After a recent inspection I noticed some of the trails look better, but I determined the bridges are still not especially safe.  Perhaps they're still on the to-do list. Use caution.

The Author









The Scott Fountain has been the mainstay of Belle Isle's attractions surviving years of abuse and neglect and the lack of maintenance funds.  A few years ago a scrapper stole the critical copper piping from the plumbing system leaving the fountain inactive for several seasons.  The same occurred Downtown at Hart Plaza's Dodge Fountain.

But that was not the only problem.  No one knew how to operate the fountain and there were no surviving manuals.  One man explored the environs below that were encased in concrete, meticulously testing the valves and connections at the fountain base until he was able to restore the operation by trial and error.  The fountain and all its working parts have been activated.



(The Author's Theory and Interpretation.)

Figures near the top of the monument seem to portray Neptune sending messenger boys on porpoises. Theirs could be ebullient and raucous or deliberate and serious messages.  Boys on porpoises sometimes indicated the swiftness of love overtaking good sense.  (Is Neptune shouting admonitions?)

The lions may be guarding an island

of tradition in a sea of indulgence.  

According to one source these figures are the Palatine lions of Rome inspired by more ancient Egyptian sculpture. Similar lion sculptures are found in Ireland and Holland. (They appear sphinx-like in their manner of display.) The turtles may be receiving instructions

or they may be symbols of good fortune and longevity whose advice is frittered away.  (Note the frogs facing each.)

Perhaps, in part, this is sculptor, Herbert Adam's way of tweaking the final bequest of benefactor James Scott in a parody of new ways vs. old ways from a play by Aristophanes, The Frogs.

Scott wanted his statue placed at the top of the fountain, a literal monument to his ego. He was a man who threw his financial weight around, often threatening lawsuits while pursuing the life of a playboy. 

Surrounded by cornucopia with sea horses effusing a life of plenty -- perhaps we're shown how wealth might be squandered by ignoring the tradition and values of the old ways.

√Rec If you remembered to bring your swim suit, there's a half-mile sand bathing beach that covers the north side of the island.  The beach is popular with members of the Detroit Yacht Club next door.  (Beach is open Memorial Day through Labor Day and available to everyone.)

Trail Near Shore and Lagoon; View toward Canada, lake St. Clair and Peche Island

The estuary provides direct access to canoeists who can readily paddle their way to the Lagoon from the river.  Some day the entire island will be accessible by canoe or kayak just as it once was in the 1960’s.  Some areas of the island river network have already re-opened. 

The new “naturalized” landscape offers an expanded horizon view east that merges with the Detroit River naturally.


New Bridge, Spawning Area and Estuary connecting Blue Heron Lagoon to Detroit River

Blue Heron Lagoon Mute Swans and Kingfisher

Blue Heron Lagoon from Road

Belle Isle Muskrat swimming to its Den

General Alpheus Starkey Williams Scupture,1921

Newer Nature Zoo (left) and Remnants of Old Zoo (right)


ATTRACTIONS On any summer weekend the island is filled with barbecues, family reunions, people watching the giant freighters go by, and even occasional Cricket matches.  (A picnic is recommended since there are endless opportunities for viewing on the coastline.  Several venues are expected to open offering good food options since the state takeover in 2014.)

Brief Overview 

When you enter the island from MacArthur Bridge at East Grand Boulevard, you pass a large floral clock and some of the world's oldest clubs. 

Floral Clock in Full Flower

Or choose the elegant option by dining at the Rattlesnake Club on historic Joseph Campau a half-mile west near the RiverWalk or several other bistros on the same street. They Say is also recommended.

​​​​On your approach to the island from the west and north there are several restaurant options within a mile of the entrance, including the pedestrian but quick IHOP, Wendy's, Church's Chicken, Tim Horton's or Pekin Pavilion near the Belle Isle bridge.

​​The great Chief Sleeping Bear brought his daughter to the place between the waters.  He labored long to hide her from the many troublesome suitors who sought her favor and to see her radiant beauty.  One day the Chief began to cover her in a boat on the river where she would be hidden.  But when the Winds saw her beauty they blew the cover away, driving the boat far down the river.  The boat came upon the Keeper of the Water Gate who saw the maiden’s great beauty and took her to his dwelling.  The Winds were so angered they fiercely abraded the man until he was dead.  Upon seeing him, the chief was very grateful to the Winds.  But the Winds begged the chief to promise he would never hide his daughter’s beauty again.  So the chief beseeched the Great Spirit for her protection and took her to the island.  There the Great Spirit transformed his daughter into a beautiful white doe, and surrounded her with snakes so that she could run among the Winds for all eternity.   Today people on the island still see a White Doe, the sacred Snake Goddess who quickly vanishes upon their approach leaving only snakes in their way and the blowing winds. (to revise to match correct source)

Elevated View of Belle Isle and MacArthur Bridge

Belle Isle State Park Attractions


√√​Rec Belle Isle

Belle Isle Park, East Town Shoreline & Canadian Shoreline

Belle Isle Kiosk Map on Grounds of Anna Scripps Conservatory

How to use this Page:

This page offers a description of Belle Isle State Park and its numerous attractions.  Refer to the maps depicting the island. The entire island is described in this page.   (This page is presented in the journal style so that the entire tour can be seen from end-to-end in one continuous layout.)   ENJOY THE MOTOR CITY AND HAVE A PLEASANT STAY!) 



Immediately east of the road is the Lagoon, visited by Great Blue Heron, which inspired its name. Its mirror surfaces shine with fall colors.  

Look carefully, and you may see a Snowy Egret, Loon or Kingfisher stalking fish in the shallows. Or listen for the amazing machine-like takeoff of the Mute Swans flapping their massive white wings. 

East Belle Isle Nature, Hiking Trail Network

The Nature Zoo's Miniature Deer

The eastern shore offers excellent views of Lake St. Clair's horizon line, both coasts, and the normally unoccupied Peche Island Canadian Provincial Park.  This scene looks much as it did to early explorers to the area during the 17th century.   (Note:  Lake St. Clair including Anchor Bay is roughly 430 square miles and leads to the northern Great Lakes via the St. Clair River to Lake Huron.)

Peche Island is inhabited by beaver for the first time in over 200 years.  People complain of the 30 trees they’ve felled there.  Beaver have colonized the Conner Creek Power Plant canal immediately north of Belle Isle and even the Rouge River entrance far west of Downtown.   (As predicted by this author, beaver have populated Belle Isle as well.  Recent destruction of trees along Lake Tacoma was followed with sightings by park staff.) 


The Blue Heron Lagoon restoration project is finished.  A direct link to the Detroit River makes it possible for fish to spawn in a protected estuary and cove at the east end of the Lagoon. 

The rocky shore is better habitat for snakes and amphibians.   A widened estuary will increase river access to kayakers. 

Southeast Island View toward Peche Island, Canadian Shore and Lake St. Clair Beyond

Beehive Observation Station

Windows to Outdoor Feeding Station

Several aquariums and displays ring the exhibit areas.

Forest Preserve Nature Trail (west of road)

A building known as the White House, actually a farm house is occupied by the Island administrative offices. 

Some may remember the pony rides and the aviary that held several species of birds.  They're gone.  But you'll still find points of interest.   Efforts may be underway to bring them back.

The 85 foot Nancy Brown Peace Carillon Tower (1940) nearby, is named for a Detroit News journalist who wrote the "Experience" column and originated a huge gathering on the island known as the "Religious Sunrises," service that drew 50,000 people.  The monument was built in her honor (see Buildings of  The Flynn Skating Pavilion (Eero Saarinen, 1949) overlooks Lake Tacoma and often doubles as a meeting area. It replaced a larger Victorian skating pavilion that stood here for decades.  Canoe recreation has been restored to portions of the canal, rivers and interconnected lakes on the island. 

The nearby Dossin Great Lakes Museum contains numerous models of Great Lakes ships and records their voyages, spanning the travels of Native Americans and the dawn of local European navigation to present day.  The preserved pilot house of the William Clay Ford river boat faces into the river close to freighter traffic.  A special memorial to the Edmund Fitzgerald honors those lost during a terrible November gale in 1975, in Lake Superior.  The Aquarium on Inselruhe is now open (Saturdays and Sundays only) awaiting funding for a new facility or an upgrade of the current one.  It's a copy of one in Italy, thought to be the world's first public aquarium.  (Refer to the Museum Page.)   

​​The original zoo once housed a number of other species and could be observed from elevated walkways and conical huts.  The animals are gone but the abandoned structures remain.   These areas are being addressed by the new state park administration.

There are two active museums:  The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory and the Dossin Great Lakes Museum.  The Conservatory has a large collection of succulents, and orchids.  Its heating system was renovated in 2011 but ifurther upgrades are planned.   The Dossin Great Lakes Museum was renovated in 2012.  

Koi Pond at the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory

​​​​Further east is the Detroit Yacht Club (est.1868).  It’s also one of the nation's oldest yacht clubs and one of the finest facilities on or off the Great Lakes still active. The clubhouse was designed by George D. Mason, architect of several other area buildings including the Gem/Century theatre, the Masonic Temple and Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel in upper Michigan.

Belle Isle was the home of the Wolverine Bicycle Marathon.  Events have included the Wolverine Inline Skate Marathon, the Ron Winans Heart of Champions race, the Shiver on the River and Metro Detroit Youth Day, in addition to the Detroit Hydrofest Races and Grand Prix.  Some of the earlier events may be revived by the state takeover.

Island Highlights:  A one-way roadway (the Strand) circles the island in the counter-clockwise direction for five miles and contains a bike lane. It's recommended to see the island by bicycle or car.   (Vehicles must observe a strictly enforced speed limit.)  Several two-way roads like Inselruhe, cut through the island making it easy to turn around and explore many recreation opportunities.  The Nature Zoo offers interpretive areas for children on local wildlife, nature trails, a small educational theatre and a deer pen, holding 25 of the miniature European deer that once roamed the island in great numbers.  

The nation's oldest Boat Club (est. 1839) -- immediately east of the bridge -- has since moved its administration offices but still sponsors sculling and sailing competitions through its Junior organization, finishing high in Regatta Invitationals.  It's also the world's oldest continuously operating boat club, and funds are sought for the Belle Isle building restoration.  A rowing contingent still occupies part of the docks and maintains the interior of one of the structures.  (Refer to the Page 4 Sports in this web site.)

​​Several notable events have occurred on Belle Isle.  It was known as Bella Jima when a brief reenactment of the landing at Iwo Jima was staged following WWII. 

Gold Cup Hydroplane and Grand Prix races are held each year. The Grand Prix returned in 2012 after a short hiatus.  Hydroplane races occur in an area between the west-central end of the island and the Detroit mainland shore, which averages ¾ of a mile north.  Red Bull Air Races can be viewed from the west island Sunset Point. 

Primary access to the area is from East Jefferson and East Grand Boulevard at the MacArthur Bridge.

Skating Pavilion-Canoe Livery on Lake Tacoma



√Rec The Belle Isle Nature Zoo is on the west side of the road. Admission is free.  (Refer to the Museum Page 2.)


The white swans seen everywhere on the island today are Mute Swans originally brought from Russia to the eastern U.S. in the early 20th century.  They have since spread throughout the country.  

Trumpeter Swans with a much larger wing span of 8 feet would have been familiar to Native Americans 300 years ago. But now they rarely visit Belle Isle.  

Efforts are being made to reintroduce them to former nesting areas throughout Michigan.

(Photo of Mute Swan at Blue Heron Lagoon, Belle Isle Park, Detroit.)

Belle Isle Nature Zoo

Belle Isle Golf Course

Mute Swans endure the Winter

Lake Okonoka viewed from the Street

On the Southeast Fishing Pier, View West

Numerous park facilities with picnic tables and BBQ grills are found along the shore and near water features connected by another of the three island lakes. 

A member of the Black Cowboys Association pauses for a photo.  (The park does not provide horses; although it once gave pony rides.  The new state administration may eventually restore this attraction.) 

Close-up of Canada Fountain as seen from Belle Isle

Southeast Fishing Pier, Nature Center & Golf Course

As you continue traveling the Strand a rectangular reservoir used for model yacht racing is seen on the south side of the road.   It’s still used by enthusiasts of all ages.

The museum was recently renovated in 2012.  Displays have been upgraded.)  

Black Cowboy Association Member poses for His Picture

Model Yacht Basin

There is a huge collection in the archives currently stored at Detroit’s Fort Wayne location.

Check for current days of operation with the museum web site.   (Refer to the Museum and Collections Page for details on attractions here.  

 Edmund Fitzgerald and Wrecked Vessel portrayed at Bottom of Lake Superior

Approach to Southeast Fishing Pier

The museum will be placing more on display.  Admission is free.  Donations are encouraged.

(Displays like these have been repaired or replaced.)

More Models on Display

Pere Marquette Railway Car Ferry

Marshall Fredericks Sculpture at Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory Outdoor Gardens

Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory and Garden Grounds

Many small surprises await the sculpture enthusiasts on the island.  Some are hidden and others are liberally displayed, like this Marshall Fredericks work.  

Weathervanes and iron gates display beauty of their own.


Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory

√√Rec The glazed roof of the Anna Whitcomb Conservatory, inspired by Monticello, and reminiscent of Kew Gardens, becomes visible through the trees, 

Belle Isle & Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory Map Location

Island Road Bike Lane

Remick Band Shell

Scott Fountain

Sunset Point Closeup

Belle Isle hosts the 3-D (3-Discipline) Annual Mini-Triathlon (usually in September) in the same area. Competitors bike and run on the island grounds and swim in Lake Muscoday. 

Belle Isle Park Grand Prix Road Course (to revise for course change)

Civil War Memorial

Your Tour  Start your tour from the bridge on East Grand Boulevard/Picnic Way to Sunset Drive; the road takes you west past a portion used for the Grand Prix paddock. 

There are more statues and a sculpture of modern art found among the island's hidden jewels.  A fountain with sculptures decorates the lawn of the Anna Scripps Conservatory as well.

Southwest Belle Isle Park, View toward River Gateway 

Spanish American War Memorial

James Brady Statue

Grand Prix Grand Stands during set-up, near Island Entrance

Grand Prix Qualifying Run Day

"Partners" Sculpture

 A sculpture of a newsboy and his dog called "Partners" was commissioned by the Detroit News and erected in 1897.  

A large work honoring Civil War General, Alpheus Starkey Williams on horseback was created by Henry Shrady.  

Italian Contribution -- Dante Alighieri Bust

"Atom Gazelle" Modern Art Sculpture, by Richard Bennett, 1991 -- Northeast Shore

Map of Detroit, River and Islands 

The White House

Belle Isle Facts

Nancy Brown Peace Carillon Tower 


√Rec A well-tended Koi Pond adjoins the building outside.

Wooden Bridge to the Detroit Yacht Club

Belle Isle Park Bridge Entrance


This is also America's largest city owned island-park and conceals many historically significant monuments and buildings.  Coast Guard, Harbor Master offices and a Police Precinct are on the island.   

Women's Sculling Team at the Detroit Boat Club

Restaurant and Bar Locations on Approaches to Belle Isle Park


You then pass the Detroit Boat Club, now mostly abandoned and the last major feature on the island before heading onto the MacArthur Bridge, over the river and through the hoods to Grand Blvd. we go.

The island's main roads have been re-paved and attractions have received new attention since the state takeover, which made the park a State Park.  This has resulted in an admission charge at Belle Isle. 

Still the island's natural beauty and historic dignity speak volumes, and there remain plenty of quality strolls on its long shoreline where the current price of admission is a bargain. 


  • The Belle Isle Conservancy has great plans for this park and many improvements are underway.  An organization like this developed the riverfront into the successful RiverWalk. 
  • The DNR (Michigan Department of Natural Resources) has leased the island from the city for up to 30 years starting February 2014.  Belle Isle became Detroit’s second state park so designated after Milliken State Park on Detroit’s mainland shore.   A few years ago this proposal met some resistance by the City Council, but the program was since ratified.  Those entering the island by their own vehicles require a use-pass of $11.00 per year. Those entering by motorcycle require a $5.00 use-pass.  Both passes are accepted at all 102 state parks.  Those entering by bicycle, on foot, bus or approved shuttle are admitted free.  (But check to be sure of your admission requirement.)  You can purchase a pass at the entrance booth.                         There are already many signs the island is cleaner and better maintained.  Several facilities are expected to re-open with renewed funding.  New curfews on unsupervised youth are expected.  But the state has reaffirmed that in time much of the park’s former appeal will be fully restored.
  • The park has already shown record attendance.  Some areas are immensely popular in the summer months with renewed interest from suburban residents.
  • Many canoes and kayaks are visible on the island's inland lakes and streams.
  • The federal government has distributed a grant to the park for complete restoration and improvement of BlueHeron Lagoon at the northeast end of the island.  The first results of this project are shown on this page.
  • Detroit and Windsor’s Olympic Dual-Hosting Bid could include Belle Isle facilities. The first bid decision was announced by the IOC in the spring of 2013.  However, the city had to withdraw its bid for 2020 because of long-term debt and emergency finance management imposed by bankruptcy proceedings at the time.  Refer to Sports Page 4 for details.  The city has since emerged from bankruptcy in better financial shape.

The Sinbad’s and the Roostertail venues can be seen in the northeast overlooking the shoreline from opposite sides of the canal entrance. 


The road takes you west toward the archways of the bridge in view of the Gold Coast on the Detroit's mainland shore, a place of numerous tall apartment towers built from the 1920s to the 1960s.  

This area blends with other attractions like the Giant Slide at the island's center-north. 


When you're done with your swim head back to the south side of the road where there are many picnic tables, covered picnic areas and creative play-scapes such as the renovated Kid's Kingdom. 

A fast food window has been open briefly near the main restroom facility of this area.  But you should rely on yourself to bring adequate food and beverages along until this issue is adequately addressed during the state lease of the island that started in 2014.  New venues are scheduled to open.


There's also some decent viewing of the powerboats during the Hydrofest races in this location, where the NorthChannel is nearly a mile wide in some places.  (Refer to Sports Page 4 for Hydrofest Race details.)


The Waterslide is currently inactive.  It may be upgraded or replaced with a new water feature.   


Nestled in its own bay across a wooden bridge is the Detroit Yacht Club where the road merges into Riverbank Drive at the river’s north shore.  The Yacht Club is a full service athletic club and marina built on its own island in 1868.  (You must be a member to use the facilities.)


A covered bridge in the distance with round and square windows joins the two banks of a connecting stream.  (The bridge may not be in adequate condition at this time.  Such concerns will be addressed by the state takeover of the island.)


The North side of the island features Lake Muscoday -- termed a "deep water" fish habitat, probably to discourage anglers from wading on a bottom that drops suddenly to 13 feet.  


When you return to the highway, continue by following Lakeside Drive where you will begin to pass yet another lake on the left.

A Parting Shot of the Detroit Boat Club from the MacArthur Bridge

Roostertail (blue roof) and Sinbad's (brown roof)

North-Central Island View of Detroit’s Gold Coast Apartment Towers Across the River

Giant Slide


Northwest Fishing Pier in View of Detroit's Gold Coast

Approximate Detroit  Hydrofest Race Courses (red ovals)

Water Slide (may be replaced by Splash Pad)

Summer Saturday Afternoon on the Half-Mile Belle Isle Beach – North Side

Half-mile Bathing Beach and Bathhouse-Water Slide

Detroit Yacht Club from across Estuary

Covered Bridge over Sylvan Creek connecting Lake Muskoday

View of Lake Muscoday, and West toward Detroit Skyline

​​ (Note:  The state is clearing brush and fallen timber in the area and sprucing up the trails.)

​​ A path and a roadway run through it.  As you turn north, The Strand becomes Lakeside Drive. 

A survey by a naturalist, proved there were White Tail deer on Belle Isle, and there is still a relatively healthy ecosystem, otherwise threatened by invasive species. He made a year-long study in 2010, completing a major anthology of each season in photos, taken from blinds.  Some show hawks, owls, raccoons, fox, salamanders and other animals rarely seen. You can now add beaver to this list.

Sturgeon have spawned in the coastal area, and islands nearby have seen the first return of the Northern Madtom, both signs of a healthy river.  Lake Whitefish have spawned in the river for the first time since 1916.  Lake Whitefish and Sturgeon were major industries a century ago when their once abundant numbers were decimated by over-fishing.  Dredging of canals and streams has allowed Pike to spawn in the island's lagoons and estuaries. 

Much of Belle Isle and its wooded acreage on the west side of the street are a protected environment composed of rare Lakeplain Prairie, Lakeplain Oak Opening, Great Lakes Marsh and Wet-Mesic Flatwoods, once common in the region.   However, the island’s ash trees have been devastated by the Chinese Ash Borer Beetle.  Other native trees are beginning to fill in the gaps.  Until recently you had to take care if you decided to hike the trails to avoid dead limbs that could fall in your path.  Some of the forest bridges were not sufficiently maintained.  But this has been changing with the state takeover of the island in 2014.

Numerous buildings line the Canadian shore a popular location for apartment and condo residents, about ¾ of a mile south of the island.

tennis courts...

Athletic Field House and Baseball Facilities


Soon a quaint shoreline reveals Lake Okonoka, another island lake, with five tiny islands of its own.  In early summer it’s full of Canada geese, Mallard Ducks, occasional Canvasbacks, Mute swans and the increasingly common Cormorant looking for unwary carp. 

Equally dramatic is a nocturne view of the Renaissance Center and its new outdoor lighting scheme mirrored in the river opposite the glowing Caesars Windsor towers (left).

(The island generally has a 10:00pm closing curfew. But that may have changed in 2014 with state management.)

As you head around the point to the Southwest shore on The Strand, Lake Tacoma gradually appears with its many islands.  

Scott Fountain Seen Through Park Building, Sunset Point

The Northwest island shoreline offers you a broad, panoramic view of the Downtown Detroit skyline and is spectacularly brilliant on a sunny day, highlighted by the sparkling emerald waters of the river.  It's a great place to see the annual fireworks shot from three river barges during the International Freedom Festival in June or from a single barge during the Detroit International Jazz Festival in early September.

Continuing west the Lagoon appears to the left, along Casino Way.



He lived in Connecticut, graduated from Yale and moved to Detroit in 1840 where he practiced law.

Known as Old Pap, the general was present at many major battles of the Civil War including Gettysburg, and fought with many of the more than 90,000 Michigan troops who suffered horrible losses, some with a 40% casualty rate. 

He is portrayed here riding Plug Ugly while reading a battlefield map on the horse he favored over his big show horse.  

(The monument, commissioned in 1912, resembles Shrady's other famous equestrian bronze portraying U.S. Grant.)

​​ The Eastern half of the island has a substantially forested 150 acre preserve.

Nashua Creek Footbridge Treading (west of road)

Sylvan Creek leading to the Forest Preserve Area west of Road

baseball, cricket and rugby fields.   (The brick Athletic Field House, 1898 is largely inactive and needs work.) 

Admission to the Conservatory is free with admission to the park at this time.  Check for current days of operation. 

A few flower beds surround the entrance. 

A new Belle Isle Conservancy pledges critical new support for the island’s many treasured gems.  There is hope that a full restoration of the outdoor gardens is imminent.

The Remick band shell may be restored soon.  It has hosted a summer music show (refer to the Events Calendar Page). A 2-day heavy metal concert was held in June a few years ago.

​​Though never a gambling facility, the Spanish style Casino building hosts local events for seniors and island activities.  It's just west of the Flynn Skating Pavilion. 

A portion of Casino Way merges with The Strand.  

​​Picnickers are startled to discover these monsters sneaking up behind them, hearing only the hum of their massive, 16,000 horsepower engines.  

Freighter enthusiasts enjoy identifying the ships by their flags of origin, their cargo missions and port destinations.  There are 13 mega-freighters in the 1,000 ft. range.  (Ask the staff at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum about the 139 freighters of the Great Lakes.  Or refer to the Attractions Page 14 for freighter identification.)

Soccer Field (Freighter in Background)

Lake Tacoma Bridge


​​A number of small bridges connect many of the recreation areas over the water, visited by migratory birds.  

Loop Canal Bridge


Pedal-powered boat excursions, kayaks and canoes depart from the Skating Pavilion, which is also used for overflow meeting space.   But no ice skating is allowed on the island at this time.

Lake Tacoma Pedal Boat Excursions




Frothy Liquid surges past scowling Neptunes toward turtles, feted by frogs who mock their lion overlords.  Pewabic tile figures fill the fountain periphery.

Close inspection reveals a torrent rolling off a filled chalice and cistern, where Cupids ride porpoises issuing streams from their toothy snouts, behind the backs of crouched lions.

Northwest View of Detroit Shoreline

Site of the Annual 3-D Tiathlon held on the Island


A large parking lot becomes an auto obstacle course and stages other events each summer.   From here the road continues west near the shore.

Grand Prix Race Course Section -- Sunset Drive


It merges with Sunset Drive where screaming Grand Prix vehicles whip past spectators.  (Stands do not remain after event.)

 German Contribution -- Johann Schiller Sculpture

Another statue of Johann Schiller with book in hand was contributed by German-American residents in the area. 

 A bust of Dante Alighieri was contributed by the local Italian-American community. 


The Livingston Memorial Lighthouse (1930, Art Deco-Modern, Albert Kahn) is an all marble, 80-foot fluted tower that still guides ships with an 11,500 candlepower beacon.  It stands on an artificial extension of the island near the Blue Heron Lagoon on the east shore (refer to  A  Rock Sculpture garden built of stones and driftwood, presents an enigma on the south shore near the Coast Guard office. Several monuments to the Civil War, philanthropists and other dignitaries from old Detroit are found throughout the park.

Some statues commemorate the military conflicts of the U.S.  Others honor great artists and writers.  See the Spanish American War monument or the Grand Army of the Republic statue in a memorial to Civil War soldiers.  

Livingston Memorial Lighthouse

On the east side of the Lakeside Drive (right):   the open terrain of the Eastern Shore includes more hiking trails, a 5-hole golf course, The Belle Isle Practice Center, driving range, Family Golf Center, and a large Lagoon.  Play a round.  

Golf Clubhouse and Snack Bar

Forest Preserve's Nashua Creek (west of road)

Freighters seem to drift over the park’s fields and upon the land.  It's just an illusion.  But it's a convincing one since they float with almost silent deception along the South Channel and just beyond the island, so close on the water they are obscured by the shoreline vegetation.  Some pass like overturned skyscrapers, pushing 10 foot swells before their bows and leaving large waves in their wake.  

Another Freighter Slips by Blue Heron Lagoon 

Further east the South Channel vantage point affords a great view of Canada, its apartment towers and waterfront homes.  (This is a close-up view of the fountain park.  It’s quite a distance further than this photo suggests.)

 Some waterfowl remain all winter.

An unusual Rock Sculpture Garden is found near the Coast Guard station.  

The Clipper-Style Richelieu Freighter heading East through a Narrowing in the South Channel

The 150 Acre Forest Preserve

Forest Road

Winter View of Canada Apartment Buildings from the South Side across the Channel

There are four large fishing piers and several small ones.  The river is abundant with White Bass, Walleye, Yellow Perch, Silver Bass and Small Mouth Bass.  Occasionally Pike and Tiger Musky are caught along these shores.  Sturgeon and White Fish spawn in protected areas surrounding the island.

The landscape becomes increasingly wooded as you head east.  

SS City of Detroit and 19th Century View of the City

Dossin Great Lakes Museum

Cricket Match

Aquarium Building

Belle Isle Athletic Field & Dossin Great Lakes Museum

Tennis Courts

Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory Outdoor Koi Pond

Cacti, Succulents and Desert Plants

Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory Tropical Gallery

The brick Aquarium borders the Conservatory. It had been closed due to budgetary reasons but was recently opened on Saturdays and Sundays.  It was designed by Albert Kahn and built in 1904.  (Refer to Museums and Collections, Page 2 for more details.)

An island canal once toured by canoes, branches from the lake north toward Loiter Way nearby, the home of the Belle Isle Golf Club near Tanglewood Street and Vista Drive.  Canoeing has been restored recently to some areas.

Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory Interior

The interior houses a variety of succulents, cacti and tropical plants.

Casino Building 

Bridge at Lake Tacoma Eastern Connection

Nocturne View toward River Gateway

Grand Staircase Fountains

Fountain, Recently Cleaned






Administrators have confirmed beaver on the island.  The beaver have cut down a number of trees to build lodges.  Apparently,they swam from nearby Conner Creek or Peche Island to colonize the area. Park staff are protecting tree trunks with wire mesh barriers.

Lake Muscoday




​An estuary and canal lead to the river.  Another fishing pier offers access to good fishing at the North Channel. 





The lake is ringed by sheltering Willow trees that turn green in summer and yellow in winter, lending a velvet tan contrast to the icy lake and snowy banks.  


Both Peche Island (on horizon, left), and the nearby Conner Creek power station (above) have a number of resident beaver.




Hiking Trail & View East toward Lake St. Clair and Peche Island Provincial Park (right)

Turtle Aquarium

Turtle Exhibit

Frog Greets Nature Center Visitors

Nature Zoo in Latest Paint Scheme

"Miss Pepsie," Building Annex

√√Rec  The South Shore is anchored by the modest, blue glazed brick building of the Dossin Great Lakes Museum home to the world's largest collection of Great Lakes model ships.  (Refer to Museums Page 2 also.)


Big Koi take Center Stage

Giant Date Palm Finds the Roof

Scott Fountain Sculpture Details


A powerful plume erupts skyward from the classical summit sending sheets of spray crashing over a Vermont marble layer cake. 

 Scott Fountain, Afternoon

 Scott Fountain Promontory overlooking Grand Staircase and Lagoon

Sunset Point, Freighter & Gateway View to Bridge, West


A short walk from the curb brings you to a concourse, and through a garden. Look back and you may see a fountain through the archway of the park facilities building.  A breathtaking vista leads you back to the jade waves of the Detroit River and to a triangular corner on the island known as Sunset Point.  The road turns into The Strand from here on.

​​​​The Legend of Mah-na-be-ze:

The French knew the island as IleAux Cochons or Hog Island.  According to one tradition, it was named Belle Isle in 1845 to honor Lewis Cass’s daughter Isabelle and by another to honor the Count of Belle Isle, Cadillac’s personal physician. 

The island was purchased by the city of Detroit from the Campau family in 1876 for $200,000, about $4.4 million today and a princely sum for land that had little more than horse farms and hog pens.  The Isle held eight names before receiving official recognition as Belle Isle Park on July 4th, 1879.  It presented some of the same difficulties as its New York cousin, requiring dredging and filling, landscaping and planting.

This is Detroit's 982-acre island park in the Detroit River (designed 1879-1883, by Frederick Law Olmstead, of New York Central Park fame).  Admission to the island was free until February of 2014 when a fee became necessary.  The island contains the Scott Fountain, revered statuary, lakes, lagoons, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, the Detroit Yacht Club, the Detroit Boat Club, the Nature Zoo with 25 miniature deer, a half-mile sand beach, water slide and giant slide. 

You'll find handball courts, ball diamonds, tennis courts, soccer fields, a golf course, fishing piers, notable architecture and historic references among other attractions.  

"Mah-na-be-ze" ?

Wah-na-be-ze or White Swan 

​​SNAPSHOT It was known among the Ottawa and Chippewa as Wah-na-be-ze or White Swan after migrating swans on the island. 

But a persistent legend tells of Mah-na-be-ze or WhiteDoe, the Snake Goddess.  


Windsor's Downtown skyscrapers offer their own terrific view of the river opposite Downtown Detroit -- forming a grand, river gateway in the distance with Ambassador Bridge as backdrop.  These provide a fantastic composition during any kind of weather.  Get your camera ready. As film crews say, "There's no bad angle in Detroit."  

Seated bronze benefactor, James Scott, gazes admiringly at the superbly crafted scene.   One of the city's playboys, he bequeathed much of his personal fortune to create it.  The fountain is restored and back to full display in the summer months when funding is available. 

James Scott Sculpture

Swirling Shallows mingle Myth and Nature

  • A brick-paved plaza surrounds the fountain.

Scott Fountain Painted in Evening's Subtle Shades

√Rec You may be drawn to the gleaming promontory across the road, an inviting view of the Scott Fountain (by Cass Gilbert, 1925) and its white, palatial marble.  It overlooks a grand lagoon connected by an equally grand marble staircase.