Celebrate 100 years of the National Park Service in Michigan

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:

Find Your Park

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

Crossing the icy, deep waters of Lake Superior from Copper Harbor and entering the unscathed wilderness of Isle Royal National Park – visitors truly feel that they have entered a different world.

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.

Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

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.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Loudenslager

Photo Courtesy of Chris Loudenslager

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.

Photo Courtesy of Laura Rotegard

Photo Courtesy of Laura Rotegard

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.

Photo Courtesy of the National Parks Service

Photo Courtesy of the National Parks Service

For more information on these parks, visit their respective websites and social media channels. Which of Michigan’s National Parks is your favorite?

Isle Royale: Facebook

Keweenaw National Historic Park: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram 

MotorCities National Heritage Area: Facebook, TwitterInstagram

North County Trail: Facebook, Twitter

River Raisin National Battlefield Park: Facebook

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Facebook, Twitter

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

Labor Day Weekend Ideas for Every Personality

The end of summer is near but there is still plenty of time to enjoy the warm weather. Whether you plan to relax on the lake or attend a festival this weekend, there is something for everyone. We put together a few ideas on how to spend your Labor Day weekend in Pure Michigan.

The magnificent Tahquamenon Falls. As seen on Google maps street view.

The magnificent Tahquamenon Falls. As seen on Google maps street view.

For The Road Tripper

Take a road trip to the Upper Peninsula and visit Tahquamenon Falls, one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. This waterfall always leaves us awestruck.  After your hike, get refreshed at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery.

Looking to head over to the West side of the state? Check out Grand Rapids for a variety of offerings. Dazzling art and culture, awesome dining and nightlife, inspiring natural beauty and exhilarating community spirit. Stroll downtown where you will find more than 100 restaurants, clubs, theaters and museums.

Have a beach weekend getaway at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes. The magnificent dunes are divided into three sections, the northern section is for off-road vehicles, the center is for hiking/walking, including Lake Michigan and Silver Lake beaches and the southern is home to Mac Woods Dune Rides. There is something for everyone and a definite beach paradise.

Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room

Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room

For The Relaxer

Rich with history and natural beauty, Belle Isle Park is a Detroit gem. The 987-acre island park features a nature zoo, conservatory, golf practice facility, maritime museum, an aquarium, picnic areas and more. The park includes three lakes, 150 acres of wooded area and spectacular views of the Detroit and Windsor skyline.

Get ready to watch the sunset at Tunnel Park. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, it is a great place to catch a sunset and take a swim. Climb the stairs to the top of the dune or take the concrete tunnel through the dune to get to the beach.

Do you love wine? Then with more than 100 wineries nestled among 15,000 acres of scenic vineyards, Michigan truly is wine country. Paired with fresh, local ingredients found in local cuisine, a Pure Michigan wine tasting trip is something you can’t find anywhere else.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Photo courtesy of @dsliceoflife.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Photo courtesy of @dsliceoflife.

For The Photographer

Explore Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore! You will find multicolored sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, wildlife and much more on Lake Superior.  Whether you decide to take a boat ride, hike or swim you will have breathtaking views wherever you are.

Check out striking views of the Porcupine Mountains. Parallel to the Lake Superior shore and overlooking Lake of the Clouds, enjoy scenic vistas, waterfalls and old growth forest. Take your camera and start exploring, you won’t regret it.

Find Keweenaw Peninsula’s rock formation, Bare Bluff, looping around a three mile hiking trail. The views from the top of the bluff are stunning and on a clear day you can see all the way to the tip of the Keweenaw.

Take a different approach to getting a wonderful picture and head to Port Austin. With spectacular shorelines, views, amazing cliffs and rock formations, Port Austin is a must kayak destination.  Grab your camera and don’t forget to set time aside to kayak to Turnip Rock, a must see!

Pyramid Point at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo courtesy of @beatbeat.heartbeat

Pyramid Point at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo courtesy of @beatbeat.heartbeat

For The Active Vacationer

Explore Isle Royale, a rugged, isolated island, far from the sights and sounds of civilization. Surrounded by Lake Superior, Isle Royale offers unparalleled solitude and adventures for backpackers, hikers, boaters, kayakers, canoeists and scuba divers. Here, amid stunning scenic beauty, you’ll find opportunities for reflection and discovery, and make memories that last a lifetime.

Climb to the top of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore! And if that isn’t your thing  swim at one of the many beaches, or take a hike through the Maple/Beech forest to some beautiful overlooks. Or spend some time in the museums and tour Port Oneida to learn about the rich history and culture of the area.

Arts, Beats & Eats. Photo courtesy of Jason Vaughn.

Arts, Beats & Eats. Photo courtesy of Jason Vaughn.

For The Festival Goer

If you like art, music or food, we have the place for you! Arts, Beats & Eats will feature more than 200 performances, an art show and local restaurants.  It’s something fun for the entire family.

Enjoy the 35th annual Detroit Jazz Festival which occupies two million square feet of downtown Detroit from Hart Plaza on the riverfront, three blocks north to beautiful Campus Martius Park. Bring a lawn chair and enjoy the variety of festive music.

Indulge in the Fruits of Labor over the long holiday weekend. Find your favorite specialty cocktail, wine or craft brew while live bands will be clocking in for your entertainment. Drink specials and delicious fare from our Grille will be offered. Bring the whole family and enjoy the bounce house, inflatable slide and yard games.

What do you plan to do this Labor Day weekend? Let us know in the comments below!

PS: Want to shake up your fitness routine this Labor Day? The Michigan Fitness Foundation offers events all year to keep you moving, and the Annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk is no exception.

How to Visit Pictured Rocks in One Weekend

Upon moving to Ann Arbor and becoming an adopted Michigander, there were many destinations in Pure Michigan Zak Suhar wanted  to explore. Between the rolling hills, quiet countryside and unspoiled beauty, he began curating a list of the places he wanted to visit most and settled on the Upper Peninsula. Read his story below on a weekend adventure to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Tahquamenon Falls.

For any hiker, traveler, outdoor enthusiast, camper, and road tripper, here is how to fit in the best of Pictured Rocks in just a weekend.

Twelvemile Beach Campground

Twelvemile campsite is a wonderful place to camp alongside Lake Superior, not only for its wonderful location, but also because it’s a first-come first-serve campsite. This is essential for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore since it’s a very popular area, but you’ll still have to ensure you get there early for a beachfront campsite (ours that sat atop a small bluff). Nothing beats sitting in your hammock atop a bluff, Lake Superior waves crashing, glowing sun setting, and campfire roaring in the background.

Bridalveil Falls

Kayaking along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is something worth the experience, especially to see Bridalveil Falls. Seen best from the water, the falls can be seen from a hiking trail as well, but the 140-foot tall cascade won’t do it justice from above.

Lover’s Leap

At the end of a kayak or boat tour, the highlight of the lakeshore, in my opinion, is Lover’s Leap, one of the staple natural landscapes the U.P. offers. On a still day, you can get great reflective photos of the rock formation, the wonderful colors of the lake, and the sandstone cliffs of beautiful reddish and orange hues.

Mosquito Beach

Mosquito Beach is a wonderful place to relax after a long hike or paddle. This is a great place to stop for lunch and walk along the waterfront littered by rocks and unique formations. It’s the end of the Mosquito Beach trail, which forks with one branch heading directly to the beach, and the other somewhat longer trail passing Mosquito falls on the way to the beach. The trail passes along the lower falls, rapids, and then the upper falls which are some of the smallest in the U.P. but still worth seeing if you have time.


Miners Castle Overlook

Driving to the Miners Castle overlooks is something you will not want to miss when visiting Pictured Rocks, and by far the most famous formation of the area. Erosion over long periods of time has created the interesting rock formations that give this place its name. Several foot trails lead to breathtaking overlooks of Lake Superior and Grand Island from different vantage points – I recommend the top overlook to get the best combination of foliage and water. No matter the season (except maybe winter) you can expect this overlook to be saturated in color and contrasts.

Miners Falls

One of the top waterfalls in the U.P. is Miners Falls, just a 1.2 mile hike into the woods (round trip). There are two overlooks at the end of the trail, the first offering an overhead view of the  drop over sandstone outcrop. The Miners Falls Nature Trail also has wonderful views of the Miners Basin along the way. If you’re up for it, take the steps down to the lower viewing platform at the falls.

Chapel Falls

Chapel Falls is another wonderful landscape in the Pictured Rocks area. Just under a two mile hike through the woods stands the  falls cascading towards Chapel Lake. The first outlook gives an incredible vantage point, the second trail winds around where you can literally stand on top of the falls, and a third spot shows the falls barely peaking through the forest above Chapel Basin. Definitely explore all three spots and vantage points for a variety of photographs.

Upper Tahquamenon Falls

Finally, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is definitely my  favorite. One of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, the Upper Falls has a drop of 48 feet and stretches more than 200 feet wide. The Lower Falls, a series of five smaller falls cascading around an island, can be found downstream. This is a definite must see, and be sure to visit their local microbrewery for some delicious craft beer. A flight of true Michigan beer is a great way to stay refreshed after this hike.

About the Author: Zak is a Midwest born and raised explorer and adventure photographer. He was born a Hoosier, grew up a Cheesehead, studied in Ohio and currently resides in Ann Arbor as an adopted Michigander. Zak works in advertising but his ideal weekend involves disconnecting and getting outside.

All of the photography is courtesy of Zak, check out more of his work here.