Burt Lake State Park is a public recreation area located on the northern shore of Lake Huron, four miles (6.4km) northeast of Rogers City in Presque Isle County, Michigan. The state park’s 1,100 acres (440ha) include two bogs and three kettle lakes that are surrounded by mature pine forests and hardwood forest undergrowth. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places as Burt Lake-North Higgins Lake State Park Historical District in 2009.
While the original entrance to the park featured a causeway over the lake, this has been replaced by a road bridge. Visitors can enter the park via either the Old Country Store Road or the Pine Hills Road. Both provide access to the South Higgins Lake Causeway, across which most traffic enters the park. There are about 400 campsites, many with electrical hookups, modern showers and restrooms, and dumping stations for chemical toilets. Most sites also have water hookups. The campground opens mid-May and closes Columbus Day weekend. Camping costs $10 per night per vehicle. Half of the campsites are available on a first come, first served basis, while the remainder must be reserved.
To help fund a backlog of deferred maintenance and park improvements, the state implemented an entrance fee for this park. The fees, charged per vehicle, start at $8 per day for a single-day or $5 for residents with an Illinois license plate or Oklahoma plate. Fees are waived for honorably discharged veterans and Illinois residents age 62 & older and their spouses. Passes good for three days or a week are also available; annual passes good at all 22 state parks charging fees are offered at a cost of $75 for out-of-state visitors or $60 for Illinois residents.
In 1871, Saginaw businessman William Whittingham willed his 200-acre estate, including its 40-acre lake, to be used for educational purposes. His wish was soon after followed through when local educator Mary Averell Harriman proposed establishing a college with dormitories and other facilities at the site. However, lack of funds forced the project to be put on hold until 1903, when the newly formed University of Chicago offered to take charge of the property. With financial support from August A. Busch and others, the university began developing what would become one of America’s leading forestry schools.
At first known as the Northern School of Forestry, it changed its name to the Forest School before finally becoming the University of Chicago Botanic Garden in 1906, which still operates there today. During World War II, the garden served as an active research facility supporting the U.S. Department of Agriculture, conducting studies on trees and woodlands in order to improve our understanding of ecosystem processes and develop better ways to manage our resources. When the war ended, funding was made available for the development of a state park at Burt Lake. Although some land had been purchased previously, much more was needed and the process took several years.
Much of the work fell to a young man named Dave Johnson who worked closely with botanist Herman Silas Pepoon, Jr., a leader in the field of plant ecology. Their efforts were supported by Illinois Senator Adlai E. Stevenson III and his wife, Evy, who acted as both advocates for the park and helped raise money to buy additional lands as the state budget permitted. After much debate and negotiation, Burt Lake State Park was authorized by the 1961 Legislature, signed by Governor George Wyth Memorial Jr. in 1962, and dedicated by President Lyndon B. Johnson in January, 1964.