Van Riper State Park – Camping and Recreation on the Shores of Lake Michigamme in Marquette County
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to more than a dozen stunning state parks. We recently profiled Bewabic State Park in the Western U.P., and we’ve also featured Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and J.W. Wells State Park in previous posts. Today we turn our attention to Van Riper State Park, a paradise of more than 1,000 acres that includes modern and rustic campgrounds, a swimming beach day-use area on Lake Michigamme and miles of hiking trails near the Peshekee River. The park’s close proximity to the site where moose were re-introduced to Michigan in the 1980s also provides a chance at seeing one of Michigan’s more elusive and highly sought after mammals in its natural habitat.
The modern campground features 147 sites and several mini-cabins, while the rustic campground features 40 additional sites. The modern campground includes restroom and shower as well as electric on most sites and water and sewer on select sites.
The beach area is large and offers water temperatures much more agreeable than Lake Superior. Boating, canoeing/kayaking and fishing are also popular on this large lake that is known for its walleye. We also found it to be a great place to catch a summer sunset.
All hiking trails begin near the ranger station/entrance and cross US-41 before splitting off. Trail loops of .25 miles, .5 miles and 1.5 miles provide something for hikers of all abilities. The Main Trail is an easy-to-moderate hike that offers great forest scenery and passes some beaver ponds. The Old Wagon Road Trail heads northwest from the main trail, and leads to the River Trail and several stunning overlooks along the Peshekee River.
An information kiosk near the ranger station features moose-related displays and information on the history of moose in the area. A pink pamphlet available at the ranger station highlights some of the best drives in the area for a moose sighting as well as helpful tips on times and seasons. The Michigan Outdoor Writers Association (MOWA) added a plaque on the rock next to this kiosk commemorating 1985’s Operation Mooselift.
Van Riper State Park is easily accessed off of US-41, 17 miles west of Ishpeming and within a 45 minute drive from Marquette. Its close proximity to the modern convenience of larger communities while maintaining a bit of U.P. wilderness remains part of its appeal and popularity. For up-to-date information on events, follow Van Riper SP on Twitter (@vanriperstatepk) and Facebook. The park’s address is 851 Couty Rd. AKE, Champion, MI.