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Belle Isle Park is now a State of Michigan Park

Under a 30-year lease agreement signed by the City of Detroit, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources manages the island park,  while the City maintains ownership of the park.   Belle Isle, a 982-acre island, officially became a state park on February 10, 2014. 

One of the first changes Detroit residents and others will see is an $11 annual fee, which allows entry into all state parks.  The fee will be gradually phased in during the first year of state management of Belle Isle.

Individuals who walk, bike or jog to the island will not have to pay the entry fee.

For information on shelter reservation, park rules and regulations, etc... please contact:

 State of Michigan
 Department of Natural  Resource
 Phone: (313) 396-0217

 or visit their website: State of Michigan - Department of Natural Resources

Belle Isle Facts & History

Whether your interests lie in nature, physical fitness, history, architecture, botany or athletics, you'll make fascinating new discoveries on Belle Isle. Come alone or bring your whole group...there's definitely something for everyone. Admission, and most of the park's attractions are free.
No visit to Detroit is too short to enjoy the splendor of historic Belle Isle, the crown jewel of Detroit's public park system. Located close to the hub of downtown, travel time to Belle Isle by car or bus is about five minutes.
Once on the island, you may get about by car or take a leisurely walk along the many miles of trails, paths and roadways that connect all of Belle Isle's points of interest. The island is situated on America's busiest inland waterway and provides spectacular views of Detroit, Canada, freighter traffic and the Ambassador Bridge.
Detroit's city fathers purchased the 983-acre island in 1879 for $200,000, against the opposition of those who thought the price was too high. They elected to retain the name Belle Isle (beautiful island) by which the property was popularly known. In 1883, the designer of New York City's Central park, Frederick Law Olmstead, created the master plan for Belle Isle's transformation. By 1889, visitors could enjoy the park via the islands' first wooden bridge. Olmstead also helped select Cass Gilbert's design for the mammoth Scott Fountain, chosen over 93 other entries in a nationwide competition. Among Gilbert's other achievements was the design of the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. Between 1903 and 1930, the Casino, the Whitcomb Conservatory, and Livingstone Lighthouse were designed by Albert Kahn, who was also selected for the General Motors and Fisher Buildings. The nearly half mile-long bridge that takes you to Belle Isle today was originally constructed in 1923 and a meticulous renovation was completed in 1986. In 1942, the bridge was renamed after General Douglas MacArthur. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
85-foot carillon tower, dedicated to the newspaper columnist who raised most of the building fund from her readers. Computer automated performances.
Gambling? No. Available for rent .
World's largest collection of scale-model Great Lakes ships, maritime memorabilia and special hands-on exhibits. Saturday and Sunday, 11 am - 4 pm, Year Round. Call for information (313) 628-4050
An eccentric gambler James Scott, bequeathed his entire fortune for this huge, carved white marble fountain. Worth every penny. Colored light and water shows presented from dusk till 11 p.m. Fountain operated daily, Memorial Day - Late September.
Patterned after Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, permanent displays of cacti, ferns, palms and one of the largest collections of orchids in the country. Available for Weddings 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily, including holidays.
Belle Isle Aquarium is open every Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. View 118 species, more than 1,000 fish and an extensive collection of Belle Isle memoriabilia in the oldest aquarium in the United States. Free admission and parking
Calling all Kids! Come play on the newly renovated playscape that assures safety standards and accessible play equipment for the physically challenged.
Giant floral clock entryway • 200-acre woodlands • Fishing piers and bulkheads • Bicycle and nature trails • Handball/racquetball/basketball • Chip-N-Putt Family Golf Center • Driving range/putting greens • Nine baseball diamonds • Ten lighted tennis courts • Cinder running track • Half-mile swimming beach • Historical monuments • Picnic shelters • World Cup Soccer Field • Kid's Kingdom Playscape • Paddle Boats • Peace and quiet...
Sledding • 30-foot ice sculpture • ducks to feed and love • The Conservatory, is open year-round..
1768: King George grants McDougall ownership of Hog Island; cost: 194 pounds sterling
1771: Geographic survey establishes the island's size to be 704 acres
1773: Census: 200 farm animals; 5 people
1783: Treaty of Paris ends the Revolutionary War; Hog Island becomes American territory
1794: William Macomb purchase Hog Island from McDougall's heirs for 813 pounds sterling
1811: Patent certifies Macomb's ownership. Son David becomes sole owner
1817: David Macomb sells the island to Barnabas Campau for $5,000 1832: Campau's ownership confirmed by patent signed by President Andrew Jackson
1840: Ferry boat service to the island starts
1845: Hog Island becomes Belle Isle 1851: Summer resort opens on Belle Isle
1879: The City of Detroit purchases Belle Isle for $180,000
1880: Lighthouse is built on the east end of the island
1881: Frederick Law Olmstead hired to develop a plan for the island
1883: Construction of the Loop Canal begins
1884: Marsh run canal is built
1885: Olmstead resigns though his plan is accepted by Detroit City Council
1887: First Casino is completed Tacoma Lake is formed. First canoe shelter.1889: First Belle Isle Bridge opens. Lake Okonoko is formed.
1890: Nashua Creek is completed
1892: Newsboy Fountain and Sculpture is completed
1893: Police Station is built. Muskoday Lake is formed.
1894: Riding stables are built. Fire destroys Detroit Boat Club. Pony ride concession opens.
1895: Deer park created and populated. Belle Isle Zoo is established.
1897: Newsboy fountain is erected.
1899: Athletic Field House is completed. Bicycle shelter is built
1903: First greenhouse is built
1904: Aquarium and Conservatory open. Current Casino is built.
1910: Sylvan Creek completed.
1912: Ferry Dock built near beach area
1915: Scott Fountain and lagoon area created using fill from downtown construction sites
1916: Bridge burns down. Temporary bridge installed.
1922: Golf course is built
1923: MacArthur Bridge is completed
1924: Detroit News Nature Trail completed
1925: Scott Fountain completed
1930: Livingston Lighthouse erected. Blue Lagoon completed
1937: Lagoon by casino is filled in. Levi Barbour Fountain completed
1940: Nancy Brown Carillon installed
1947: Children's Zoo is established.
1950: Skating Pavilion opens
1952: Flood Control Project completed
1955: Conservatory reconstructed
1957: Last ferry boat to Belle Isle
1960: Dossin Great Lakes Museum completed
1964: New canoe livery opens. Construction begins on maintenance building
1967: Bicycle trail on island's east side opens
1976: Kiley Plan adopted by Detroit Common Council
1980: Nature Center completed
1982: White House restored. Kresge Promenade begins
1987: Reconstructed bridge dedicated.
2001: Hug Belle Isle Cleanup program begins.
2005: New Giant Slide Opens
2006: Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory receives renovations
2007: Grand Prix returns to Belle Isle.