100 Years of Michigan State Parks

On May 12th, one hundred years ago, the Michigan State Park Commission set out to create wonderful recreational spaces that visitors could enjoy and be closer to the beauty of Michigan.

These parks have been apart of our experiences growing up and, even now, we find ourselves drawn to them.

Cousin, Amie, and sister at Tahquamenon Falls

The Transfer

It began in 1885 with the transfer of Fort Michilimackinac and parts of Mackinac Island from the federal government to the state of Michigan. This triggered a slew of other events, including the creation of Mackinac Island State Park Commission, eventually leading to the creation of Mackinac Island State Park.


The Automobile

The explosion of the automobile industry helped push the idea of state parks further. People were able to travel long distances in a short period of time. They were eager to escape the cities and visit the countryside and lake shores. However, there were few public destinations available and trespassing became a major issue.

Steve with Brisco. McLain State Park.

Public Act of 218

In 1919, the Public Act of 218 was passed and created the Michigan State Park Commission who had the ability to acquire lands for state parks. Thus, the Michigan State Park system was established.

Our Stories

Amie at Laughing Whitefish Scenic Site

Throughout our lives, we have both enjoyed the state parks. These areas have fueled our passion for the outdoors. We have memories at all of them but these are some of our favorites.

Sleepy Hollow State Park

Steve has many stories from Sleepy Hollow State Park. Growing up he spent a lot of time there, camping, hiking, and fishing with his family.

One cold winter weekend he camped at the park under a makeshift shelter to earn his polar bear badge for boy scouts.

Mackinac Island State Park

Amie at Mile Marker #3 on Mackinac Island

Many of my childhood vacations were spent on Mackinac Island. I have countless memories of riding bikes around the island, eating delicious fudge, taking long walks on the trails, and exploring the Fort.

Visiting the island was part of the first camping trip that Steve and I took together. I shared with him some of the unique rock formations throughout the island. We rode bikes around the island and half way through we hit a wind current so strong that we could barely peddle forward.

Storms in the Porkies

One of my favorite stories that Steve’s dad shares is about the time the Boy Scouts went hiking in Porcupine Mountains. The older kids, Steve’s age, were backcountry camping. The younger kids stayed at an established base camp.

One night a massive storm rolled through with tornado-like winds (or possibly a tornado itself, according to Steve’s dad). The only protection they had was the outhouse. So that’s where they went.

One of the kids asked where they would go if there was a tornado and Steve’s dad replied “into the basement.” The kids all made faces and said eww once they realized the basement was were all the fecal matter was.

While we didn’t experience a tornado on our 2013 trip, the heat index was 105 during the day causing massive storms at night. NOAA warned of 70mph winds and the downpours made our tent float.

We spent the early and late portions of the day hiking. This was my first visit to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and my first my backcountry camping experience.

I will never forget the hike down into Lake of the Clouds. Nor the midnight “wake up call” we received when something kept hitting our tent. I immediately thought it was a bear, but it was actually just a toad.

The beauty of the Porcupine Mountains is hard to match. It is one of Michigan’s best state parks.

Pigeon River State Forest

This was the first place that we dispersed camp together and one of our favorite places within the entire state.

I still remember the excitement I felt when we climbed Inspiration Point for the first time and saw an elk standing in the middle of the field.

I remember falling asleep in October listening to elk bulge and in June to the endless song of the whippoorwill.

I remember the time we drove on the rough, dirt road with hot tomato soup in our laps, looking for a good place to watch a lightning storm.

I remember being silly in the snow and making snow angels together. The first time in a long time we had done that.

I remember that time we got stuck in the middle of winter in the middle of nowhere and had no idea if we were ever going to be able to get out. Despite the desperation, we figured it out together and made it safely out of the woods.

Round Lake Campsite

This was the place we held our first group camp outing. And our second. And our third. We wanted to share the wonders we found with those who are important to us. We even wanted to get married within the park. These memories and shared experiences will last us a lifetime.

From wildlife to stunning views, places that are the result of Michigan State Parks have given us the chance to experience a whole different world. These parks encourage people to get outside and explore. To take advantage of the beauty within our state and celebrate all things nature.

So here’s to 100 years of Michigan State Parks and a hope for a fantastic 100 more.

For more information about the Centennial or to share your own story, visit DNR Michigan 100 Years.

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