High above the Straits of Mackinac, in Straits State Park (906/643-8620, state park vehicle permit required), west of I-75 and south of U.S. 2, this open-air site commemorates French explorer and Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette. In the 1660s and ’70s, Marquette paddled through the Great Lakes, founding dozens of cities—including Sault Ste. Marie  and St. Ignace —along the way.
Next, Marquette linked up with Louis Joliet and paddled another several thousand miles, thus becoming the first white explorers of the Mississippi. Walking trails at the Father Marquette National Memorial (www.nps.gov/fama , 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily Memorial Day–Labor Day) feature interpretive signs that discuss Marquette’s Great Lakes travels and the impact that geography had on the area’s settlement.