Part of the charm of the Apple Island tours is that they include a lovely walk in the woods, organizers said.

Part of the charm of the Apple Island tours is that they include a lovely walk in the woods, organizers said.

File photo by Donna Agusti


Apple Island tours showcase local history

By: Maddie Forshee | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 11, 2018

 A past tour featured experts discussing fur trading, as well as Native Americans’ deep connection to the island.

A past tour featured experts discussing fur trading, as well as Native Americans’ deep connection to the island.

File photo by Sarah Purlee

WEST BLOOMFIELD — The Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society is gearing up for its annual tours of Apple Island, set to take place 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 9, and Sunday, June 10. The tours begin at the Orchard Lake Museum and are offered on a first-come, first-served basis for in-person reservations. Guests sign up for a tour at the museum and take a pontoon boat ride across Orchard Lake to Apple Island for a self-paced tour. 

“It’s so unusual to be able to visit an island that’s over 35 acres in size,” said Gina Gregory, president of the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society. “It’s a very unique experience, and it’s pleasant — a lovely walk in the woods.” 

The tours last around two and a half to three hours. Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society Communications Coordinator Karen Huyghe said they sometimes see repeat tour participants, but mostly they see new faces.

“We hope that all visitors enjoy their time on the island,” said Huyghe. “We hope that visitors develop a better understanding of and passion for local geography and history.” 

Apple Island is a 35-acre island located in the middle of Orchard Lake. Its name comes from the trees that grow on the island, planted long ago by people who lived in the West Bloomfield region, said Gregory.

“Native Americans gathered (on Apple Island) and spent time there,” said Gregory. “We’ve found artifacts that illustrate that.” 

Tour guests are able to see historical photos and learn about the artifacts found on the island. 

“It’s a wonderful thing that we have opportunities for the community to share our local history,” said Gregory. “It adds to our enjoyment of the area to connect with our past.” 

In addition to local Native American history, tour participants learn about Apple Island archaeology and early French influences on the island, a new facet to the tour this year. Gregory said French people are most likely the ones who planted the apple trees on Apple Island and around Orchard Lake. 

Though its name might indicate the presence of apple trees, Apple Island’s last living apple tree died in 1981. Earlier this year, students from Gretchko Elementary School planted five apple trees on the island. Gregory said she’s looking forward to seeing the trees thrive. 

Volunteer docents provide tour guests with commentary and a history of the island at certain points in the tour. Guests can walk at their own pace to the next location, taking in the natural surroundings on the island. 

After the tour, guests are encouraged to visit the Orchard Lake Museum back on the mainland for exhibits relating to the tour, as well as exhibits about the West Bloomfield area’s development over time.