Cecil Bay Park
Cecil Bay is at the Northern tip of Emmet County, at the mouth of the Carp River and several miles southwest of downtown Mackinaw City. The park consists of 800 acres and 1+ mile of shoreline on Lake Michigan that offers fishing at the Carp River, a boardwalk, and sandy beach for swimming in Lake Michigan.
Directions: From I-75, head west on Central Avenue, then south on Wilderness Park Dr. Cecil Bay is located near the intersection of Cecil Bay Road and Wilderness Park Dr.
History of Cecil Bay
In the late 1800s, Cecil Bay was not the quiet, secluded park it is today. Instead, it was a bustling lumber community.
One of the prominent loggers of the time was William Oneal. A pioneer lumberman in Northern Michigan, the record of his career has an important place in the development of Emmet County at the time when lumber interests were clearing away the wildneress of Michigan.
At age 16, he began his lumbering career, heading into the woods around Saginaw to peel logs and later to oversee a logging camp there owned by Arthur Hill. Eventually he became foreman for A.T. Bliss the former governor of Michigan.
During this time, he became the first man in the state to introduce the use of the cross-cut saw in felling trees, instead of the old method of chopping.
In May 1879, Oneal transferred the scene of his operations to Emmet County and for 10 years had charge of the William Callam lumber business. He was the pioneer on Cecil Bay and among the first in all of Northern Michigan.
His work comprised of the removal of 10,000 acres of timber along the Carp River.
For two years he headed a lumber business in Pellston, and had made a home in Bliss with his wife and family. He went back to work for the Cecil Bay Lumber Company, and four or five years later he acquired 1500 acres of his own land.
The farm in Bliss Township and Cecil Bay had become prosperous communities largely through his efforts. In Oct. 1890, he bought the Park Hotel in Petoskey and became a community leader on city council and the school board.
Two of the most well-known shipwrecks off Cecil Bay are the Eber Ward and the Sandusky (pictured).
To hear more about this historic wrecks, listen to the audio files below.
Straits of Mackinac Underwater Preserve
The Straits area and Lake Michigan, on Emmet County’s western border, are known as a graveyard for schooners, steamers and even modern freighters that met their doom in or near the narrow passage between the two peninsulas. Sport divers now enjoy one of the finest collections of shipwrecks in the world where the cool, fresh water of the Great Lakes preserves shipwrecks for centuries.
Some shipwrecks have been located but are still unidentified. There are at least 40 major shipwrecks yet to be discovered in the area. There are estimated to be several hundred shipwrecks throughout the waters surrounding Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.