This is one of the first signs of spring's return to Mackinac Island! Each year hundreds of horses arrive by the ferry load as the island prepares for the upcoming tourist season. Beginning in April, up to 600 Percheron and Belgian draft, Hackney, and grade horses are transported each year from the Pickford area in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to the famously automobile-free island, as they are one of the town's main modes of transportation.

Now that the ice in the lakes has started to break apart and melt, the great migration is now underway! Though only a small portion of the horses have arrived thus far, the teams are typically fully stocked by late June and early May.

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What Happens to the Horses in Winter?

Because it is easier to move the horses back to the mainland rather than constantly brave the choppy wintery waters to transport feed to the island, most of the horses go back to the Pickford area during the off-season months. However, it's necessary that a few horses remain on the island in the winter, typically 16-18 horses remain to transport freight and transport residents throughout the off-season.

What Do the Horses Do?

In addition to acting as a taxi service to guests and residents, the Mackinac Island horses deliver packages, transport tour groups, collect mail, and haul anything that can't be carried on a bike! The horses typically work 6-8 hour days as carriage horses or 2-6 hours as saddle horses.

How Much Does it Cost?

A horse drawn taxi ride on Mackinac Island can range from $7-$9.50 per person depending on your destination. Unlike the typical taxi cabs we are familiar with, these horse drawn taxis cannot be hailed and instead you must call dispatch to schedule your ride. Taxi drivers only accept cash at this time, but there are plenty of ATMs on the island. If you wish to schedule a private carriage tour of the island, a tour with Gough Carriages starts at $180 per hour for a group of up to 4 people. You can even rent and drive your own carriage or rent a horse too! More details here.

That's a Lot of Manure, Right?

The official Mackinac Island website says, "Mackinac Island streets are cleaned continuously, with workers using water to flush the streets after hours." The poop or, road apples, are then scooped up and dumped into a wheel cart by the carriage tour employees. The manure is then composted by the City of Mackinac Island. Phew!

Don't Call Yourself A Yooper Unless You've Been To These Michigan Upper Peninsula Places

It can almost be looked at as a different state entirely, while encompassing everything beautiful about Michigan. There are some spots that are truly breathtaking, and if you've never planned a trip to the upper peninsula, make sure you're comfortable with long drives.