The nonprofit Discovery Center ~ Great Lakes was founded in 2007 following Michael Dow’s generous 2006 donation of a parcel of property (consisting of 9 acres of land, 6 buildings, a dock, a mooring field, a small creek, and a significant wetland area) to Rotary Camps & Services, the landholding arm of the Traverse City Rotary Club. Mike’s original donation was the genesis of  everything that would follow with the Discovery Pier and the Discovery Center Collaborative.

The Discovery Center soon became the shared home of four important water-focused nonprofit organizations: the Maritime Heritage Alliance, the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay, the Great Lakes Children’s Museum, and Traverse Area Community Sailing. The Traverse Tall Ship Company joined the campus in 2012 as a business affiliate. The Inland Seas Education Association joined in 2015