Celebrating 100 Years of the National Parks Service at Michigan’s National Sites

In August, the National Park Service celebrated 100 years of keeping our national sites clean and beautiful. Find out how the 7 National Park Sites in our great state were founded and what to do when you visit, courtesy of guest bloggers representing each of the park sites.

Find Your Park

One hundred years doesn’t come around very often. Indeed, there are few institutions with the staying power of the National Park Service which celebrated that very rare century mark this year.

All year, NPS sites throughout Michigan and beyond are paying tribute to the NPS Centennial – which in fact has been an ongoing celebration since early 2016. The NPS recognizes Founder’s Day as the official birthday of America’s grand institution that serves to preserve and protect its natural wonders.

Each NPS site in Michigan has a truly unique story to tell and offers visitors a chance to escape within a day or less driving distance. Read more about how each park, lakeshore, trail and heritage area were founded as we pay tribute to 100 years.

1. Experience Isle Royale’s unique history and untamed wilderness

Isle Royale National Park, established on April 3, 1940 and designated a National Wilderness in 1976, is the most isolated and wild of Michigan’s seven sites. The park’s stunning vistas are truly a way for visitors to explore wilderness, slow down the pace of life and relax the soul.

The wilderness island has many stories to preserve based around island life and industry. At one time, Isle Royale supported a robust fishing and resort community, and similar to its Keweenaw neighbor, Isle Royale played an important role in the early copper mining industry.

Views of Isle Royale, the least-visited National Park in the nation

Photo Courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

The park has attractions for history buffs as well as outdoor adventurers and hikers. One of the more popular historically preserved sites is the cottage of Elizabeth Kemmer who served coffee and meals to island workers. There are also several beautifully preserved lighthouses on the island such as Rock Harbor.

In celebration of the Centennial, Isle Royale stewards invite adventure-seekers to experience an untamed land for a real escape from life’s hustle and bustle. Here you can enjoy a leisurely guided hike by a park ranger or make unforgettable memories by spotting a moose.

2. Keweenaw: A region shaped by copper

Michigan’s Keweenaw National Historic Park boasts radiant, natural landscapes while also preserving the history of the region’s once vast copper mining industry. In 1992, the National Park Service decided that preserving the natural wonders of the land as well as its history and its assets was important enough to designate the park as a National Historic Park.

The history of Keweenaw’s copper mining dates back at least 7,000 years, and through preservation efforts, industries of long ago such as the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company would be lost to time. According to the park’s enabling legislation, U.S. Congress determined that the Calumet area was essential to telling the story of copper mining on the Keweenaw Peninsula.

The mining industry was once king in the Keweenaw Peninsula

Photo Courtesy of NPS.gov

The Calumet Unit is just one of many enjoyable assets to park patrons, and one of many featured pieces in the park’s day-long Centennial Celebration. While in the area, check out the local bike trails or snowmobile trails if visiting in the winter.

3. Automotive goes beyond Detroit in the MotorCities National Heritage Area

The story of Michigan can hardly be told without including the creation and evolution of the domestic automotive industry. In 1998, U.S. Congress deemed that history to be important enough to require safeguarding, thus the MotorCities National Heritage Area was established by an Act of Congress to preserve, promote and interpret the history of the automotive industry and labor story in southeast Michigan.

The effort to create the MotorCities, originally established as the Automobile National Heritage Area, was led by U.S. Rep. John Dingell and Sen. Carl Levin. The original legislation recognized that, “…the economic strength of our Nation is connected integrally to the vitality of the automobile industry, which employs millions of workers,” and, “the industrial and cultural heritage of the automobile industry in Michigan includes the social history and living cultural traditions of several generations.”

President Bill Clinton signs the Automobile National Heritage Area Act of 1998 creating the MotorCities National Heritage Area.

Photo Courtesy of the MotorCities National Heritage Area

The MotorCities is one of 49 National Heritage Areas in the U.S. and the only one in Michigan. National Heritage Areas are a unique aspect of historic preservation as they protect and promote the country’s most significant historical events that have shaped and impacted culture and economy.

Throughout the Centennial celebration, the MotorCities encouraged would-be adventurers to “Find Your Road Trip,” with a one-of-a-kind tourism guide showcasing 30 automotive historical sites along with Michigan’s National Parks. While there, the world-famous Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village should be near the top of your list of things to see.

To request your own copy of the “Find Your Road Trip” guide, visit motorcities.org/findyourroadtrip.

4. North Country Trail

The state’s only National Scenic Trail, North Country National Scenic Trail stretches across 4,600 miles and seven states – including Michigan. Headquartered in Lowell, North Country Trail was created by the National Trails System Act of 1968 and is administered by the National Park Service.

The NCT is the longest of 11 National Scenic Trails established in the U.S. When the Trail was established in 1980, portions of it were designed to follow the already existing Finger Lakes (New York), Baker (Pennsylvania), and Buckeye (Ohio) Trails. Their sponsoring organizations became affiliates of the North Country Trail Association and agreed to maintain those portions of their trails to be used by the North Country National Scenic Trail.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Loudenslager

Most of the NCT’s activity comes from adventurous hikers who brave the rugged terrain and experience wide variety of terrain, flora, and fauna. The NCT offers everything from a leisurely afternoon stroll to a multiday, rigorous long-distance hiking challenge. In every locale, opportunities abound for bird watching, botany, photography, and wildlife study, either alone or as an experience shared with others seeking the respite of the outdoors.

5. Pictured Rocks: America’s first National Lakeshore

Michigan’s vaunted Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is the state’s oldest National Park unit. Established on Oct. 15, 1966, Congress determined the region was important enough “…to preserve for the benefit, inspiration, education, recreational use, and enjoyment of the public, a significant portion of the diminishing shoreline of the United States and its related geographic and scientific features.”

When President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill, Alger County became the home of America’s first National Lakeshore.

Lovers Leap at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @mc_angela

Protecting the shoreline was a major tenant of the 1966 Congressional Act. The shoreline zone was established to preserve its scenery and outstanding natural features and to provide the benefits of public recreation. The inland buffer zone was created to stabilize and protect the existing character and uses of the land, waters, and other properties. Today, Pictured Rocks is famous for the breathtaking multi-colored sandstone cliffs in which you can kayak to, in addition to a few incredible waterfalls.

Today, stewards of Pictured Rocks work to keep the region’s incredible natural beauty protected while managing ever-increasing visitorship and interest in the park.

6. Discover Michigan’s role in the War of 1812 at River Raisin

The most recent federal land designate in the state, the River Raisin National Battlefield Park was established to preserve the story of the War of 1812 and its impact in southeast Michigan. Congress created River Raisin under the Omnibus Public Land Management Act signed into law on March 30, 2009.

A portrait of the historic River Raisin militia encampment

Photo Courtesy of NPS.gov

The site tells the story of the River Raisin Militia which was called into action during the summer of 1812 to build a military road which was to link Detroit with Ohio. The militia men were the centerpiece of a U.S. force encamped along the north side of the River Raisin when they met a surprise attack on the morning of Jan. 22, 1813 led by 600 British and Canadians and about 800 Native Americans.

A trip to the River Raisin Battlefield Visitor Center will not only be a learning experience for the kids, but it will also be a great adventure. They will love interacting with the soldiers and scenes; they will feel as if they were really there.

7. Preserving Michigan’s maritime history at Sleeping Bear

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is also celebrating its own milestone marking 50 years in 2016. Established by Congress on Oct. 21, 1970, Sleeping Bear Dunes is rich in history from early Native American cultures to the shipping, logging, and agricultural heritage of the area. Even the name of the area comes from the Native American Legend of Sleeping Bear.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of Michigan's most iconic areas

Photo Courtesy of the National Parks Service

Long before there were roads and highways in Michigan, people and goods were being transported regularly on the ships of the Great Lakes. The Manitou Passage (between the Manitou Islands and the mainland) was a busy corridor for commercial shipping. The location of the Manitou Islands made them ideal for a refueling stop for steamers to pick up wood for their boilers. That was one of the driving forces for early settlement of the islands. Docks were built, and trees were cut to fuel the growing Great Lakes Shipping fleet.

The farming legacy of the area is embodied in the Port Oneida Rural Historic District as well as some of the farmsteads on the southern part of the park.

Learn about the logging and farming culture by visiting Glen Haven, the little historic logging village located on the shore of Lake Michigan. There were a number of little logging villages in the area that no longer exist. There isn’t much left of these Ghost Towns, but as you walk around their sites, you will find trace evidence of the people who lived, worked, and played in this country.

How many of Michigan’s seven National Parks Sites have you visited? Share with us by commenting below!

Hit the Water in Michigan with These Extreme Sports

Summertime in Michigan means many things, but typically the most popular and memorable activities happen on the water. Between swimming, boating and fishing, there are countless ways to relax while taking in the Great Lakes state.

If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, however, check out these five thrilling sports that can serve as the highlight of the season.

1. Shipwreck Diving

Since Michigan is surrounded by large bodies of water, it is one of the best places to explore shipwrecks. Experience history firsthand by visiting one of the many sites where you can visit ships now resting on the lake floor. Even if you aren’t a diver, there are options for charter tours with glass bottoms perfect for making memories while staying dry.

Explore shipwrecks resting at the bottom of the Great Lakes

Suggested locations: Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (Alpena), Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve (Traverse City) and the Sanilac Shores Underwater Preserve (Port Sanilac).

 2. Kiteboarding

Want to try something new and exhilarating? Look no further than kiteboarding. Kiteboarding is a surface water sport combining aspects of wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing and paragliding, among others, into one extreme sport. This sport is made possible through a large controllable power kite to be propelled across the water on a kiteboard similar to a wakeboard or a small surfboard.

Kiteboarding lets you harness the water and the air in one great sport

Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @thawanderer88

Suggested locations: St. Clair Shores, Traverse City and East Tawas.

 3. Sea (Lake) Kayaking

A “silent sport,” kayaking speaks to our souls. Explore sea caves, channels and coves or travel pristine rivers, enjoying the serenity of a peaceful paddle or the thrill of riding heart-stopping rapids. Kayaking is also your best chance to experience the spectacular seasonal scenery and abundant wildlife of the water’s edge. Sea kayaking is more rigorous than regular kayaking, so expect a healthy arm workout when heading out onto one of the Great Lakes.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the U.P. is an ideal sea kayaking adventure

Photo Courtesy of Courtney Kotewa

Suggested locations: Port Austin and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Munising).

4. Parasailing

This high-flying experience is the thrill of a lifetime. Take in the sights of your surroundings as a giant parachute sends you soaring hundreds of feet above the water. Through parasailing, you’re able to see many unique Michigan destinations from an aerial perspective while being refreshed by the splashing freshwater below.

See the Mackinac Bridge from above through a parasailing adventure

Photo Courtesy of Mackinaw Parasailing

Suggested locations: Mackinaw City and Harbor Springs.

5. Great Lakes surfing

Surf’s up! Though it is believed that Great Lakes breakers were first surfed nearly a century ago, and possibly much earlier by native peoples, the first significant wave of participants arrived in the 1960s. The west coast surf craze was leaking into Middle America, and small surfing communities sprouted across the Great Lakes. Michigan was at the forefront and today, surfing on the ‘Third Coast’ is more popular than ever. The waves are typically small in the summer, which makes it the perfect time to learn to surf. The big waves and prime surfing time is during the fall, winter and spring.

St. Joseph offers great surfing for both beginners and veterans depending on the season

Photo Courtesy of Josh Nowicki

Suggested locations: New Buffalo and St. Joseph.

Which of these extreme water sports have you tried? Share with us by commenting below!

Celebrate Summer with these 9 Pure Michigan Items

With literally thousands of lakes to kayak, canoe, and fish on (among many other things!), the Great Lakes state has countless ways to enjoy Pure Michigan Lake Effect, making our Michigan one of the best summer destinations. If you love showing off your Pure Michigan pride, check out a few practical summer items from the Pure Michigan Store perfect for yourself or gifting to a friend.

1. Pure Michigan Iceberg Cooler

This cooler has a unique design meant to capture everyone’s attention. Its hard sides are covered with custom Pure Michigan artwork that will remind you of our state’s beauty every time you look at it. Suitable for all of your cold drinks, it is fully insulated and includes an ice pack. Be the envy of your friends with this distinctive and durable cooler.

Perfect for: Camping, picnics, beach or cottage trip

Pure Michigan iceberg cooler

2. Pure Michigan Koozie 3 Pack – Assorted

Speaking of drinks, these koozies will keep you in style while hanging out at the beach. Each koozie in this pack has a different Pure Michigan design so you have a variety of options for showing off your pride!

Perfect for: Cold drinks at the beach, cabin or even at home!

Pure Michigan Koozie 3 Pack Assorted3. Pure Michigan Fruit Fusion Bottle

Stay hydrated this summer with this cool, portable water bottle. The 25-oz. bottle includes an infuser where you can insert strawberries, lemon, cucumber or whatever your heart desires for a flavorful boost to plain water. This makes it even easier to drink more water and keep from being dehydrated while having fun on the beach. As an added bonus, it has a recyclable PET body.

Perfect for: Anywhere!

Pure Michigan Fruit Fusion Bottle

4. Pure Michigan Grilling Spatula

This grilling spatula comes with a cool, unique laser cut design and is made of heavy stainless steel. Even better, at the top of the hard maple handle is a super convenient bottle opener, which would go great with your new koozies and cooler! You’ll be the talk of the party with this interesting piece.

Perfect for: Backwoods camping, beach and park barbecues and grilling at home

Pure Michigan Grilling Spatula

5. Pure Michigan Apron

Grilling wouldn’t be complete without this Pure Michigan apron. The two front pockets make it incredibly easy to store any important items so you don’t have to step away from the grill. Combined with the spatula, you’ll be adding a touch of Pure Michigan to all of your favorite summer dishes.

Perfect for: Outside grilling, indoor baking or just about any time you cook!

Pure Michigan Apron

6. Memories are Made in Flip Flops Wooden Wall Art

Previously, we shared a few Pure Michigan Lake Effect signs and this one remains a favorite. This wall piece, made from pine wood, has been hand painted by local Michigan artist Redeemed and Renewed. At 11×14, this summer wall art will remind you of what’s important: spending the summer with loved ones in Michigan.

Perfect for: Your cabin, cottage, workplace or home

lake sign flip flops

7. 3 Tray Tackle Box

Michigan is one of the best destinations to reel in a fish, no matter the season! The next time you go on a fishing excursion, take this all-weather, worm-proof tackle box to fit your necessities all in one place. There are 37 customizable compartments which makes it easy for different types of fishing trips.

Perfect for: Summer fishing and ice fishing

3 Tray Tackle Box

8. Pure Michigan Bucket Hat

If you are heading out on the water to reel in a big one, you need this bucket hat. Keeping your head protected from the sun has never been more imperative and this khaki hat will do just that. This is especially important for children who might be accompanying on an outdoor adventure.

Perfect for: Any summer outdoor activity, especially fishing

Pure Michigan Bucket Hat

9. Fishin’ Again in Michigan Toddler T-Shirt

Your little one will love this t-shirt. If they regularly join on fishing excursions, this is a perfect clothing item in which to dress them up. Pair with the bucket hat and they are good to go on a Pure Michigan Lake Effect adventure!

Perfect for: Toddlers with an affinity for fishing

Fishing Again in Michigan Toddler Shirt

Now you’re all set for a Pure Michigan summer outing! Check out the store for even more perfect summer items that demonstrate your state pride.

What is your favorite item on the list? Share with us in the comments below!