The National Park Service, which oversees more than 450 park sites throughout the United States, is turning 100! Discover a little history behind Michigan’s seven parks and how you can celebrate this incredible milestone without traveling far from home.
In 2016, a major milestone will be marked across the country as the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary.
Indeed, the birthday party has already started across the more than 400 National Park sites in the U.S., seven of which are in Michigan. There are countless activities and programs available for the whole family all with the hope of inspiring the next generation of park stewards.
The NPS is widely celebrated by Michiganders and out-of-towners alike, with dazzling natural beauty such as the mineral-laden colors that adorn 200-foot tall cliffs at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore or miles of picturesque sandy beachfront at Sleeping Bear Dunes.
As the 2016 NPS Centennial draws closer, residents across the country are being encouraged to experience a National Park and then share their impressions by tagging #FindYourPark via social media.
So for those seeking a truly unique Michigan experience while basking in the celebration of the NPS Centennial, here are some ideas to jumpstart your journey:
Day trip with your 4th-grader as part of Every Kid in a Park
In honor of the NPS Centennial, all 4th-graders now have access to their very own Every Kid in a Park passport which grants free admission to all federally owned natural lands such as national park sites, national forests, wildlife refuges and more from now until the end of 2016.
For 4th-grade students in southeast Michigan, the National Park Foundation is supporting two sets of Fourth Grade Discovery days to be held at Historic Fort Wayne in June 2016 and September 2016. The goal is to reach 4,000 of the Detroit Public School’s fourth-graders during the NPS Centennial. Students visiting the fort during the Discovery Days program will take part in demonstrations and activities that enhance their grade level social studies and natural science curriculum, as well as have an opportunity to have fun in the park.
Get away from it all at Isle Royale
The isolated, stunning vistas are truly a way for visitors to explore wilderness, slow down the pace of life and relax the soul. As an island park, there are many ways to enjoy Isle Royale from the water, land or air.
Visitors can enjoy these life experiences during the 2016 Centennial and beyond. Please note: The park is officially closed to visitors until April, 2016.
Discover Keweenaw’s copper story through a scavenger hunt
The Keweenaw National Historic Park is not only known for its radiant, natural beauty but also for its copper mining heritage which dates back 7,000 years ago. Discover the Keweenaw copper and 21 Heritage Sites throughout the region during 2016 by going on the Copper Country Scavenger Hunt.
What did miners put in their lunch pails to keep their pasties warm? Who rescued 24 people and a dog from the shipwreck L.C. Waldo in 1913? Children of all ages have a chance to win a prize by finding the answers to questions like these by completing the hunt. The booklet is free and available at each of the staffed Keweenaw Heritage Sites as well as the NPS’s Calumet Visitor Center.
Other Centennial program at Keweenaw will include a “History Smackdown” competition among local high school teams, a 1916 fashion show featuring park rangers, a monthly history speaker series focusing on the NPS Centennial and much more!
‘Find Your Road Trip’ within the MotorCities National Heritage Area
Southeast Michigan has the largest concentration of historical sites related to the evolution of the automotive industry in the entire world. Indeed, there are many twists and turns one can take while traveling from The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn to the Gilmore Car Museum in bucolic Hickory Corners, and coming in early 2016 the MotorCities National Heritage Area will be encouraging auto enthusiasts to “Find Your Road Trip,” with a one-of-a-kind tourism booklet exploring the vast automotive heritage of the region.
Travelers will be able to have their road trip booklet stamped with an exclusive 2016 NPS Centennial stamp at historical sites across the National Heritage Area and fellow National Park Service sites.
So blaze your own trail, chart your own journey and experience something great using our free publication! It will be available at National Heritage Area partner sites, Michigan Welcome Centers and more.
North Country Trail
Headquartered in Lowell, The North Country National Scenic Trail (North Country Trail) is a unit of the network of scenic, historic and recreation trails created by the National Trails System Act of 1968 and is administered by the National Park Service.
Traversing seven states along its 4,600 mile route, it is the longest national scenic trail in the United States. While the North Country Trail is managed primarily for hiking and backpacking, some portions of the trail may also permit other non-motorized uses. Of primary importance is protecting the trail experience—providing opportunities for recreation, education, inspiration, solitude, and enjoyment; and ensuring user safety and resource protection.
The wide variety of terrain, flora and fauna 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.
Take a cruise around Pictured Rocks
At Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the park and partner Pictured Rocks Cruises have combined forces to offer a free cruise ticket to every 4th-grader in Michigan.
Following a successful test in 2015 with enthusiastic response, about 100,000 tickets will be distributed in Michigan schools in December. Kids can redeem their free ride by bringing their family/guardian/adults to the Munising City Docks Pictured Rocks Cruises booking office and choose their tour.
Tours include Spray Falls, the round trip tour to Chapel Rock or the popular sunset trip. Super thanks to Pictured Rocks Cruises for making it possible for every Michigan 4th grader to Find their (Great Lake) Park.
Discover Michigan’s role in the War of 1812 at River Raisin
Over a century before the founding of the National Park Service, the War of 1812 raged in southeast Michigan, Ohio and Canada. The River Raisin National Battlefield Park – located in Monroe, about 40 miles southwest of Detroit – preserves, commemorates, and interprets the January 1813 battles of the War of 1812 and their aftermath in Monroe and Wayne counties in southeast Michigan.
Artifacts and exhibits pertaining to the battles at the River Raisin are displayed in the visitor’s center museum. Be sure to watch a 14-minute fiber optic map presentation in which the conflict in the Old Northwest Territory is unfolded.
In the west wing, a collection of original military firearms and accoutrements, and an additional diorama, accompany the fiber optic map. In the east wing, handcrafted miniature dioramas depict scenes from the River Raisin, the battles of Lake Erie, and the battle of the Thames. In the main gallery, full-scale vignettes bring to life the American and British troops as they might have appeared at dawn on January 22, 1813, just before the second battle.
Step back in time at Sleeping Bear Dunes
At Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, visitors will be able to step back in time and experience the year 1916, when the National Park Service was founded, as part of Glen Haven Days on May 28. Visit an historic Great Lakes village and United States Life Saving Station/Maritime Museum as part of the day-long program. Visitors can also stroll through the Port Oneida Fair happening Aug. 12 and 13, 2016 and experience life as it was in Port Oneida in 1916!
Other Centennial programming at Sleeping Bear will include the monthly Research Rendezvous Series of public discussions held throughout 2015 and 2016. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and highlight the value of national parks as our nation’s “living laboratories,” Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is hosting a monthly series of public talks by park researchers called “Research Rendezvous.” This program will provide an opportunity to learn about the diversity of scientific investigations occurring in or near the National Lakeshore.
For more information on these parks, visit their respective websites and social media channels. Which of Michigan’s National Parks is your favorite?