Interlochen State Park is a public recreation area located on the shores of Lake Michigan, five miles (8.0km) northeast of Traverse City in North Allis Township, Emmet County, Michigan. The state park’s 1,100 acres (430ha) include 470-acre (190ha) Big Bay de Noc Island and Little Bay de Noc Island as well as two smaller islands, Hedgehog Island and Wompatuck Island. It lies within both the Upper Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge and the Northern Highland Region of the Keweenaw National Historical Park.
Visitors can walk across the top of the structure to see how far they can reach into the water before their feet touch the concrete. There are three distinct areas at the park, each with its own personality. The Wilderness Area contains mature white pines, red pines, and yellow birch trees. The Shady Grove Area features black spruce, eastern hemlock, balsam fir, poplar, willow, and yellow birch trees. The Marshland Area is dominated by mucky shoreline, cattail marshes, and emergent plants like arrowwood, black cottonwood, green ash, and jack pine.
The park offers swimming, picnicking facilities, boat launch, playground, cabin, campsite, trails, and access to the paved road network surrounding the lake. The park includes two separate units, the Big Bay de Noc Island and the Little Bay de Noc Island. These are the remnants of a much larger dune system that stretched from Hombachk to Escanaba. The dunes have become stabilized into flat pancake-shaped hills called barchans, ranging from less than 100 to 350 feet (30 to 110m) high. They are covered in beachgrass, with some interspersed with small lakes of sand. At least ten different species of wildflowers grow in abundance on the dunes. Because of their unique location, the islands offer many birding opportunities.
Two endangered or threatened species found in the park are the piping plover and the western pond turtle. Piping plovers nest in large colonies, and eggs are laid in early spring. The turtles are protected by law, and visitors are warned to keep their distance. If a visitor disturbs a nesting pair, the female will hiss and attempt to bite. Both sexes of the piping plover have long, slender necks and legs, and short wings. They appear to be walking on the surface of the water. They feed on worms, crustaceans, and other bottom-dwelling creatures. Their nests are heavily guarded by the male, who also suffers if his territory is violated.
The loggerhead sea turtle is another threatened or endangered animal found in the park. They are the largest freshwater turtle in North America, growing to approximately 120 inches (300cm) in length and weighing up to 375 pounds (170kg). They prefer fresh water, and swim at night using a flipper paddle motion powered by their strong hindquarters. They eat a variety of fish, amphibians, and invertebrates.The loggerhead turtle’s shell is thick enough to protect them from predators, including humans. The Blanding’s turtle is found in the park, and is listed as a threatened species by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. They are most commonly seen basking on the beaches, where they remain fairly still unless provoked. They eat crayfish, crabs, clams, mussels, and octopus, and are occasionally taken by fishermen.
In 1871, four years after the establishment of Fort Holmes near Prescott, Wisconsin, United States, an American commander there named S. B. Douglas reported that he had received permission from the War Department to build a lighthouse “of any desired height” at his own expense on a point of land between South Haven and Presque Isle, which would be under the jurisdiction of the Fifth Military District. This was approved by Secretary of War William C. French, who stated that such a project should not go forward without the approval of the local inhabitants. A request for funds was submitted to Congress, but was denied. However, when the new secretary of war, Robert P. Whiteside, died in office, the new president, Ulysses Grant, changed the policy regarding lighthouses.
An appropriation of $37,000 was made, and construction began on what became known as the Point Iroquois Light. Built over a period of several months, it went into operation in June 1872. Although this light served its purpose, constant storms forced officials to abandon it in favor of the more modern structure built one mile northward on M-35. This second light, with a Fresnel lens, was put into place in October 1874. While this was an improvement, storms continued to batter the coast. As a result, the Lighthouse Service decided to build a third light, identical to the first, at even further remove from shore. Work started again in May 1875, and the new light was placed into use in November 1877. This last light proved to be successful, and no major storms occurred along the coast during its thirty-year service life.
When it came time to replace the light, a decision was made to erect a fourth light, designed by Alfred I. du Pont, whose father had been among those responsible for establishing the Coast Guard in 1791. Named the Beaver Island Light, it was lit for the first time on February 28, 1888. Thirty-five thousand dollars in bonds were sold to pay for the new light; however, the Panic of 1893 ended up costing considerably more than anticipated, leaving bondholders unpaid. After going dark in 1899, the light tower remained closed until 1903, when repairs were finally completed and the tower was relit. This time the light burned brightly, only going out once again in 1908, due to a fire. Despite these problems, the citizens of northern Michigan rallied around the light tower, buying back the bonds held by the federal government and keeping the light operating through World Wars I and II.
During the 1960s and ’70s inflation costs ate away at the value of the light station, and the Federal Government considered selling the property. Local citizen groups led by the late Senator Bob Smith and Congressman Bart Stupak worked together to save the site, passing legislation in Congress to make sure the land stayed in public hands. With financial help from Smith and Stupak, and support from former President Jimmy Carter, Interlochen State Park was created in 1979. The park has since grown to nearly 700 acres (280ha). On December 7, 1982, the upper and lower parts of the old light house were destroyed in a fire department training exercise. The entire structure fell apart, except for the base, which survived intact. Four years later, in 1986, reconstruction efforts got underway, and the present tower was dedicated on July 4, 1989.The original foundation remains exposed, serving as a reminder of the past.
Other animals observed at the park include:
- raccoon dogs
Commonly seen birds include:
- herring gulls
- double-crested cormorants
- snowy egrets
- bald eagles
- trumpeter swans
- Canada geese
- snowshoe hares
Fish species often caught by anglers include:
- northern pike