Location: St. Ignace, Michigan
Webpage: National Park
General Description: The Father Marquette National Memorial is part of Straits State Park near St. Ignace, Michigan. The Memorial is no more than an open air Visitor Center where you learn about the history of Father Marquette. Jacques Marquette was born in France in 1637 and became a missionary in the 1650s in Quebec which at that time was part of New France. In 1671, he left Sault St. Marie to found his own mission among the fur trappers and native Indians at St. Ignace located on the straits between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. As a colonizing power, France was interested in exploring and mapping the central regions of what is today the United States with the hope of finding a water route to California. In 1672 he joined with Louis Jolliet, who led the expedition south along the Mississippi River. They traveled south to the Arkansas River before turning back north as it had become obvious the route was not going to head west as they had hoped. To continue any further south would have put them into territory controlled by Spain at the time. Since Jolliet’s journals were damaged and/or lost during the expedition, the only records that survived are the journals of Father Marquette. Within these journals and maps are notes about the native Indians that were invaluable to later explorers and historians. Father Marquette is credited with being the first European to explore the Mississippi River. Father Marquette died only a few years after the expedition, in 1675, near Ludington on Lake Michigan. While originally buried there, his remains were later moved to his mission in St. Ignace.
1) There is really not very much to see and do at the Father Marquette National Memorial. The entire memorial consists of a single open air structure with some nice exhibits and an audio program about his life and accomplishments.
2) In addition to the memorial there is a short hiking trail with interpretive signs about the Indian culture, as well as, trees along the path. There are also a couple of nice overlooks of the Mackinac Bridge from the Upper Peninsula.