1898 the Detroit,
Windsor, and Belle Isle Ferry Company opened up a recreation park
eighteen miles southwest of Windsor on the lower Detroit
ferry company was busy during the week shuttling people and goods across the
river, and created this destination park to keep the ferries busy on the
weekends. This was a place to go and relax for it included and 18 mile boat
ride on the company's famous passenger vessels
built in 1902 and
STE. CLAIRE, built in 1910.
steamer to carry picnickers to the island was the
steamer PROMISE. Bob-Lo
was originally named Bois Blanc by the French, due to the birch and beech
trees that once covered the approximately half-mile wide by three-mile long
island. The area’s non-French residents called the island Bob-Lo, since they
couldn’t pronounce Bois Blanc properly. This name stuck for years and was
officially accepted by the owners and area residents in 1949.
By 1910 the
first amusement park rides, the
ponies and a
dancing pavilion were available. By 1920 the famous amusement ride,
the Whip was installed on the island and the first season alone paid for the
maintenance and the purchase of the ride.
1949, bankruptcy threatened the island park. The initial attractions of the
island were mostly simple: a day on the river and a picnic in the park-like
setting of the island. There was a carousel, and Henry Ford had a dance hall
designed and built by Albert Kahn, which in 1903 was billed as the world's
second largest. Windsor Mayor Arthur John Reaume wanted the island to be
designated a National Park. The Browning family, however, stepped in and
bought the property and the steamships. The Browning's transformed the
island into an amusement park. They built
rides, a Ferris wheel, a fun house and an antique car exhibit. The miniature
railroad that went around the island was built in the 1960's. In
1961 the dock area was upgraded, the freighter
Queenston was stripped and
sunk in place as a dock.
It was a unique nautical
because it could only be reached by boat. The swan paddle boat ride (photo
second row left) was added to the attraction in 1970 and became a favorite
excursion in the enclosed Detroit River pond.
In 1973 the Thunder Bolt roller coaster was constructed. Built of steel, it
thrilled the crowds that lined up to ride it. The next addition was a log
flume. In 1978 the 100-year-old carousel was restored and returned to active
service. The Browning's sold the island in 1979. Several owners followed,
including IBC (owners of the Harlem Globetrotters and Ice Capades) and AAA
of Michigan. In 1990 the old carousel, whose
figures were made by famous carousel maker Marcus Illions, was auctioned
1991 the boats ceased their 81 year run to and from the island and the park
closed in 1993. The rides were sold to amusement parks in Colorado, Texas
and Maryland. The Island is now a private residential community.
Now all that remains of Bob-Lo Island "The
Isle of Rest and Relaxation"