Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Category: Project: State Parks (Page 1 of 8)

GLGSR: Exploring the Southern U.P.

Wawtam Lighthouse

On the first night of our road trip, we stayed at one of our favorite Michigan campgrounds, Straits State Park. As mentioned in my Best Places to Tent Camp in Michigan, we absolutely love the waterfront, bridge view sites at Straits. On this trip I realized that those sites are no longer reserved just for tents. Those sites are hard to get so I wasn’t so much upset that we weren’t on the water, but now with bigger rigs camping there, sites a row or two back can no longer see the bridge. It also felt incredibly crowded. I’m going to have to go back and edit my Michigan Tent Camping article. I’m not so sure that I would recommend this campground if you can’t get one of those coveted bridge view sites.

Anyway, after packing up camp, we had a few hours to kill before we could check into our next campsite at Fayette Historic State Park. Luckily, there is a lot to do between St. Ignace and the Garden Peninsula. Just north of the Mackinac Bridge, downtown St. Ignace has a very similar feel to Mackinaw City, but with yooper charm and a whole lot fewer people. There is a boardwalk to explore that leads to the St. Ignace’s Wawatam Lighthouse (top). Fun fact, this lighthouse was originally built for the Michigan Welcome Center in Port Huron and was moved to St. Ignace and illuminated in 2006. Its probably the least historic of all of Michigan’s lighthouses.

Kitch-iti-Kipi, The Big Spring

We stopped for pasties at our favorite pasty shop, Lehto’s and headed for Manistique. One of the places that really stood out to us on our last UP adventure was Kitch-it-Kipi, or the Big Spring. We headed there first and were shocked to see how busy it was. The parking lot was packed and the line for the raft went all the way to the parking lot. I don’t know if this is just because people are opting for outdoor vacations this summer or because we visited on a Saturday, but needless to say we did not wait in that line. Masks are required to ride the raft and there is a ranger monitoring social distancing (although it still looked pretty tight on there) and turning the wheel to maneuver the raft. If you have had dreams to pilot the raft at Kitch-iti-Kipi, I would check back in 2021.

Be sure to check back next week as I share about our experience in Michigan’s Garden Peninsula at Fayette Historic State Park. Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Wordless Wednesday: Lake Michigan on Fire

Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip

Lake Michigan on Fire at Sunset

I am back from another epic road trip around the great lakes. Due to COVID-19, we had a difficult time planning our summer vacation. I believe this was our 5th or 6th different vacation plan. From canceled flights to mandatory quarantines, it is not easy to plan a trip in 2020. Because of this, we ended up staying close to home.

Here’s a look at our itinerary and the trip report to come:

Day 1: Straits State Park – exploring St. Ignace, Manistique, Kitch-iti-Kipi

Day 2: Fayette State Park – exploring the historic townsite

Day 3: Heading west – Laughing Whitefish Falls, Canyon Falls, Lake of the Clouds

Day 4: Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – Adventure Mine, Presque Isle Waterfalls,

Day 5: Porcupine Mountains – paddling Lake Superior, Union Bay Campground

Day 6: Heading south – Agate Falls, Bond Falls

Day 7: Door County – Peninsula State Park, Cana Island Lighthouse, Wine Tasting

Day 8: Back to Michigan – Bailey’s Harbor Lighthouse, SS Badger, Ludington State Park, White River Light Station

As with our other big road trips, this was a very busy trip, but it was good to get out into nature after so long being stuck at home. We were not the only people to have this idea, though. Everyone near the Porcupine Mountains area told us that it was much busier than the typical summer. The campgrounds we stayed at were packed pretty much every night we were out. If you are heading into nature this summer, just be aware that you are not the only people doing this. Prepare to be around people and be sure to take the necessary precautions to keep you and your family safe.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Best Campgrounds in Michigan for Tent Camping

Sunset at McLain State Park

Camping seems to be the thing to do this summer, to get away from the crowds and get into nature. With so many new campers, I thought now would be a good time to share my favorite places to get into nature in Michigan. It is important to note that many of these campgrounds fill up on summer weekends, so definitely try to make reservations early!

When looking for campgrounds for tent camping, I’m looking for:

  • Privacy: without a big RV to retreat to, I prefer to have some trees separating me from my neighbors
  • View: my favorite campsites in Michigan are usually near a body of water and being able to see it from your site is unbeatable
  • Location: we are not the kind of campers that hang around the campground all day. We like campgrounds with activities nearby, whether it be hiking, boating or a town to explore
  • Cleanliness: while I haven’t had an issue with any campground in Michigan being unhygienic, the ones that made this list are clean.
  • Rustic vs. modern: I don’t need electric service while camping. I have learned that everything I need to power (mainly charging phones and camera batteries) can be powered through the AC adapter in my car. Modern bathhouses and showers are a plus but I am not opposed to an outhouse. I haven’t been brave enough to try dispersed camping without an outhouse yet.

With those parameters in place, here are my favorite campgrounds in Michigan, in no particular order:

D.H. Day Campground

D.H. Day is located in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This campground only recently started taking reservations, before that people literally lined up early in the morning to get a site here and after camping here, I understand why. It is a rustic campground but campers do have access to the showers at Platte River (the modern campground in the park). The sites are big and very private and there is a nice beach located within the campground. When I booked, the only sites available were in the generator loop. With the rules about when generators can be run, it was pretty peaceful. Reservations are accepted from May to October. The rest of the year it is still first come, first served. With online reservations, D.H. Day books up early. You can book 6 months out at Recreation.gov.

Fisherman’s Island

Fisherman’s Island State Park is located near Charlevoix. The waterfront sites here are AMAZING and can fit a tent or small trailer. You basically have a small beach on Lake Michigan to yourself. This is a completely rustic campground but the setting is totally worth it! It is very quiet and it’s not too hard to get a site in peak season although the waterfront sites book up early. To book, visit midnrreservations.com.

Tahquamenon Falls – Rivermouth Pines

Like many Michigan State Parks, Tahquamenon Falls in the U.P. is a large park with many campgrounds throughout. My favorite has to be Rivermouth Pines. Located away from the falls where the Tahquamenon River meets Lake Superior, this area is off the beaten path and quiet. They are well spaced out and some of them are right on the water. The sites in this area are rustic but it is within walking distance to the Rivermouth campground where there is a modern bathhouse. To book visit, midnrreservations.com.

Hoeft State Park

Hoeft State Park, located near Rogers City, is really a hidden gem of the Michigan State Park system. It has a gorgeous Lake Huron beach and is near the Huron-Sunrise trail which is a popular biking destination. The sites are large and spread out with electric service and a modern bathhouse. One of the best things about this park is that is typically pretty easy to get a site and only really fills up on holiday weekends. Its still a good idea to reserve a site ahead of time at midrnreservations.com.

Straits State Park

Straits State Park in St. Ignace is the only campground that we routinely return to. It is very close to downtown St. Ignace so it’s very convenient if you are planning on visiting Mackinac Island. But what keeps me coming back to this park are the waterfront, bridge view sites. Even if you can’t get right on the water, both lower campgrounds have great views of the bridge and there is a little bench on the water where you can sit if you didn’t score a bridge-view site. The sites right on the water do not have electric service but Straits has the best showers in all of the state park system. The waterfront sites tend to fill up quickly but are easier to get during the week. To book, visit Midnrreservations.com.

Update after visiting 7/24/2020: Over the last few years the bridge view sites have opened up for the bigger rigs. What this means is that unless you can score one of those sites, you can’t really see the bridge from your site. Also, this makes the campground feel much more crowded than in the past. Some of that might just be that people are fleeing to nature this summer. Hopefully I’ll be able to get up there next summer and see if its calmed down at all. As of right now, I no longer recommend this campground for tents unless you can get one of those bridge view sites!

Hartwick Pines State Park

Hartwick Pines State Park is located near Grayling. The park has one modern campground and even has a few full hookup sites for the big rigs. But even with all of that, the sites are private and the park was very quiet when I visited. It also has a recently renovated shower house with some of the nicest showers in the state park system. The park has many hiking trails, a logging museum, and a lake for paddling or fishing. This campground worked out well for us as the first stop on our UP road trip, allowing us to do some of the drive on Friday night. Sites can be reserved at midnrreservations.com.


McLain State Park

In the Keewenaw peninsula near Hancock, McLain wins the award for best campground view ever. Perched on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior, offers a stunning view of both the sunrise and sunset over Lake Superior! The sites are kind of close and don’t offer a lot of privacy, but they do have electric service. Since I’ve been there, they did a major refurbishment of the campground since some of the cliffs had eroded and they lost some of the sites. With the renovation a new bathhouse which was sorely needed. While this isn’t the most popular campground, its not a bad idea to book a site in advance at midnrreservations.com

Wilderness State Park

Wilderness State Park, located near Mackinaw City, is one of the biggest state parks in the lower peninsula and has several typical state park campgrounds. A few years ago they added these amazing waterfront tent sites (double letter sites AA, BB, etc). These sites are very private and quiet, except for the road noise you get because they are right at the entrance to the park. What is amazing about these sites is that they sit right on the water so each site essentially has its own private beach. These sites are rustic but there is a modern bathroom at the nearby entrance station. These sites are set slightly off from where the parking is so they are not accessible for any kind of trailer. There are only a handful of these sites so it is best to reserve them early on midnrreservations.com.

Bay Furnace Campground

Located in Christmas, Michigan not far from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Bay Furnace is a National Forest Service campground. It is completely rustic with outhouses but the sites are very private and the campground is very quiet. Of course, the park also has a beautiful, rocky beach on Lake Superior which is a great place to watch the sunset at the end of the day. Bay Furnace is one of the only campgrounds in the area that takes advanced reservations. The campgrounds at Pictured Rocks do now take reservations, but they are pretty small and fill up quickly so Bay Furnace is a great alternative. Reservations can be made at recreation.gov.

Due to high water levels in the great lakes, some of the best sites have been (hopefully only temporarily) lost to the lakes. Jack Pine campground at Ludington State Park is a hike in campground and one of my absolute favorite campgrounds in the state but it has been flooding lately. This has been a problem at Leelanau State Park as well as Tawas. Hopefully, water levels will go back down and these campgrounds will become accessible again.

Thanks for stopping by! What is your favorite campground in Michigan? Let me know in the comments! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Wordless Wednesday: Sunset Over Mackinac

Flashback Friday: Kitch-iti-Kipi


Fort Holmes

A few months ago, if you would’ve asked me how many forts the were managed by the Mackinac State Historic Parks, I would’ve told you two: For Mackinac on the island and Fort Michilimackinac near Mackinaw City. On our recent trip to Mackinac Island, I learned of a third fort, Fort Holmes. Fort Mackinac is one of the most popular attractions on the island and at $13.50 per person to visit, it can get expensive for a family to visit. If you’re up for it, head to Fort Holmes (top), at the highest point on the island, instead. While there aren’t demonstrations or a tea room, Fort Holmes is free to visit.

The fort was constructed by the British during the War of 1812 to protect the vulnerable backside of Fort Mackinac. This blind spot allowed the British to take the fort from the Americans during the first battle of the War of 1812. When it was built in 1814, the British named it Fort George after King George III. After the Americans won the fort back at the end of the war, it was renamed to Fort Holmes in honor of of American Major Andrew Hunter Holmes who was killed in the 1814 battle of Mackinac Island.

Shortly after the war, the fort was abandoned and went into decay. Fort Holmes, along with Fort Mackinac was made the 2nd National Park after Yellowstone. In 1895 the land was transferred to the state and became Michigan’s first state park. In 1935, as part of the WPA, the fort was reconstructed but once again went into decay. In 2015, The Mackinac State Parks completed a historic recreation of the building and now it looks the same as it did 200 years ago. Hopefully this time it will be better preserved for future generations. Being the highest point on the island, this is also a great spot to take in a beautiful view of the Straits of Mackinac.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Wordless Wednesday: Boat & Bridge

Hidden Gems of Mackinac

Mackinac Island is a popular summer destination and the ferries to and from the island each day are bustling with tourists. Its very popular for visitors to rent bikes (or bring your own) and pedal M-185, the car-free state road that circumnavigates the island. This summer, M-185 is under construction near Mission Point Resort and Arch Rock due to record high water levels in the great lakes. This year, visitors will not be able to take the 8.1 mile long journey around the island. Instead, I propose bicyclists head inland, away from the crowds (social distancing, right?) and to some lesser-known spots.


Sugar Loaf (top) was something I did not even know existed before this trip. Towering at 75 feet tall, this limestone rock formation is the tallest on the island. Geologists believe it formed this way when the waters of Lake Algonquin began to recede, eroding the surrounding rock. Native American legend is much more verbose and dramatic. You can read about it at MackinacIsland.org. The rock is very easy to see from Point Lookout on Sugarloaf Road. The adventurous can even hike down to the rock, just remember, all the step you go down, you have to climb back up!

Cave in the Woods

Near the Mackinac Island Airport are two more hidden gems of the island, Crack-in-the-Island (left) and Cave in the Woods (right). They are pretty self-explanatory, one is a cave in the woods and the other is a big crack in the island. After biking up hill for a while, it feels good to get off the bike and hike on your own two feet and see these unique geological features. And of course, Crack-in-the-Island makes for a great photo-op like you’re stuck in the crack! Cave in the Woods is one of several caves on the island. It could be a fun journey to try to find them all!

Of course, since the interior of the island is quite hilly, getting to these sites requires more work than just biking the flat road along the water. But, getting away from the people and seeing sites that not everyone sees are definitely worth it! MackinacIsland.org has a great map to help you find these and many other worthy sites on your next trip to the island!

Did I miss your favorite hidden spot on Mackinac? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Flashback Friday: Silver Lake Sand Dunes

Silver Lake State Park

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