Michigan Roadside Attractions: First Roadside Park in Michigan, Iron County
Michigan Roadside Attractions is a periodic feature on Travel the Mitten that will explore the many interesting things that can be found on the highways, byways and back roads of Michigan, ranging from the interesting to unusual.
Most traveling motorists today take for granted the abundance of roadside parks and rest areas that can be found on their journeys through Michigan. Many years ago, these popular stopping spots were not readily available. That all started to change in 1919, when Michigan approved the first such area in the state, and possibly the first of its kind in the country. Picnic areas, restrooms, dog walking trails and more can now be found at hundreds such locations on Michigan highways.
Today, this rest area is known as Larson Park and it can be found in Bates Township just four miles east of Iron River on US-2 in the Upper Peninsula’s Iron County. A historical marker (shown above) gives a bit more of the history, and there are a few historical plaques that give more detail on the local area as well.
In 1918 the Iron County Board of Supervisors approved the recommendation of the road commission, through its engineer-manager, Herbert F. Larson, to purchase this 320-acre tract of roadside virgin timber and to dedicate it as a forest preserve. The following year Iron County established Michigan’s first roadside park and picnic tables. This was quite likely America’s first such facility. Since then similar parks have been provided by most states for the comfort and enjoyment of the traveling motorist.