Bray's Boat Service LLC

Belle Isle on the Detroit River

Belle Isle Park, nestled in the Detroit River, is a unique blend of historical significance and modern attractions. This 982-acre island park, once a French settlement named Île aux Cochons, offers a glimpse into Detroit’s past and present. It became a park in the late 19th century, with some design elements by Frederick Law Olmsted, known for New York City’s Central Park.

Today, visitors are drawn to its rich array of attractions. The Belle Isle Aquarium, the oldest continually operating public aquarium in North America, and the adjacent Belle Isle Conservatory, both designed by Albert Kahn, are must-see destinations. The James Scott Memorial Fountain, designed by Cass Gilbert, and the William Livingstone Memorial Light, the only marble lighthouse in the U.S., add to the island’s architectural charm.

For those seeking outdoor activities, Belle Isle offers a municipal golf course, a half-mile swimming beach, and numerous sports facilities, including tennis and basketball courts, baseball fields, and a cricket pitch. Nature enthusiasts can explore the Belle Isle Nature Center and enjoy the wheelchair-accessible nature trail, fishing piers, and playgrounds. The Detroit Yacht Club, housed in a building dating back to 1923, provides sailing and country club amenities.

Belle Isle’s historical significance is also highlighted by events such as its role during World War II and the 1943 Detroit race riot. After Detroit’s bankruptcy in 2013, the park transitioned to a state park, leading to significant renovations and improvements.

In addition to its historical and recreational offerings, Belle Isle is a hub for community events. It has hosted memorials, such as the one for COVID-19 victims in 2020, and is a terminus for the cross-state Iron Belle Trail. With over 4 million visitors in 2016, Belle Isle continues to be a beloved destination for both its historical significance and its wide range of fun and engaging activities.