Two of Our Favorite Michigan State Parks Are 100 Years Old in 2022
The Michigan state parks system dates back to 1919, and has grown to include more 100 state parks and recreation areas and 16 state harbors in the last 100 years. Last year saw 13 parks celebrate 100 years, and while only three parks hit that milestone in 2021 two of them happen to be on our list of favorites in the Upper Peninsula. This year Island Lake State Recreation Area, Brimley State Park, and Baraga State Park will all turn 100 years old. The DNR has a list of when each state park was established available on their website, and many more state parks will reach the centennial mark in the next eight years. We’ve enjoyed many stays at Brimley State Park and Baraga State Park and thought this was a great chance to highlight why we love these two parks!
What we love about Baraga State Park:
- Location – Baraga State Park is located between L’Anse and Baraga on U.S. 41. It is a great base camp location for exploring the area’s waterfalls, heading to Houghton and the Keweenaw, or even making a day trip to the Porcupine Mountains. The park is located on Keweenaw Bay and a small day use area on the opposite side of the highway provides water access.
- Campground – The sites at this campground are great whether you are in an RV or a tent, and there is also a mini cabin and a tipi that can be rented. All sites are grassy, and many offer tree cover, especially those in the north and west sections.
- Trail – A 3/4 mile nature trail is great for hiking or cross country skiing.
- Wildlife – Our first visit to Baraga State Park gave us several bald eagle sightings in the treetops south of the park. Other wildlife you might see at the park include chipmunks and squirrels, ducks and geese, foxes, loons, and maybe even an elusive moose or black bear.
- Water Recreation – The protected waters of the bay are a great place for kayaking (especially for beginners), and the waters here are known for great fishing. A small beach area even offers up swimming opportunities.
- Nearby Attractions – The Shrine of the Snowshoe Priest (Bishop Frederic Baraga) can be seen from the park atop the red cliffs in L’Anse. Sand Point Lighthouse, Assinins, and the Sturgeon River Sloughs are all reached after short drives to the north. Back in L’Anse you can go waterfalling at Powerhouse Falls and Falls River Falls. In Skanee you will find Michigan’s high point, Mt. Arvon, and waterfalls like Slate River Falls, Black Slate Falls, Quartzite Falls, Silver Falls, and Big Eric’s Falls.
What we love about Brimley State Park:
- Location – Our favorite thing about staying at Brimley State Park is that it puts us close to Sault Ste. Marie but far enough away that we can enjoy some peace and quiet on the shore of Whitefish Bay. The city and all of its attractions can be reached in about twenty minutes, and this is a great base camp for day trips to Tahquamenon Falls State Park or the Whitefish Point Light Station and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. We’ve even used this as base camp for fall and summer trips into Ontario!
- Beach – One of Brimley State Park’s most popular attractions is its sandy beach on Whitefish Bay. The water here is calm and slightly warmer than out in Lake Superior, which makes this a popular swimming spot. The sunsets here are often pretty amazing. You can also watch the large freighters pass by here as they make their way to or from the Soo Locks.
- Campground – We often stay here during off-peak months and in recent years we have preferred the mini cabin over bringing our tent. Tent campers will want to stick to the grassy sites on the outer part of the campground loop, while RV campers will enjoy the ease of pulling right in to the center spots. Restroom and shower building upgrades this year will help a lot, as they were pretty dated.
- Nearby Attractions – In Sault Ste. Marie to the east there is every modern convenience in one of the U.P.’s largest cities. The Soo Locks are a must-visit stop, and you can explore the history of the city on Water St., at the museum ship Valley Camp, or from the top of the Tower of History. Take a Soo Locks Boat Tour and pass through the locks, or head down to Rotary Park for barrier-free views of our massive Great Lakes freighters. To the west you will find the Whitefish Bay Scenic Byway and the Point Iroquois Lighthouse.
- Water Recreation – Boating and fishing draw many people to Whitefish Bay each year, and this is another great place for kayakers to paddle.
Next year marks 100 years for Muskegon State Park, Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, Bay City State Park, and Aloha State Park.