How to Have the Ultimate Outdoor Adventure in Michigan This Summer

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources offers a number of programs to help outdoor enthusiasts take advantage of all that the great outdoors in Pure Michigan have to offer – including Recreation 101 and 202, Summer Free Fishing Weekend, Michigan Boating Week and much more! Today, the DNR’s Maia Turek describes the many ways to have an outdoor adventure in Michigan this summer. 

Recreation 101

recreation 101Michigan is rich in recreation opportunities, and for those looking to explore those activities, the Department of Natural Resources’ Recreation 101 program at Michigan state parks is the perfect way to get started.

The beauty of the four seasons in Michigan is that we have almost every recreational opportunity available to us. In the warmer months, Michiganders can choose to ease down the river on a paddleboard, channel their inner marksmen with archery, or search the skies for a rare, treasured species while birdwatching.  The winter months offer just as much variety, with snowboarding, snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing and so much more.

The only challenges with having so many options is choosing what to try and where to start. There are a lot of things to take into account when picking up a new activity; buying the right equipment, learning the techniques, taking safety precautions and finding the space to actually get started. It can be overwhelming!

Recreation 101 class at Sleepy Hollow State Park.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources

But the good news is that you don’t have to figure it out on your own. The Department of Natural Resources’ Recreation 101 program provides all of the gear, guides and good times so that people can try out something new in Michigan’s woods and waters, and the best part – it’s completely free!

Recreation 101, also known as “Rec 101,” is a series of hands-on introductory classes taught by DNR staff and expert volunteers from organizations, guide services, outfitters and more. These volunteers offer their time and knowledge to introduce novice recreation enthusiasts to all the great activities available in Michigan. Programs cover almost any imaginable recreational pursuit available in Michigan, including kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, archery, geocaching, birding, mushroom hunting, to name a few.

If you’re a bit more experienced with an activity, the DNR also offers a Recreation 202 series which provides more advanced instruction and in-depth experiences. Instructors offer these classes at a reduced rate from what you might find elsewhere, making Rec 202 classes a fun and affordable way to explore Michigan’s great outdoors.

Whether you’re just getting started or are an experienced recreation enthusiast, the Recreation 101 and 202 programs offer fun and interesting classes for everyone. For a full schedule of programs, visit, and enjoy a new activity this summer!

For more information on Recreation 101, check out the video below:

Free Fishing, ORVing and State Park Entry – June 7 – 8, 2014


Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources

To kick off the summer season, the DNR coordinates a Summer Free Fishing Weekend each year (and has since 1986) to showcase the great angling opportunities available in Michigan, while easing some of the financial investment needed to get involved. It’s the perfect time to discover the state’s world-class resources.  The 2014 Summer Free Fishing Weekend is Saturday, June 7 and Sunday, June 8. During these two days anyone – residents and non-residents alike – can fish all waters without purchasing a license, although all other regulations still apply.

In addition to free fishing, the DNR will also waive the requirement for an ORV license and trails permit for the weekend – a great opportunity for those who might prefer to navigate Michigan’s 3,000+ miles of ORV trails. 

Also on June 8th,  the DNR will waive the Recreation Passport requirement for entry into state parks as part of this summer outdoor recreation kick-off.

If you’d like to learn more about Summer Free Fishing Weekend, watch the video below.

Michigan Boating Week – June 7 – 14, 2014

Photo courtesy of Michigan Boating Industries Association

Photo courtesy of Michigan Boating Industries Association

Michigan Boating Week  also kicks off June 7-14.  Michigan Boating Week is a partnership between the DNR, Michigan Waterways Commission and the Michigan Boating Industries Association. This weeklong campaign offers many opportunities to get started with boating, get back onboard or learn some new skills to use on the water, including free on-water boat demos!

Michigan Boating Week also aims to help protect Michigan’s waters, and that starts with the same people who love and enjoy them. June 6-7, staff from the DNR, DEQ and MDARD will be on-hand at selected boating access sites for the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Landing Blitz. These events will educate boaters about how they can become stewards of the water by sharing information about how to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Check these event listings to find a Michigan Boating Week event near you.

How do you like to spend time outdoors in Michigan? 

photoMaia Turek is the DNR Recreation Programmer for state parks.  She and her team of regional programmers put together hundreds of events every year – from Rec 101 and Fresh Air Fit classes, to family reunions, church campouts, and volunteer events – they work hard to provide every Michigan resident and visitor a reason to come to a state park and make a lifelong memory in Michigan’s woods and waters.

Recreation 101 In Pure Michigan

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is offering more than 200 Recreation 101 events around the state for people interested in learning more about recreation in Michigan. Maia Stephens, recreation programmer for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, answered our questions:

Q: Approximately how many state parks are there in Michigan? Where is the largest one?
Michigan now boast 101 state parks, 17 state-operated harbors, and 133 state forest campgrounds, as well as thousands of miles of motorized and non-motorized trails.  The largest state park in land mass is the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, which is 60,000 acres of gorgeous terrain in the western Upper Peninsula offering waterfalls, stunning vistas, and a variety of lodging options, including yurts.If you are driving up from the Lower Peninsula, then getting to the Porkies makes for an excellent vacation in itself, with state parks offering some of Michigan’s most memorable sights along the way.  I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest a stop at Palms Book State Park for a chance to see Kitch-iti-Kipi, or the Big Spring.  I refer to it as Michigan’s natural lava lamp.  This forty-foot deep spring can be viewed by a self-powered raft that takes you over the top of the spring so you can view the sand plumes and underwater wildlife that inhabit this unique, natural landscape.  History buffs of all ages would also enjoy a day to tour the historic mining town and stunning cliffs of Fayette Historic State Park.  Explored by ghost hunters andMichigan history enthusiasts alike, this park and harbor are two of Michigan’s best kept secrets.

Q: For somebody new to recreation in Michigan, what are some tips you can give them?
A:Too often people think of outdoor recreation as being extreme sports.  I’ve had more than a few people ask if they need a helmet to go kayaking.  The wonderful thing about Michigan’s outdoor recreation opportunities is that we offer something for everyone, from beginner to experience, making Michigan’s woods and waters a great place for fun AND fitness.

If you are new to outdoor recreation, and want a little extra help in getting out there, state parks offer Recreation 101  – more than 200 events around the state that offer all the gear, guides and good times at no charge.  There are more than 40 different kinds of recreation to try, from archery to windsurfing, and you can attend as many as you want, so there is no way your kids will be saying, “We’re bored” this summer.

Programs are taught by DNR staff or volunteer instructors from local outfitters, retailers and organizations who are experts in their field.  This hands-on experience is a great way to connect with people who are passionate about their outdoor pursuit and can give you a local perspective on where to go, what you need when you get there, and how to connect with others who also share an interest in the sport or activity.

Q: What are some activities that kids can enjoy at state parks?
A: State parks offer history museums, nature centers, and more to help kids get outside and learn more about their natural environment.  This includes nature programs and special events at over 50 state parks & recreation areas where Interpretive Naturalists and Explorer Guides cover topics from the wonder of wetlands to sand dune ecology, to why we need trees and more!  New programs this year include a day camp for grandparents and grandkids at Hartwick Pines State Park, and a wonderful new hiking trail at the Iron Industry Museum that helps tell the story of Michigan’s mining history.

Q: How does the recreation passport work and how can people get it?
A: For Michigan residents, the Recreation Passport can be purchased through the Secretary of State when you renew your license tabs for just $10, or $5 for motorcycles.  Non-residents can pay $8 for a day pass or $29 for the year.  The Recreation Passport does so much more than just get you into state parks, though.  It helps fund state forest campgrounds and pathways, preserves historic and cultural resources (like lighthouses) and establishes a grant program for community recreation agencies throughout Michigan. Plus, once you have a Recreation Passport, you are eligible for the Passport Perks program, which offers discounts at more than 800 businesses around the state, so you could save enough money to actually cover the cost of your license plates!

Q: What can people learn at the Recreation 101 events?
A: Recreation 101 includes hiking, biking, paddling, fishing, kite-making, foraging, disc golf, geocaching, and so many more ways to play outside.  This is an excellent way to spend a summer experiencing what Michigan has to offer, while connecting to businesses and organizations that can help you keep it up by gearing up for the activities you like best.

Q: Where can people go for more information about recreation in Michigan?
A: Learn more about recreation opportunities and programs to help you get outside this season at our Michigan state parks site.  If you are interested in a free “trial” run of state parks, contact your local library to see if they participate in the Park & Read program.  More than 500 Michigan libraries offer free, one-day passes into state parks so if you want to get a feel for what you’ve been missing, come check us out!