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 11)

Camping at Cheboygan State Park

The bay from our campsite

Before our tour of Michigan State Parks last summer, I was watching a lot of Trekker’s Michigan State Parks videos on Youtube. When they did their drive through Cheboygan State Park, I knew I needed to check it out for myself! The park is located in Northern Michigan on the shores of Lake Huron. Its location, only half an hour from Mackinaw City, making it a good home base for exploring the straits area. The campground is small, only 75 sites, and with only 20 amp service, some might call it outdated, but it is perfect for the kind of camping we do.

Camper under canopyI decided to head to Cheboygan for Memorial Day weekend and I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get a waterfront site without much fuss about six months out. For some reason, this campground isn’t as popular as others in the area. Our site (site 27) was wooded on three sides with a path to the lake. Most of the other sites in the park are just as private. This is very unusual for a Michigan State Park campground. Most of them are big open fields. The bathhouse at the campground was small, but with most people relying on the bathrooms in their rigs, there was never a wait for the showers.

Path through the woods

The path to the bay from site 27

It was really nice to be able to put our kayak right in the water at our site and be able to paddle around the bay when the water was calm. We went a little way out and floated over two shipwrecks, the Leviathan and the Genesee Chief (unfortunately, forgot my action camera when we went out the first day and when we went back it was too cloudy to see them so I don’t have any photos). When we got back to camp, I looked these wrecks up and was interested to learn that they were both intentionally sunk in the bay. I did feel better when we returned to the site knowing there were no casualties, but it’s always sad to realize that in the 19th century, the Great Lakes were thought of as garbage dumps.

Besides the Mackinac area, Cheboygan is not a far drive away from the only named waterfall in the lower peninsula, Ocqueoc Falls, The waterfall will be the topic for next week on the blog, so be sure to come back! Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Camping in Holland

Tulip field in front of windmill

Tulips in front of De Zwaan windmill

Tulip Time Festival in Holland is one of the most popular festivals in Michigan. It takes place at the beginning of May and with the cancellation of the festival in 2020, I had a feeling it would be an even bigger deal in 2021. In an attempt to beat the crowds, we decided to go the weekend before the festival began.

We decided this would be a great time to take the camper out for its inaugural trip for the 2021 season so with just a few weeks advance planning, I booked a site at Holland State Park. This park is very popular in the summer and with good reason. It has a beautiful beach on Lake Michigan with a view of the iconic Big Red Lighthouse and is relatively close to downtown Holland. The campground is made up of two sections, the most popular section is right on the beach (which was not yet open for the season when we visited) and the more wooded Lake Macatawa unit where we stayed.

Because of its popularity, this campground comes with some very strict rules. I had to sign a paper and hang it in the window of my camper agreeing to the 1pm checkout time. There was a sign in the office saying the visitors are not allowed and campers must keep their ID on them at all times in the campground to prove that you are allowed to be there. No alcohol is allowed in the campground at any time and rangers frequently drove around, looking into campsites to check. I’m sure these rules are necessary for peak season but the fact that the campground was only 25% full at the time made a lot of this seem a little intrusive and over-the-top. If I had a reason to be in the area, I would probably stay here again, but I wouldn’t seek it out when I’m just looking for a place to camp for a weekend.

Mini camper in front of dune

Our Runaway camper at our site at Holland State Park.

As I mentioned at the top, the purpose of this trip was to visit Windmill Island Gardens and see the tulips. It was pretty chilly this weekend and we even saw snow flurries Sunday morning, but most of the tulips were in the early stages of blooming. I always enjoy visiting the garden and photographing the tulips. If you are looking to see the sights in Holland, Holland State Park is a good base for exploration, but be aware that they do have a lot of rules and they do patrol and enforce them.

This year I knew there were going to be more people than ever camping and it was going to be challenging to get into the most popular campgrounds in the summer. I decided to book the busiest campgrounds (such as this one and Ludington) in the off-season and then try out some of the more under-the-radar spots when the parks would be the busiest. For the most part, I did make reservations about six months out, and with this methodology, I was able to get some really nice sites. I am excited to share those journeys with you!

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

Off Season Camping: Warren Dunes State Park

Lake Michigan Beach

Warren Dunes State Park is located in Michigan’s southwest corner. Its gorgeous beach (above) and the proximity to Chicago make it one of the most visited parks in the state. Even with 230 campsites, it is hard to get a site here in the summer. I had heard wonderful things about this park so once we had the camper, I was able to find an available site only a few weeks in advance in early fall.

Runaway Camper Our campsite at Warren Dunes

There are two parts to the campground at Warren Dunes, there is a large modern section with electrical hookups and modern restrooms and there is a smaller, rustic section. Even though we were able to get a site only a few weeks out, the modern campground was pretty full and I was surprised at how many tent campers were there with lows in the 40s. The sites were decently spaced apart and one of the things I liked the best was that even the sites in the inside loop had trees separating them. It is very common for Michigan state parks for the campsites in the inside loop to be in a big open field. This added privacy that all the sites had here was a great surprise. The biggest downside of this park is the road noise caused by the proximity to I-94. My site was pretty near the front of the park so it’s possible that it was quieter towards that back of the campground. If we were still tent camping, this would’ve been very annoying. Luckily, our little camper offers a little more of a sound barrier to the outside world than a tent.

One of the main reasons we chose Warren Dunes for this trip, besides the fact that I’ve wanted to check it off my list of Michigan State Parks =, is the proximity to many wineries on the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the wineries in the area, except to say that we loved everything we had at Hickory Creek and the restaurant at Tabor Hill is a great spot nearby for lunch. Tabor Hill also has some hiking trails through their vineyards that are fun to check out! If you are looking for quality wine in the southwesternmost part of Michigan, those were two of our favorites!

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 updatedGear Page.

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Camping at Tahquamenon

Tahquamenon Falls Spray

Over Labor Day weekend, we headed back across the bridge to camp at one of our favorite spots in Michigan, Tahquamenon Falls. A few years ago, we camped in the Rivermouth Pines campground in the fall and absolutely fell in love with the place. Rivermouth Pines made my list of Best Michigan Campgrounds for Tent Camping.

Tent at campground

Our site at the Portage campground.

A waterfront site at Rivermouth Pines was only available for the final night of our trip, so we started off in the Portage Campground. Portage is located near the parking for the lower falls and is a modern campground with electric hookup and modern restrooms. It is a great place to stay if you are looking to paddle the river. After our experiences with many Michigan State Park campgrounds on our summer road trip, we expected the campground to be a big open field with sites cramped together but it really wasn’t. We had a site on the outside loop that backed up to a little creek. We had plenty of space between us and our neighbors and it was nice falling asleep to the sounds of the falls. Being a holiday weekend in 2020, I was expecting it to be jam packed, but there were a few open sites and everyone was relatively calm.

Tent by river

Our site at Rivermouth Pines

After our two nights at Portage, we packed up and moved down river to the Rivermouth Pines campground. As I’ve mentioned before, this is a rustic campground with outhouses and no electricity. We had hoped to put our kayak in the water here and paddle around but Mother Nature had other ideas for us. The rain began early that night and the wind picked up early in the morning. There were 30 mile an hour gusts coming off of Lake Superior. Honestly, I was surprised our little Coleman tent withstood it. Our EZ Up went flying across the campground. It goes without saying that we didn’t attempt to kayak when there were whitecaps on the river that was smooth the night before. We just figured that means we have to plan another trip to one of our favorite campgrounds.

We highly recommend both the Portage and Rivermouth Pines campgrounds if you are looking to spend time at Tahquamenon Falls. Since Rivermouth Pines is close to Lake Superior, it is about a half an hour drive to the falls. If you are looking to spend more time at the waterfalls, check out Portage or Hemlock, the other campground near the lower falls. If you need electric hookup and modern bath facilities, there is also a modern campground in the Rivermouth section of the park.

Thanks for stopping by! To book a site at Tahquamenon Falls, go to midnrreservations.com. 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: Watching the Sunset

sillhouette at sunset

Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip Recap

fiery sky sunset

Fiery sunset over Ludington State Park

It is the end of December and I finally reached the end of this trip report from a trip I took almost six months ago. It works out, though because normally at the end of the year, I recap the year and look forward to my travel plans in the future year. First off, I haven’t gotten to all the little camping trips we took after this one so that post would ruin the surprise of what’s to come. And at this point, who knows what 2021 will look like? This is not really a time for a lot of advanced travel planning. I have some ideas and some dreams. Stay tuned to find out where we actually end up!

Anyway, this trip was definitely one of the most last-minute road trips we have ever taken and where we went was largely based on where we could get in. We made it to some bucket list destinations and some of them lived up to what I had imagined them to be and some of them fell a little flat. Let’s recap:

Fayette State Park: underrated Michigan state park with a cool historic (ghost) town to explore. Most years it’s pretty easy to get a site at the campground.

Porcupine Mountains: giant state park that has both mountains and water. If you are not an avid hiker, it’s best to do some serious training to be able to fully appreciate this park.

Door County, Wisconsin: Beautiful Lake Michigan peninsula with a lot of nature and lighthouses to explore. For a Michigander, Old Mission and Leelanau are more impressive and more accessible.

S.S. Badger: Bucket list experience. Pack your patience, especially if you bring a car.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop by next week as I begin recapping our Labor Day Weekend at Tahquamenon Falls. To read more about this trip, check out my Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip Report. 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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Ludington State Park Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Sunset Watchers

Lake Michigan Sunset Watchers

Camping at Ludington State Park

Ludington State Park Sunset

After our journey across Lake Michigan, we made our home for the final night of our trip at Ludington State Park. Ludington is easily one of the most popular parks in Michigan, with the campground filling up six months out. With a beautiful Lake Michigan beach, a lighthouse, several inland lakes, a river for paddling or tubing, and miles of hiking trails, it’s no question why this park is so beloved.

As I mentioned in my last post, it was late by the time we finally got our car off the ferry. We stopped for dinner and ice cream at House of Flavors and by the time we made it to the park, the sun was setting. There is something special about watching the sun go down on those dunes along Lake Michigan. The sky really put on a show for us that night.

It began to rain early the next morning causing us to get a late start. We were going to hike to the lighthouse, but by the time we finally got going, it was about time for us to check out. Oh well, just an excuse to get back to one of our favorite Michigan state parks!

As I mentioned above, this park is really hard to get into. We got lucky and were able to book this site about a month in advance. The Beechwood campground was scheduled to be closed in 2020 for a bathhouse renovation. Because of COVID, the DNR got a late start and decided to open the campground up for the season, allowing us to get a site only a month or so in advance. The downside of that, of course, is that the bathhouse at this campground was very outdated, but for only one night, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Beechwood is open for reservations for 2021 as well, so they must have decided to put that plan on hold for now.

One thing to note about camping at Ludington (and many Michigan state park campgrounds, honestly) is that all of the campgrounds are pretty much located in a big open field. The sites on the inside of the loop are pretty small and lack privacy. The sites on the outside of the loop back-up to woods and dunes giving them much more privacy. The inside loop is great if you are camping with a group and reserving multiple sites, if it’s just you, try to get an outside site. You will feel much less cramped.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our summer road trip, check out my Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip Report. 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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Ludington State Park Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Bond Falls Side View

Bond Falls Side View

Bond Falls

Bond Falls

Bond Falls is one of the most popular and iconic waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula. Located East of Paulding, the falls, located on the middle branch of the Ontonogan River, are definitely off the beaten path, but people still flock to see them. At 50 feet high and over one hundred feet wide, this is one of the largest waterfalls in Michigan. Many Yoopers consider Bond Falls better than the mighty Tahquamenon. The water level is controlled by a dam, so the volume of water is pretty consistent throughout the year.

With wooden boardwalks around the falls, this waterfall is one of the most accessible I’ve been to. While Agate Falls involved a strenuous hike, the trails around Bond Falls are only half a mile long. Additional trails go off the boardwalk if you are looking for a more rugged experience.

Bond Falls is one of those places that I have wanted to visit since I first saw a picture of it and it did not disappoint. It is in the perfect spot going from Porcupine Mountains to Wisconsin. We visited pretty early in the morning, so we pretty much had the place to themselves, which at an outdoor site in 2020, that is pretty special.

With the high water levels of the great lakes, the water level at Bond Falls is high too. Some of the boardwalks were wet and others were beginning to be under water. Now, if you plan to visit at a warm time, just make sure to wear shoes you wouldn’t mind getting wet. If you are going to visit when it is cold, keep an eye on the trail and watch out for ice.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, visit my Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip Report. 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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Bond Falls Pinterest Graphic

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