Power Island in West Grand Traverse Bay in Northern Michigan. The island is owned by Grand Traverse County and offers many recreational activities. There is a boat dock, picnic area, trail system, sandy beaches, and rustic camping. Basset Island is connected to Power Island via an isthmus.
The islands are a popular destination for boaters, kayakers, and nature enthusiasts. There are opportunities for wildlife viewing, fishing, and exploring the natural beauty of the area. The trails lead visitors through wooded areas and along the shoreline, providing scenic views of the surrounding waters. Trail Map
The 200-acre Power Island has over five miles of hiking trails and over three miles of waterfront. There are a total of 15 rustic campsites on both islands. Power Island has 10 and Bassett has 5. All campsites have fire pits, picnic tables, cooking grills.
The only drinking water available is on Power Island about a mile from campsites on Bassett Island. Both islands have maintained restrooms. Pets are allowed but must be leashed and under control at all times. There are not any trash facilities on the island, guests are expected to take their trash with them when they leave the island.
There are not any boat services to the island. You either need to have a boat, know somebody with a boat or hire a boat to visit the island. It is too far to swim from the mainland. Power Island is about 6.5 miles from Clinch Park Marina and about 3.5 miles from Bower Harbor Marina.
History of Power Island
Power Island has an interesting history starting with the first recorded mention by Andrew Blackbird in the late 1800’s. Blackbird (1814-1980) was an Odawa tribe leader and historian. He wrote that the island was originally an Odawa territory but was given to the Ojibwe to settle a conflict.
In 1850 the Island was called Island No. 10 on the official maps. The island was surveyed by Orange Risdon in 1852 who described it as “handsomely situated for a retired farm”. The first European resident of the island was a man named McKinley Wilson. He only stayed on the island for two years.
The island was visited by James (self-proclaimed “King of Beaver Island”) in 1854 and noted the island was large enough for a settlement. After Strang’s death, several Mormons from Beaver Island moved to Bowers Harbor. This was the nearest settlement to the Island.
Before it was Marion Island
As more people visited the island became known as Hawk Island or Eagle Island because of the number of bald eagles and crows that lived on the island.
The United States Government renamed the island Harbor Island in the 1860’s. Later hogs were taken from the mainland to the island to eat the vegetation and locals began calling it Hog Island.
I have heard it referred to as Round Island and Bowers Island as well.
In 1872 the Island was renamed Marion Island after the Hall family purchased the island. The Hall family of Ionia disliked the name Hog Island and chose to name it after their daughter Marion. Marion became the owner herself at the age of 38.
Henry Ford changed the name to Ford Island in 1917 after purchasing the island from Marion Hall. This was a vacation spot for Ford and his friends. It is reported that Harvey Firestone, Thomas Edison, Babe Ruth, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, and Theodore Roosevelt were all visitors to the island. Of course many of the visitors were prominent men in the auto industry.
In 1944 the Rennie’s of the Rennie Oil Company bought the island and renamed it Rennie Island. Many locals still refer to it as Marion Island.
In the 1970s developers were looking at the island for a community of private cottages. The local chamber representatives and residents banded together to save the island and keep it for public use. Eugene and Sayde Power contributed $250,000 and the U.S.D.A. Soil Conservation Service match it and the island was acquired by the Nature Conservancy.
Grand Traverse County was given the island in 1975 and in 1987 the county renamed the island Power Island by resolution to recognize the gift the Power family gave.
Today there are only 2 residents of the island, and they are seasonal. The ranger, Fred Tank and his wife, Tina stay on the island during the summer month to assist guests and campers. They have been the summer keepers of the island since 1985. They lived on the island from Memorial Day to around the middle of October along with their children.
Much has changed in the 30 years Fred and his wife have been on the island. Although there is still no indoor plumbing their cabin does have electricity thanks to solar power. They have a generator, and they use propane for cooking and the refrigerator.
Their children are grown and now visit them on the island every summer with their own children.
Basset Island is connected to Power Island during lower lake levels by an isthmus. The island had been known as Squaw Island and the Island of Dread. The latter is reference to a local myth about it being haunted by a Native American spirit.
In the early 1900s steamships would bring people to Bassett island to dance and party. There was a two-story dance pavilion that was built on this small island.
Private Islands in West Grand Traverse Bay
There are a two other islands in West Grand Traverse in the same area. Both are private islands that are not accessible to the public.
- Bowers Harbor Island is located near the northern tip of Old Mission Peninsula, Bowers Harbor Island is a small uninhabited island.
- Neahtawanta Island is situated south of Old Mission Peninsula. It is a privately owned island that has a conservation easement in place to protect its natural state. The island is closed to the public.