. I was allowed to bring one guest, so I brought my father. These were taken on September 17th, 2007. You can read the full story at my 50-state tour website.

Leave a comment below and Let me know what you think, as a lot of people I’ve shown the photos too told me they wouldn’t be able to handle it.

After meeting our tour guide we were escorted to the south tower of the Mackinac Bridge where we had to cross to the other side of the bridge. There wasn’t much traffic at the time, but I had a feeling they didn’t want me standing in the middle of the bridge for a long time trying to compose the best photo. So I quickly snapped this view.

Mackinac Bridge Lanes

At this point I was introduced to the entrance of the Mackinac Bridge towers. In this next photo you can see a small oval hatch, and yes, it’s as small as it looks. That little hatch is the doorway.

Mackinac Bridge Lanes

This hatch is small. Next time you’re driving over the bridge look closely and you’ll be able to see it as long as you’re not driving too fast. You have to enter carefully, put in one leg, then crouch and tuck your head in, then bring in your other leg. When we exited we were specifically instructed to not step out into moving traffic, as people tend to forget that they’re just a foot away from oncoming traffic over the tiny white bar at ankle height.

Mackinac Bridge Lanes

Once inside you step directly into the elevator shaft that’s as old as the Mackinac Bridge (1957). The elevator is just big enough to fit three men snuggly, while the tour guide is propped up a little hire so we can all fit in. We were squeezed so tight that I didn’t have a room to move around my large camera. The elevator goes as high as the second cross-beam of the tower. At that point you can see down part of the cross beam where you can go through several cubby holes and pick which ladder to climb up.

Mackinac Bridge Lanes

This was our ladder.

Mackinac Bridge Lanes

The ladder continued to the top (notice in the photo above where it says “up!” with an arrow, just in case people don’t figure it out themselves since there is no other way to go) of the Mackinac Bridge, about 30-40 feet climbing straight up this ladder as my camera was strapped over my shoulder it added just enough width to my body that i had to lift it above my shoulders for it to fit through the holes, and my camera would clank off the iron several times on the way up and down. And yes, I hit my head on the steel a couple times as well.

Mackinac Bridge Lanes

Eventually, I made it to the top, where I climbed out of the final cubby hole.

Mackinac Bridge Lanes

There I was, on top of the south tower of the Mackinac Bridge, looking north to the Upper Peninsula with the greatest view I have ever seen in Michigan.

Mackinac Bridge Lanes

I was standing 552 feet above the water. The road itself is 199 feet above the water. At road level it was a littler windier than an average day. That meant at the top it was extremely windy. Our guide educated us on how the middle of the bridge can bow up to 10 feet in either direction. To our untrained eyes we weren’t able to tell, but he was sure to tell us that the bridge was bowing to the west (or to the left in this photo). I was fascinated with the traffic below as I have crossed the bridge dozens and dozens of times, now they looked like little match box cars.

Mackinac Bridge Lanes

My father, our guide, and I stood at the top level for probably 20-30 minutes as we chatted, enjoyed the view, and as I snapped well over 100 photos.

Mackinac Bridge Lanes

I was fortunate to see this last photo published in Issue 14 of JPG Magazine, for their theme titled “Birds-eye View”.

Mackinac Bridge Lanes

In my humble opinion, this is by far the single greatest spot to stand in all of Michigan. If only I had a Yooper Steez shirt at the time to wear to the very top. My bigger wish is that a freighter would be crossing below the bridge just as we were standing at the top. Luck wasn’t with us that day, but going to the top was all I needed.

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