Port Crescent State Park, Port Austin
If you’re looking for spectacular sand dunes on the eastern side of the state, look no further than Port Crescent State Park near Port Austin. While sandy beaches and towering dunes are fairly easy to find on the Lake Michigan shoreline, they are few and far between on the Lake Huron shoreline. Port Crescent State Park is home to a beach on Lake Huron, a campground with more than 125 sites, seven miles of hiking trails, a day use area that is popular with birdwatchers, and opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, or fishing on the Pinnebog River.
While we’ve visited Port Crescent State Park a few times, we hadn’t camped there until this past June. The mini-cabin was clean and comfortable, and the campground was about half full. Sites near the lakeshore had filled up fast, with most offering shade and level ground. A newer playground helps keep children entertained. The shower and restroom facilities were clean, and the staff we interacted with was friendly and knowledgable.
The day use area has a path that leads to the swimming beach, as well as picnic tables and pavilions. From the same parking lot you can reach the raptor observation deck, which features interpretive signs and is one of the best places for hawk viewing in the Saginaw Bay area. The park’s location at the tip of the Thumb makes it an important migratory flyway during the fall and spring. Rare sightings here have included the Snowy Egret, Red Crossbill, and Prairie Warbler.
For those looking for water recreation, there are great opportunities for kayaking and canoeing on the wide, calm, winding Pinnebog River. This river is also popular for for fishing, with carp, catfish, smallmouth bass, and crappie waiting to get hooked. We kayaked from the day use area fishing dock out to near the bay, before turning back and returning. On our trip we saw several families fishing along the river’s banks, and a handful of waterfowl in the river.
There are seven miles of hiking trails in the park, with the largest section of hiking/cross-country skiing trails reached from the trailhead seen above, which is in one of the day-use area’s parking area. One of the most popular and most scenic treks is on the Campers’ Trail, which starts in the campground and makes a 2.3-mile loop. On this route you’re surrounded by water: the Pinnebog River, Saginaw Bay, and the Old Pinnebog River Channel. A monument near what remains of an old chimney near the start of the trail recounts the history of Port Crescent, the town that once stood here.
If sand and outdoor fun are among your interests, you definitely need to check out Port Crescent State Park! To see a campground layout and make reservations head over to https://www.midnrreservations.com/PORTCRESCENTSTATEPARK.