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Photo by Headlands International Dark Sky Park
The Headlands, a beautiful 550-acre park just west of Mackinaw City, is one of six International Dark Sky Parks in the U.S. and one of nine in the world. Named a Dark Sky Park in May 2011, this designation means that The Headlands is a spectacular place for sky and star gazing.
A Dark Sky Park has minimal light interruption from nearby cities or places making it a perfect place to view the skies at night. The approval required a lengthy process by Emmet County, who owns and operates the park. As an official Dark Sky Park, the only one in Michigan, The Headlands must be open at all times and include an educational component about astronomy and maintain park lighting that is minimizes interference with star gazing.
The nation’s other Dark Sky Parks are in Utah, Pennsylvania, Washington, Ohio, and New Mexico.
The Headlands contains two miles of pristine Lake Michigan beaches, rare and endangered plant life, and wild life including bald eagles and osprey. Trails through the park offer the opportunity to view the plant and wild life.
Throughout the year, the Headlands Dark Sky Park hosts night time events such as a Halloween event as well as those to celebrate a lunar eclipse or meteor shower. The Headlands Dark Sky Park already is drawing visitors from around the U.S. who travel to Northern Michigan to observe the sky in such a perfect setting.
The Discover Trail is a 1-mile long paved trail from the Headlands entrance to the designated Dark Sky Viewing Area. It features cultural docents, indigenous artwork, and regional photography that interpret humanity’s relationship to the night sky over the centuries and across a variety of cultures.
Each Discovery Station features a cultural docent or representational artwork, an interpretive display board with text about each planet, and a sign indicating how visitors can access audio components (either via dialing a phone number with your cell phone or using the QR code). The audio is different than the written board text.
The opening sign sets the stage for what visitors will experience when they arrive at the Headlands to participate in the Discovery Trail: “The dark wilderness of endless sky has held wonder for humanity as long as there have been sky and man. Along this 1-mile Dark Sky Discovery Trail, visitors will encounter inspiring people and figures, ‘cultural docents’, and art representations which will explore humanity’s relationship with the cosmos. They will demonstrate how this relationship has impacted the evolution of our culture, from ceremonial and agricultural practices of indigenous tribes to the navigational instruments used by the first Europeans to arrive here.”
It continues, “Indeed, humanity’s striving to understand its place in the cosmos has motivated the highest achievements in architecture, literature, science and the arts.”
Each Discovery Station represents one of the planets, plus Pluto, Moon, and Sun and is a path that leads visitors through cultural understanding and the inter connectedness of people from around the Earth both in ancient times and today.
15675 Headlands Rd, Mackinaw City, MI, 49701
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