Grand Haven State Park is a public recreation area on the shores of Lake Michigan, five miles southwest of Grand Marais in North Shore Township, Presque Isle County, Michigan. The state park’s 1,100 acres (4km2) include sand dunes, wetlands, forested hills and bluffs, and two small lakes. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places as the Grand Haven State Park Site in 2009.
The park offers beach access, camping sites, picnic areas, playgrounds, cabins, trails for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, and snowmobiling, and a boat launch. Two campgrounds provide a total of 57 campsites, including 20 primitive tent-only sites. Four yurts are available for rent. Three lodges overlooking Little Traverse Bay are available to guests for a fee. The park has 10 equestrian stable stalls, 12 corrals, and 60 car parking spaces. Picnic tables and pavilions are scattered throughout the park, as well as a store, gas station, and bait shop. The park features a sandy beach stretching 7 miles (11km), monitored by lifeguards from 9am – 5pm daily during the months of May – mid-September. Swimming is not permitted north of the lifeguard post.
The park has eight miles (13km) of bike routes, maintained by the city of Grand Marais. Bikes are also allowed single-file on paved roads outside of the park. The park has seven miles (11km) of hiking trails, ranging from easy to moderate difficulty. Five miles stretch across grasslands dotted with wind turbines, prairie dog towns, and herds of bison. Another runs through mature pine forests, stopping at an overlook providing views of Little Traverse Bay. Within the day-use area, there are six covered picnicking areas, containing seating for 50 people, plus a separate horseshoe pit.
Eighteen cabins are available for rental, ranging from rustic to fully equipped, central heat, air conditioning, and bathhouse. Yurts are available for rent, accommodating up to 6 people in 2 double bunks. Campsites range from semi-modern with electric hookups, water, and sewer, to more primitive settings with limited electricity and water. Boat launches are provided at nearby South Higgins Lake. The park provides a number of services for free, including Wi-Fi internet access, trash pick up, recycling receptacles, and seasonal deer hunting. Hunting groundhogs is prohibited. The park hosts numerous events, including music festivals, parades, and fairs.
In 1871, railroad magnate William H. Thompson and his family embarked from their home in Chicago for what would become their summer retreat, where they would entertain clients and friends at the newly christened Villa Maria. After William Thompson died in an accident that year, his wife Edith soldiered on with the help of her son George W. who managed the estate until it fell into bankruptcy in 1893. At this point, the Thompsons left the United States for Europe, taking up residence in England. They returned to America only once, in 1896, when George W. Thompson came to New York to attend his mother’s funeral. He spent most of his time between 1902 and 1912 living in France, returning to the U.S. only once again, in 1913, arriving in Boston just three days before he went back to France.
By 1917, however, the Great War had ended with Germany defeated, and the Thompsons decided to return to Europe permanently. They chose to live in Switzerland, renting a house near Montreux for $12,000 per year. The property soon became known as “Villa Shandwick”, named after the daughter the Thompsons hoped to have in the future. While there, George W. Thompson entered politics, becoming the first American ever elected to the Swiss Federal Assembly. However, Edith did not get along with the other members of the household, and she felt isolated in the foreign country. She began drinking heavily, eventually leading to health problems. When she died in 1921, at age 69, the couple were buried next to each other in the cemetery of Château de St. Jean, in Neuchatel, Switzerland.
Their graves can still be seen today. Her son George W. Thompson died ten years later, also in Switzerland, but his death certificate gives his address as c/o Mr. E. Doud, care of the German Consulate General, which was then located at 13 Rue du Rhone, Geneva, Switzerland. His will stated that all his assets, both personal and real, should go to his sister Mary C. Thompson, whom he appointed sole executor. Amongst the items listed in the inventory of his estate are four residences, one of which is described as a chalet, a steamboat, several yachts, motorboats, fishing gear, bulldog clips, and polo ponies. One particular asset caught the attention of the press: a large collection of rare books, some dating back centuries, owned by the late Mr. Thompson. A reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle visited the estate, and spoke with Miss Thompson about selling them. An agreement was made, and the books were put up for sale. However, no takers appeared, and the collection was offered back to the library system.
The park has approximately 100 trailheads, allowing multi-use recreational opportunities such as:
- horseback riding
- mountain biking
- cross-country skiing
Approximately half of these trails are groomed in the winter for:
- ice skating