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Day ??? - Boblo Island

PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 5:38 pm
by The Great Zo
OK, I promise, this trip report segment will make sense. But we're gonna take a bit of a trip back in time, to an amusement park that no longer exists...

Day ??? -- Boblo Island

The Boblo Island signage on the Detroit Harbor Terminal building -- the point of departure for American visitors to the park. Photo from November 2014.

So, what's this piece of nostalgia doing in a Mexico trip report thread? Well, it'll all come together at the end. But first, let me ask -- how many TPR members ever made it to Boblo Island?

I'll start with a short history of the place. Boblo Island (officially, geographically, called Bois Blanc Island) is an island located at the southern end of the Detroit River, about 16 miles south of Detroit. The island, which is actually part of Ontario, was home to an amusement park called Boblo Island for the better part of a century -- from 1898 through the park's final season in 1993. Accessible only by ferry, the park was home to a few roller coasters, a decent collection of flat rides, an observation tower, and a laid-back classic park atmosphere.

Before I go into my personal experience with the park, I want to share some pictures I took in 2016 at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle in Detroit.

The Dossin museum!

Home to displays and artifacts that help tell the tale of the maritime history of the Great Lakes, the Dossin Museum has some space set aside in remembrance of Boblo Island.

Sometimes spelled Boblo, sometimes spelled Bob-Lo.

A poster for the park from around 1950.

A bit about the park's history.

One of the best parts of the display is a full-on park map, featuring 77 labeled attractions and points of interest. Based on the rides shown, this map appears to be from somewhere in the mid-70s to early-80s.

The attraction list, part one.

The attraction list, part two.

The main dock area on the east side of the island.

The lighthouse and train loop at the south end of the island.

The marina and log flume at the northwest corner of the park.

Oh, and here's a roller coaster... this might be important later...

Another important part of the map? The Steamer Columbia -- one of the two famed boats that ferried passengers to and from the island!

Because a little picture on the map isn't enough, the Dossin museum has a model of the Columbia on display!

When running, these boats were packed with people on their way to or from Boblo Island. Each boat could hold about 2,500 passengers.

The good news is that the Columbia has been moved to the Hudson River in New York, where it is being restored. See for more info.

To note, there are plans for its sister ship -- the Ste. Claire -- to be restored as well at its home in the Detroit area. However, I don't think that project is as far along.

A little bit about the Columbia, which was launched in 1902!

Here's some history -- an ad for a picnic at Boblo Island in 1902.

An ad and a picture featuring Boblo Island in its early years as an amusement park in the 1920s.

A couple brochures from later in Boblo Island's history.

Oh, this roller coaster sure looks interesting...

What's happened to Boblo Island since the park's closure in 1993? In recent years, the northern end of the island has been developed into a community of luxury homes. The southern end of the island, home to most of the amusement park, is not in as good of shape. The rides were all sold off, but some buildings still remain, and the park's observation tower even remains standing. I do believe it remains possible to take a ferry to the island from Canada and hike to see the historic lighthouse and block house at the far southern tip of the island, beyond some of the abandoned buildings and old amusement park fixtures.


So, here's where the story becomes personal. I actually did make a visit to Boblo Island in the late 80s. My family had the date listed as August of 1987, which would have put my age at just over two years old. I'm not sure it wasn't another year or two after that, but I can't say for certain. Either way, I was pretty young, but I do have some recollection of the visit! My family was visiting the park as part of a company outing with my dad, and we made a day of it. I recall the steam ship ride, a ferris wheel, and picnicing in the grassy area near a large roller coaster that looked kind of frightening. Well, "large" to a kid that young, anyway!

Nope, the photography bug hadn't hit me yet at that age, so pictures from my family members will have to do!

Yep, that's me. I don't post too many pictures of myself on here, but I'll make an exception for this photo set!

Taking a spin on a rocket-type flat ride.

Not sure I'm enjoying myself too much on the kiddie flying saucers.

The cars, though, I was always a fan of!

One hand in the air, one hand probably laying on the horn...

Yep, I enjoyed my ride on the cars!

Taking a spin on the kiddie whip! Watching from behind the fence? My mom (left) and grandmother (right).

Waving to the camera, which I probably did a lot more of at that age than I do now.

Don't know if this one had a brass ring, or if I was old enough to care, but here's a spin on Boblo's carousel. I'm riding with my dad.

I look positively fascinated by the kiddie boats.

Taking a spin on the car ride, trying to earn my license...

...but nonetheless, it'd be over a decade before they'd let me drive a real car.

Alright, this is pretty important, as I love log flumes. Looks like this might actually be my first-ever log flume credit!

Heading up one of two lift hills...

...and making the plunge! And I think now we know where my love for amusement parks may have begun.

Oh, but what about my love for aerial photography? Yep, we've got pictures from the top of the sky tower! Here's a look east, toward the main boat dock. That's mainland Canada in the background. Check out some of the rides in this picture -- you've got a set of flyers, and some weird rotating-boot looking wheel. I honestly don't even know what that is, so maybe someone here can help me!

Looking northeast from the sky tower, you'll notice the big blue-roofed building on the left. That's the big Boblo Island dance hall, which was commissioned in the 1910s by Henry Ford. However, your attention is likely also drawn to the white roller coaster.

The preceding is the only decent picture in this set that includes that white-painted roller coaster -- a Vekoma death-trap looking thing called Screamer. It operated at Boblo Island from 1985 until the park's closing in 1993. You may be interested to learn that this coaster lives on -- it moved to Playland in Vancouver, got painted red, and took on the name Corkscrew. Apparently, it was featured in the movie Final Destination 3!

Oh, but there was one more big coaster at Boblo Island. The one you saw on the park map. The one featured on the brochures. The one I remembered seeing from the picnic area.

That roller coaster -- a truly legendary ride to me -- was called Sky Streak.

Sky Streak at Boblo Island.

...and if you're waiting for this trip report to make sense, well...

Could it be? Does Sky Streak carry its legacy onward?

An international journey from Canada to Mexico... coming soon, the next segment of this trip report, from Sky Streak's new home as Titan at Selva Mágica in Guadalajara!

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2015 Trip -- Un Viaje a México con TPR

PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 7:49 pm
by Canobie Coaster
Sky Streak/Titan always intrigued me. It looked like that ride could give some nice air.

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2015 Trip -- Un Viaje a México con TPR

PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:11 pm
by djcoastermark
Thanks for the nostalgia ! Went to Boblo in the mid 80's. I had been on a camping trip at Point Pelee Natl Park in Canada and hit a cloudy day. I had read about their Sky Streak coaster with it's "oh so odd, but fun fan turn", and figured why not ! The new hotness that year was Screamer. A nice park and sad to see it is gone. Oh, the boot looking wheel ride was a Chance Sky Diver.

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2015 Trip -- Un Viaje a México con TPR

PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2018 4:33 pm
by EliHorton
Boblo seemed like such a nice park! It didn't have the biggest attractions, but it did seem like a nice place to spend a day with the family. It certainly had a beautiful location!

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2015 Trip -- Un Viaje a México con TPR

PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2018 8:48 pm
by bert425
that "rotating boot" wheel is a classic carnival midway ride!

Chance Skydiver:



if you've never ridden one, they are intense!

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2015 Trip -- Un Viaje a México con TPR

PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 4:39 am
by cfc
I love these looks back at old, long-gone parks--and you tied it to your Mexico trip. My hat's off to you.

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2015 Trip -- Un Viaje a México con TPR

PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 6:07 am
by djmadmanray
Awesome..I haven't seen a Skyflyer in years! We used to see them at the local fairs and they were great.

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2015 Trip -- Un Viaje a México con TPR

PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:33 am
by Philrad71
Awesome tie-in to Boblo, photos of old, now defunct parks!

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2015 Trip -- Un Viaje a México con TPR

PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:45 am
by DirkFunk
The trip over to Boblo is still definitely possible - you jump on a small car ferry in Amherstburg, ON and it's a 5 minute ride over to the dock for the residential area. As a non-resident, you sign a release form, turn left at the Anchor statue, and you'll be in the old park in a few minutes. Lots of wacky stuff is left from the old power house to the big docks to the Observation Tower (!).

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2015 Trip -- Un Viaje a México con TPR

PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 2:27 pm
by 3Mutts
Cool, also another ride from Boblo Island still exists as well: Nightmare which was a Vekoma MK-700 and was moved to AstroWorld for the 1995 season and was later moved again and still operates at Wonderland in Texas