30+ Super Interesting Mackinac Bridge Facts

The Mackinac Bridge is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world.
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Calling all budding engineers, we've compiled a list of amazing facts about the Mackinac Bridge, one of the longest suspension bridges in the world.

The Mackinac Bridge, Michigan (also known as the Mighty Mac), is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere. It connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan, the only state with two peninsulas in the US.

Think the Mackinac is the only bridge in Michigan? Think again! Michigan is home to 11,145 bridges but this Lake Michigan bridge, the Mackinac, is the grandest and most iconic of all the bridges in Michigan.

On November 1, 1957 this bridge, one of the world's longest suspension bridges, was declared open. Suspension bridges are usually ranked by length according to their main span length, this being the length between the bridge's towers. So even though the Mackinac is the longest suspension bridge in the world by total length, it actually ranks as the 24th longest suspension bridge in the world by main span length. By main span length it ranks third longest in the United States.

For more incredible facts about the Mackinac Bridge read on to find out all about this spectacular bridge across Lake Michigan, who knows what you might learn?

If you enjoy this article then why not check out our fun facts about North Carolina and our funny facts about Kentucky to learn more about amazing places in the USA?

Facts About The Mackinac Bridge

The Mackinac Bridge is lit up at night.

Find out all about the history of the Mackinac Bridge and what makes it so unique today.

1. The Mackinac Bridge is famous for being the world's 24th longest suspension bridge.

2. The total length of the Mackinac Bridge is 26 372 feet, that's an incredible five miles long!

3. The bridge opened on November 1, 1957.

4. The bridge has two affectionate nicknames inspired by its size, Mighty Mac and Big Mac.

5. The bridge stretches between Mackinaw City on one side and St Ignace, Michigan, on the other. Before the bridge was built, St Ignace and Mackinaw City were only connected by ferry.

6. The water below the bridge is called the Straits of Mackinac. The main strait runs under the bridge and connects the two great lakes, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The Straits of Mackinac have intense currents so swimming here is a definite no-no! The strait that flows under the bridge is 18,480 feet wide, or three and half miles.

7. The Mackinac Bridge towers reach a soaring 554 feet above the water.

8. The water under the Mackinac Bridge is up to 295 feet deep at the bridge's midpoint.

9. Around 42,000 miles of wire were used to build the main bridge cables.

10. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is 200 feet taller than the Mackinac Bridge. It is also 20 feet higher from the water than the Michigan Big Mac. However, the Mackinac is far longer than the Golden Gate bridge, which is only about 1.7 miles long compared to the Mackinac's total length of five miles.

11. Some parts of the Mackinac Bridge can actually move up to 35 feet in severe weather conditions as the bridge is designed to move slightly with the wind. All suspension bridges are designed to move slightly and this prevents parts snapping and cracking in extreme weather. Bridges also often bounce up and down slightly when traffic goes over them and sway side to side in strong winds.

12. Gephyrophobia is the term used to describe a phobia of crossing bridges. The Mackinac Bridge offers a service where people suffering from gephyrophobia can have their vehicles driven across the bridge for free. The service is used by over a thousand visitors each year. A driver from the Mackinac Drivers Assistance Program will drive the person's car over the bridge for them, while they can sit back and relax!

13. Crossing the Mackinac Bridge by foot is an annual tradition dating back to 1958, and the Mackinac Bridge Walk has been held every year since then on Labor Day. The Mackinac Bridge Walk starts in St Ignace and ends in Mackinaw City. The bridge walk can only be done on this day, with the bridge inaccessible to pedestrians the rest of the year.

14. There is no bridge to Mackinac Island. This means that the Big Mac isn't a Mackinac Island bridge, as the island can only be reached by boat or by air. The island is a tourist hotspot where motorized vehicles are banned, with the exception of emergency service vehicles and snowmobiles in winter.

15. One of the most interesting facts about Mackinac Island is that the Anishinabe Native Americans named it Mishimikinaak, meaning "big turtle". This is where the name Mackinac comes from!

16. The Mackinac Bridge in winter undergoes a great deal of stress physically as the lakes freeze and giant icebergs form, putting pressure on the supporting structure. However, the bridge is so well constructed that it can cope perfectly!

17.  Around 11,608 vehicles cross the great Mackinac Bridge every day.

18. Painting the bridge usually takes around seven years, and once the painting job is finished it begins all over again! The current project however, began 21 years ago and is still unfinished because all the lead based paint previously used to paint the bridge has to be removed entirely before painting it anew.

19.  The Mackinac Bridge is a toll bridge on the Interstate 75 freeway. This means you have to pay a small fee in order to cross the bridge by vehicle.

Watersports are popular near the Mackinac Bridge.

Facts About Building The Mackinac Bridge

Read on to discover the most interesting construction facts about Mackinac Bridge.

20. The Mackinac Bridge was designed by David B. Steinman, an American civil engineer from New York. He also designed several other famous bridges in different countries. He was considered one of the greatest bridge builders in the USA during his lifetime.

21. Steinman was heavily influenced in his designing of the bridge by the lessons learnt from the 1940 collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The Tacoma was unable to withstand high winds so the Mackinac designer made sure to construct the new bridge in a way that would make it completely stable in up to 150 mile per hour winds.

22. The construction of the Mighty Mac took 48 months to complete.

23. It took more than 3,500 workers to build the Mackinac bridge.

24. It was a pretty expensive project, costing $99,800,000 dollars to complete.

25. Tragically, five men died building the Mackinac bridge in the '50s. Two of these were workers who fell to their deaths on their first day on the job when a walkaway near the top of the North Tower collapsed.

26. The men who unfortunately died building the bridge are all remembered by a plaque on the northern end of the bridge.

27. Michigan's rich mineral and timber resources drew many visitors during the 19th century and the region began to attract a lot of vehicles. In 1881 a car ferry service was established to enable travellers to cross from one peninsula to another.

28. At the peak of its service, nine ferries would transport over 9000 vehicles a day across the Mackinaw straits. Traffic jams up 16 miles long would build up at peak periods.

29. The idea of building a bridge across the straits was first suggested in 1928. Construction began in 1954 and took three and a half years in total to complete.

30. The ferry service was discontinued the day the Mackinac bridge opened.

31. It used to take five hours in total to cross the water by boat. In contrast, it now only takes between five and seven minutes to cross the Mackinac Bridge by car!

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully curated lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our  interesting Mackinac Bridge facts and are keen to learn more about amazing places around the world, then why not take a look at our top fun facts about Oregon, or our Iceberg Alley facts?

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