Nothing quite says 'creepy' like an abandoned amusement park, except in the case of Boblo Island. This amusement park, while once the delight of both kids and adults until the early 90s, has been abandoned for more than two decades. The ruins of what remains can be seen via the waterway that separates both Michigan and Ontario, but for many, the memories of this once-bustling park are what truly keep it alive.
Boblo Island was once home to many attractions during its heyday, which lasted nearly a century before shutting its doors for good. The Victorian-style amusement park was the crowning glory of Ontario although now it sits, an empty reminder of the fun that many once had on the ferry ride to this island.
The Interesting Victorian-Era History Of Boblo
The island on which this amusement park once sat went by the actual name of Bois Blanc Island but was abbreviated to Boblo Island. What made this park - and the island it resided on - so famous were the steamboats that took visitors back and forth. In fact, for a long time, it was only accessible by steamboat which is what made visiting such a unique experience. During the late 1800s, 1898, to be specific, travel by steamboat was all the rage. It was a reliable method of transportation from one side of a waterway to another, especially in the case of Michigan and Ontario.
The SS Ste. Clair and the SS Columbia brought eager park-goers from Detroit, Michigan to the island, each one able to accommodate a whopping 2,500 passenger limit. Those visiting from nearby areas of Amherstburg, Ontario, and Gibraltar, Michigan had the option to board smaller ferries, as well. For those who were familiar with the park in its heyday, it was known as Detroit's 'Coney Island.'
- Fun Fact: The steamer boats that brought people to and from the island were known as the 'Bob-Lo boats.'
The island was only a five-minute ferry ride from the Ontario side, and an 18-mile journey from Detroit, making it the perfect location for a day trip from either. With its excursion steamboats being half the fun of traveling to Boblo Island, the amusement park was quite a buzzing destination for the better part of 85 years.
The Amusement Park Rides Boblo Was Famous For
Obviously, visitors didn't just come to this island for the sake of riding on a steamboat. The amusement park rides were part of the charm and allure that beckoned them to this unique island. However, for adults, there was something more: a dancehall. It was known as the second largest in the world, according to Atlas Obscura, with the capacity to fit 5,000 people into its light-filled dancefloor. It boasted an orchestra machine, big band nights, and one of the largest orchestrions in the world, and was financed by Henry Ford.
For kids, Boblo Amusement Park was a haven for the newest and most exciting rides in the area. These included Nightmare, the Wild Mouse, a Ferris wheel, the Scootaboats, and the Screamer. Kids could also take a stroll through the amusement park zoo, which was a big hit with families. At the time, it was the biggest draw of the area for both countries and had a reputation for being the best time a family could have.
The Dissolving Of Boblo Island Amusement Park
As with anything else, all good things must come to an end eventually. For Boblo Island, this included its once top-of-the-line amusement park. With the creation of more modern and exciting theme parks, Boblo couldn't stand up to the heat of the competition. Its once-popular Victorian-era rides and entertainment decreased in popularity and saw a drastic lessening of traffic following the late 1980s. By 1993, the park was completely shut down, and its rides sold off one by one. The steamboats, too, were sold, as there was no reason for visitors to travel to the island without an amusement park to greet them once they arrived.
Despite the fact that the park itself and its attractions have been dissolved, the island still holds a space for where it once was. While the island is currently home to luxury homes, the echoes of its past are still visible to some who choose to kayak or boat down the same waterway that once carried thousands to this island's shores.
*Note: Those visiting the island without permission are now considered to be trespassing, as it is no longer home to a public attraction. For the best views of what's left of the park, it's recommended that kayaking or another means of boating is used.