It was suggested that if I were to have another day where I could think of nothing to write about, I could write about Beaver Island.
Today is that day.
Though there are many wonderful and interesting things to tell about this place, first and foremost, Beaver Island is my home.
My father was raised here, as were his parents.
In Lapeer, Michigan, where I grew up, we often had visitors from Beaver Island. Those visits were full of laughter, stories and reminiscing, and always put Dad in a cheery mood. We knew from a young age that Beaver Island was a special place.
We came here on vacation when I was a child. We roamed the fields, climbed the trees and played in the barn at the farmhouse where my father had grown up. We spent long days on the beaches, then snuggled under warm quilts in the big iron beds at night. When vacation was over and we boarded the ferry to begin our long trip home, I was the kid hanging over the rail, sobbing, because I couldn’t bear to leave.
When I was able to come here to live, I did.
Beaver Island is the largest of the islands in Lake Michigan. It is about four times the size of Mackinac Island, which sits over in Lake Huron, and quite a bit more remote. As the crow flies, we are about ten miles from the mainland, whether the shores of the Upper Peninsula or Cross Village in the Lower Peninsula. Transportation to the island – either by boat or small plane – comes from Charlevoix, about thirty-two miles away. The ferry ride is two hours long!
Beaver Island has about five hundred year-round residents, and about triple that number in the warm seasons.
When my Dad was growing up here, the main industries were Fishing, Farming and Logging. That changed drastically just after World War II. The fishing industry fell off, I think in part due to the introduction of the Lamprey eel. The last of the virgin timber had been logged and hauled away. Shipping rates made profitable farming nearly impossible. In addition, the G.I. Bill created a lot of opportunities elsewhere. Between 1940 and 1950, the population dropped from possibly about two thousand residents to barely one hundred fifty.
Today, there is some logging going on here, as well as fishing, farming and building. We have teachers and medical personnel, electricians, plumbers and carpenters. Tourism is our main industry, though, and the bulk of jobs are in the shops, pubs and restaurants that cater to them.
Winters are long and lonely and cold; Summers are so busy there is little time left to enjoy all the wonders here. Wages are often lower, and the cost of living higher than in most other areas.
When I answer questions that, “Yes, I live here year-round,” and, “Yes, I love it,” I often also add, “I have several brothers and sisters that think I’m crazy to want to be here all year…”
It is certainly not a place or a lifestyle that is for everyone.
Speaking only for myself, Beaver Island suits me just fine.