Baraga State Park is a public recreation area located on the shore of Lake Huron, four miles (6.4km) northeast of Rogers City in Presque Isle County, Michigan. The state park has over 2,300 acres (930ha), most of which sits along an 18-mile (29km) length of sandy beach and dunes between Little Bill Elliot Bay and Silver Sands Lake. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places as Baraga State Park Historical Area in 2009.
The campground offers 188 campsites divided into tent sites, camper cabins, yurts, and lodges. There is a separate group camp available with full hookup for RVs/Trailers. The picnic areas include charcoal grills, playgrounds, horseshoe courts, swimming beaches, boat launch, and interpretive center. The trails of Baraga State Park offer opportunities for hikers to explore the woods, sand, wetlands, fields, and bogs of the park. The trailhead parking lot contains information about the different trails, their distances, and their difficulty levels. The trails connect with other public lands, including neighboring national wildlife refuges, state game preserves, county parks, city open spaces, and private property.
Visitors needing a vehicle to get around have several options. Buses and Minivans are available for rent, and the park has a shuttle program operating seasonally connecting various parts of the park. Finally, visitors may walk or ride the rails to Escanaba, where they can catch a bus or take a taxi back to the park. The park’s address is 12345 East Lake Shore Drive, Rogers City, MI 49762. Its phone number is 9066038970. The park is within walking distance of Interstate 75, Exit 231. I-75 provides access to the rest of the Lower Peninsula, Canada, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Within the park, exit 231 leads to 3 Mile Point Road, which intersects with Lake Shore Drive. To the left on 3 Mile Point Road is a sign for “Campground”, leading to the park entrance and campground. To the right is Sand Beach, followed by a boardwalk out onto the lake. Beyond the campground is the main part of the park, consisting of beach, forested woodlands, wetland, field, and bog.
The park’s interpretive center features displays on local ecology, geology, history, Native Americans, and wildlife. The park hosts regular environmental education programs. The park’s visitor center and nature center are housed in a log cabin structure similar to those found in the forests of northern Minnesota. The park’s nine-hole golf course is designed by Earl Stone, who also created the courses at nearby Rogers City Golf Course. The park has five tennis courts, two basketball courts, and a fitness trail. Other amenities include a gift shop, bait & tackle shop, pool hall, and liquor store.
During warm months, a barbeque grill is often available outside the park office. Campgrounds consist of standard campsites, youth groupsite, and family group camp. Each site has electric hookups and access to water. Modern restrooms and showers facilities are provided in the youth group camp, and semi-modern facilities are provided in the family group camp. The park has eight miles (13km) of bike routes, which vary from easy to moderate in difficulty. These range from wide shoulder roads with light traffic to narrow rights of ways with heavy motorized traffic. All but the hard surface portion of Bike Route 8 follow former logging roads and railways. Hard Surface Bike Route 8 follows gravel roads and abandoned railway beds. Some sections of these routes are rocky, hilly, or both. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating are popular winter activities.
The park has six miles (9.7km) of footpaths, ranging from very easy to moderately strenuous. Easy paths provide views of plants, animals, and birds. Strenuous paths lead past lakes, marshes, and woodland stands. The park has ten miles (16km) of horseback riding trails, varying from easy to moderate in difficulty. Riders must have current Negative Coggins papers for horses brought in to the park. No pets are permitted on the trails or anywhere else off-leash. Hunting is limited to bowhunting. Hunters are expected to follow the rules and regulations of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The park has a total of 26 miles (42km) of hiking trails, 14 miles (23km) of mountain biking trails, 6 miles (9.7km) of equestrian trails, 12 miles (19km) of ski trails, 4 miles (6.4km) of snowmobiling trails, and 11 miles (18km) of wilderness trail. The park has a total of seven miles (11km) of paved multi-use trails, mostly for bicycling and walking. The longest of these is the half mile long Boardwalk Trail. Another favorite among tourists is the Sand Beach Trail, which allows you to walk out onto the lake.
In 1898, A. K. Davis, W. L. McAuley, and T. C. Plumb acquired 1,400 acres at this site through the purchase of 500 shares each in the newly formed Outer Belt Railroad. They subsequently organized the Northern Improvement Company with $25,000 capitalization, chartered it in 1900, and were its first directors. At some point prior to 1905, the three men agreed that the railroad would not reach this location; instead it would be used for industrial development. In any case, no rail service reached this location until May 5, 1910, when the Menominee River Bridge was completed, allowing service from Escanaba to Rogers City.
This bridge had a major impact on transportation in northern Michigan, especially on the lake front. Before the bridge, shipping out of Rogers City carried freight to the upper peninsula by way of two steamboats, one of which made several round trips per week. After the bridge, all shipments went via train, arriving much later than before. However, even after the bridge was built, trains did not run frequently enough to make up for the lost time. As a result, many shippers preferred to use the new highway, the US Highway 31, which opened in June of 1919.
This route was also more direct, cutting across the North Country Trail, and therefore avoided the steep grades of old Highway 31. By 1930, traffic on the new road was so heavy that a second parallel highway, now known as M-211, was authorized. This allowed for better access to the highway for travelers coming from the Upper Peninsula, where there are few driveways, and where winter conditions can make traveling difficult. Construction began in 1934, and the new section of roadway opened November 13, 1936. The original section was renamed Old Highway 31 while the new section received the name New Highway 31. On December 7, 1941, during World War II, the campground was closed due to the need for firewood. When the war was over, camping resumed on June 10, 1946.
The park includes the following recreational activities:
- cross-country skiing
Common game species include:
- white-tail deer
- black bear
- eastern gray squirrel
- peregrine falcon
- ruffed grouse
- common loons
- bald eagle
- red fox
- Canadian lynx
- wild turkeys