Lakeport State Park is a public recreation area on the northern shore of Lake Michigan, in Emmet County near Big Bay City in northwestern Michigan. The state park has more than 1,100 acres (450ha) and lies adjacent to North Higgins Lake. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places as Lakeport State Park-North Higgins Area in 2009. Lakeport State Park is known for its large pine trees. There are many different species, with white pines being the largest. White pines grow about 200 feet tall, but their thick trunks make them look much taller than they actually are. They have soft, thin wood that turns yellowish-grey when exposed to air.
One of these trees caught fire late one night in June 2004, burning almost completely before firefighters could put out the blaze. A lightning strike started the fire around 11 pm Mountain Time. About 70 firefighters from 13 agencies fought the blaze, which burned for nearly 24 hours. Damage included eradication of an entire grove of trees, some homes threatened, and roads closed. An investigation into how the fire started concluded that sparks from passing trucks may have ignited the dry tree tinder left over from previous fires. No charges were filed against any of the drivers whose vehicles sparked the fire.
In September 2005, crews returned to Lakeport to begin cleanup efforts. By October 2006, most of the site had been cleaned up and reopened to visitors. On November 5, 2007, President George W. Bush signed legislation creating “Lakeport State Park” within the boundaries of Fort Wilkins Military Reservation. This action officially transferred ownership of approximately 740 acres from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the State of Michigan. Lakeport State Park features swimming beach, camping sites, cabins, trails and nature center.
The campground contains 144 campsites divided into 72 tent sites and 12 trailer hookup spots. Half of the campsites are available year-round, while the other half open May through mid-September. Modern restrooms and showers are provided at all times. Camping costs are $10 per vehicle per day. The park also offers 16 cabins accommodating up to six people. Each cabin has electric heat, two bedrooms, living room, dining room, bathroom, and kitchen/laundry room. Renters provide their own sheets, blankets, towels, and food. Kitchenware and eating utensils are provided. Outside of the cabins are a picnic table and grill, plus a parking spot for your RV or truck.
Eighteen miles of paved multi-use trail connect with a 50-mile network of trails in nearby North Higgins Lake State Forest. Two of those trails, M-93 and Sand Pine Trace, run through portions of Lakeport State Park. M-93 follows Old Mill Creek northwesterly across the southern part of the park, then heads due west toward Interstate 75 where it intersects with Sand Pine Trail. Sand Pine Trail runs northeast from the intersection of M-93 and Sand Pine Road east of the park to the county line. Other notable trails include Buck Run Parkway, which passes under Highway 23, and Circle Drive, which circles a pond south of Highway 23.
The Lakeport State Park Nature Center features natural history exhibits and programs throughout the year. Exhibits focus on local plants and wildlife, conservation issues, Native Americans who made a contribution to society, and historical information. Programs offered by the facility include hayrides, guided nature walks, story time, holiday events, birding trips, and outdoor skills workshops. The center is located in the old army barracks building. The original structure still stands, only modified to serve as the park’s maintenance shop.
Lakeport State Park golf course is a par 72, 18 hole course situated among the sand dunes between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan. The front nine offer wide, expansive fairways dotted with numerous water hazards, tee boxes, and green shelters. The back nine feature tight, sloping holes carved out of the forested sand hills. The signature hole #12 requires players to carry a deep lake, 135 yards (114m), over sharp, rolling terrain. The first three ninees are considered the easy holes; number twelve, however, is rated as one of the toughest holes in the country. The park’s pro shop sells merchandise such as T-shirts, hats, and snack foods. Hayride to the Dune ClimbEach summer, Lakeport State Park hosts the annual “Dune Climb”, a new event created this year by the Friends of Lakeport State Park.
The climb consists of teams of four climbing down 90ft (27m) face walls using ropes and harnesses. At the bottom, each climber receives a bottle of Gatorade and a Tecate beer. The race is held annually just prior to Father’s Day weekend. The men’s and women’s races are 2km and 3.2km long respectively. The men’s and women’s courses are virtually identical, featuring five steep sand dunes followed by seven relatively flat sections. Both start and finish lines are visible from the main road serving the park. The men’s winning time was 14 minutes and 57 seconds, with a total ascent of 437 meters (1,410ft). The women’s race was completed in 17 minutes and 43 seconds, covering 484 meters (1,550ft) in 9 very difficult climbs. Lakeport State Park BeachAlthough not yet developed, there is potential for future use as a public beach within Lakeport State Park.
- cross-country skiing