These are the Six Michigan State Parks With Dark Sky Preserves
Dark Sky Preserves continue to allow people to get out and gaze up at the night sky in areas where artificial light doesn’t interfere with clear views. Most of these preserves are located away from city centers, and we are fortunate enough to have a few located in Michigan state parks. Today we will take a look at the six Michigan state parks with Dark Sky Preserves, and tell you how to get to each one. Remember when visiting that these parks have rules about having your headlights turned off and not using other sources of light like red-filtered flashlights. Bring a chair and a telescope and set up at any one of these parks for some great night sky viewing. In addition to chances to see the Northern Lights, these parks will offer great views of the following meteor showers in 2022:
July 29-30: Delta Aquarids
August 11-12: Preseids
October 8: Draconids
October 21: Orionids
November 4-5: Southern Taurids
November 11-12: Northern Taurids
November 17-18: Leonids
December 13-14: Geminids
December 22: Ursids
Lake Hudson Recreation Area (Lenawee County) – Outdoor recreation opportunities abound with a large lake being the focus of this state park, and a rustic campground offers great options for tent and RV camping. This was Michigan’s first dark sky preserve (1993) and offers a “low light area for night sky viewing that also allows other park users access and availability for other
activities. The park uses lighting fixtures that minimize light pollution and motion sensors on
lights when possible.” We recently had a chance to visit this secluded state park and loved the dark sky viewing opportunities.
From US-127 in Hudson, head east on M-34 for about nine miles then turn right and head south on M-156. Follow M-156 for a mile and a half then look for state park signs that lead into Lake Hudson Recreation Area.
Negwegon State Park (Alcona County) – If you’ve ever been to Negwegon State Park, then you know why it is the perfect spot for dark sky viewing. This rustic and undeveloped park is reached after a drive down some rough back roads that may require a high-clearance vehicle, and when you arrive at the parking area you’ll notice there are no lights or modern amenities. Negwegon State Park has several miles of shoreline on Lake Huron, trails, rustic campsites, and a beautiful sandy beach. The Besser Planetarium (Alpena) hosts events here throughout the year.
From U.S. 23 north of Harrisville, head east on E. Black River Rd. After 1.5 miles turn left onto Sand Hill Trail. Stay on Sand Hill for around two and a half miles then turn right on Negwegon Park Rd. and follow it for a mile to its end at the parking area.
Port Crescent State Park (Huron County) – On the tip of the Lower Peninsula’s Thumb near Port Austin, Port Crescent State Park covers more than 600 acres on the shores of Lake Huron. Visitors will find a campground, beach, hiking trails, and more. The best spot for dark sky viewing is the beach near parking lot C in the day use area. This is a great spot for viewing planets, stars, meteor showers, constellations, and even on rare occasions the Northern Lights.
From Port Austin head west on M-25 for about five miles until you reach Port Crescent State Park.
Rockport State Recreation Area (Alpena County) – One of Michigan’s newest state parks, Rockport includes the remains of an old limestone quarry, miles of trails, limestone formations, underwater shipwrecks, and more. It was named a dark sky preserve in 2016 and offers stargazing opportunities miles away from any sources of light. Park here for the evening and look at stars and constellations and maybe even the elusive Northern Lights!
From Alpena head north on U.S. 23 for about nine miles, then head east on Rockport Rd. Follow this road for two miles then stay on it as it curves and becomes Old Grade Rd. You will come to a parking area after another mile of driving.
Thompson’s Harbor State Park (Presque Isle County) – Just like Rockport, Thompson’s Harbor is a remote and mostly undeveloped property along the Lake Huron shore. Known for being home to a healthy amount of Dwarf Lake Iris (Michigan’s state wildflower) and the Eastern Massassauga Rattlesnake, Thompson’s Harbor has more than seven miles of shoreline and more than five miles of trails for hiking and cross country skiing. The best places here for stargazing are along the shoreline.
From Rogers City head south on U.S. 23 for about 15 miles then turn left on Old State Rd. Turn left on Thompson Harbor Rd. and follow it to the parking area.
Wilderness State Park (Emmet County) – With more than 10,000 acres there are plenty of places in Wilderness State Park for stargazing by yourself. An astonishing 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline provides many great vantage points with absolutely no outside light interference for perfect night sky views. You have a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights here when conditions allow, and the campground has more than 250 sites for modern camping (as well as some rustic options).
From Mackinaw City head west on Central Ave. and drive to the T intersections. Turn left and head south on Wilderness Park Dr. Follow it for five miles to the main park entrance.
On your way to Wilderness State Park you will pass by Headlands International Dark Sky Park, which became the sixth such park in the United States in 2011. It is located on two miles of preserved Lake Michigan shoreline and hosts frequent events where visitors can use large telescopes to see the stars, planets, and more. Head over to https://www.midarkskypark.org/ for more information.